In every traditional African society, marriage was looked at as one of the most important events in the life of an individual, family and community. It was through marriage that a family, clan or tribe expanded. This made it a priority in very grown up individual. Marriage was treated with utmost care and precaution.

In Acholi tradition, marriage was unique as compared to other traditions. The first step was courtship which was the foundation to a strong marriage. In the distant days,parents looked for brides for their sons. They would go near and far looking for a suitable suitor for their son. They made sure the girl in question was not in any way related to their family, the girl came from a good background, that she is a hardworking girl and above all a virgin. Beauty was not a priority and did not constitute a prerequisite for marriage. The old men used to say "laber ume ngwee" literally meaning the beautiful one has a stinking/ smelly nose. After finding the perfect match, the parents would begin secretly taking gifts to the would be bride's parents. They would move say to the girl's home at night, open a granary and put say smoked meat, fish or anything they got. This was utterly done in complete secrecy. The secret movement to the girl's home came after some prayers to the dead ancestors was made. Some chant like " my elders now resting, I am taking this------- for my would-be daughter-in- law, let it/ them be accepted by her family"

The next day, the girl's mother would find the gift. She automatically know that someone was eyeing her daughter. She would discuss this with her husband and would eagerly wait to find out who did it. This would go on for a while until one day the boy's would unveil the hidden secret. She would even say which daughter they were eyeing. The girl's mother would take this new information to her husband. If the two consented, the girl's mother would inform the boy's mother. After this the would be bride and groom were then informed of what is going on. They would have to accept that that they are meant fo each other. It should be noted that the process of taking gifts went on until formal marriage was done. Sometimes this courtship would begin when the girl was only six years. The boy would have to wait till the girl became of age.

When both parties are in agreement of the relationship, three or four elders from the boy's family go to the girl's home to comfirm a marriage between their children. This was called "ayee keny" meaning I have consented to the marriage. In those days a goat was take to the girl's parents.These days, some money is taken. It was on this day that the detail of the marriage ceremony was discussed and a date set. The ceremony took place at the girl's parents' home. The picture shows the modern way of getting into the in-law's hut to pay the bride price. In the olden days it was harder and rougher.
The process began in the evening by the coming of the boy's team. The visitors were taken into an "otogo" this is an unmarried person's hut-- in this case one of the girl's brother's hut. The bride's sisters her aunts and brothers would welcome the visitors. When the visitors had rested and ready to meet their counterparts, they would send word through one of the girls present.

to the inlaws.jpg
crawling to the mother-in-law's hut


The team would then shift to the in-law's hut as those in the picture are doing. They would be welcome by the chairperson of the girl's team. After some introduction, the visitors would begin to present what they have come with. This consisted of animals-- cattle for the dowry, goats, sometimes a sheep and a cock and a hen. These days however, money ranks number one on the list of requirements. If all the negotiation is over the girt's aunt would begin to ululate to tell everybody that the "deal is done". The visitors would be allowed to return to their hut. They would be served with food and drinks. Later they would be given a big he-goat. The goat was killed by them and some of the meat given to the attendances to cook. During their stay there, the visitors were attended to by a team of grown up girls. Some of the girls would also get suitors from their stay there.
thanks for now wait for part two