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Marriage Ceremonies in the Guéra

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     People usually marry after the harvest festival, which takes place in March.  Before the ceremony, the young man gives a ring to the young woman.  He comes with his friends in the evening, and the young woman comes with her friends and they talk together.  After discussing things, they return together with the young man to his home.  When they reach the door of the man's home, his father comes out and pours water on the young lady's feet.  This shows that she has left the idol of her father to live under the authority of the family idol.  The following night, the young lady chooses one of her future sisters-in-law, who comes to pour water on her feet as well as the feet of the young man.  The young lady stays with the young man's family for three months, then returns to her father. 
     For the dowry, the man gives a fancy outfit to the father of the daughter, and clothes to the mother of the girl.  He also gives baskets of millet and sesame seeds to the girl's family.  What is given varies according to the clans involved.
     The future husband is required to work in the fields of his father-in-law for three years.  He also makes straw mats, builds a hut for his mother-in-law, builds a ligdabe to shade her from the sun (roof with no walls, usually supported by strong poles and made of straw), and so on.  The young lady's dowry is determined in such a way as to be the same as the dowry received by her mother.
     A celebration is organised once the man has worked for three years in the fields of his future father-in-law.  On that day, the friends of the husband-to-be are invited to help him in his work in the fields.  The friends of the wife-to-be prepare food and drinks and go to meet the young men in the field.  When the moment comes to bring the food, each young lady brings a meal and sets it before the young man she is interested in.  This is not a formal ceremony, it is just a celebration.
     The young lady goes to see her father when the couple establish their home.  Very early in the morning, her brother brings the three stones upon which she will place the pot she uses to prepare the meal, to hold it just above the fire.  The father buys large clay pots for drinking water and a bag of dried fish. The mother gives calabashes, large woven straw serving trays, pottery plates and a bag of millet.  They prepare a meal, which they distribute to each family in the young man's clan.  At this point, the newlywed husband and wife are forbidden from eating with their respective in-laws.  The man is allowed to eat with his brothers-in-law and the woman is allowed to eat with her sisters-in-law. 
     Also, as a sign of respect, neither would call their mother-in-law, father-in-law or any of their in-laws' brothers or sisters by name.

Taken from the book "Là où habitent les femmes", edited by Renée Johns and Rachel Bokoro of the Mennonite Central Committee, in 1993.




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