Ghana’s rich traditional marriages ..When culture comes to play

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I have never screamed till I’m hoarse before, throat patched, voice cracked yet I still screamed, because today was different; I laughed hard till happy tears dripped down my face. I held my sides and still laughed till they hurt but I didn’t mind, I could not rid my face of the sappy smile that had lodged there, never mind that it was blazing hot with a lot of cackle all around me, never mind that my feet were killing me in the 6 inches heels I insisted on wearing. This isn’t a day I want to complain, this is one of those days I want to hold so close to my heart and never let go, I don’t ever want these beautiful sights and sounds to fade. Yes! It’s one of those things that features prominently in every female’s dream since she could register the famous word wedding.

The intricate differences in culture has allowed a true display of colour, tradition and wealth in what has now become known as a traditional wedding.

In Ghana, before the white man brought civilisation, we had and still have our own way of doing things and boy, does it smack of class and fun; me dierr anything fun, I’m there. many people carry along different images and memories of that special day based on plans, tradition or shear love, I’ll tell this story with a story because I’m story ‘gbei’ like that.

This beautiful screaming day began many years ago, precisely twelve years ago when they were friends and then Korshie decided he was in love with Ama so they had to get a move on, thus began the journey that has ended in my ‘uncle’ Tete’s house. My dear friend Ama was getting hitched the Ghanaian way, that only meant with colour, tears, beauty, family and fun. So let’s take a walk down memory lane prior to getting to the kente wearing and make-up frenzy, there is something we call the introduction or knocking; locally term korkorkor, this is when the gentleman and lady agree on a date to come meet parents, the man brings his mother and father to come and meet the lady’s family and declare their intention to marry the lady, the man’s family present schnapps to the lady’s family and they in turn give the man’s family a list of items prescribed for the engagement as we call it.

The list varies from tribe to tribe and families, It usually includes a stipulated number of pieces of cloth for the bride, jewellery, undergarments, shoes, head scarves, handkerchief, a token stipulated as dowry, and the like. It is believed that once the young man can afford to procure the items on the list, then he is fit to take good care of the young lady. These engagement ceremonies are usually held in the bride’s home however,some families like ot have it in other family member’s homes on account of space or in a rented facility. Now, let’s head back to Korshie and Ama’s big day; there were two divides; not really a divide more like a side, facing each other, one seated side represented the Ama’s family the other represented Korshie’s family. We had a vivacious interesting old lady at the helm of affairs at our end, these people are usually called okyeame an akan term for linguist thus she’s the one that does the talking for the family and Korshie had a male boom at the helm of his, I’d never seen a male okyeame since I started attending engagements.

Mamaga, the lady at the helm of our affairs burst into song as she was introducing herself to Korshie’s end and twisted her foot in a way that landed her in the arms of Torgbui Nupola, Korshie’s okyeame which got everyone laughing, she quickly moved out of his arms and cried foul which amazed a lot of us, as we looked on in wonder, she said she didn’t know him so she can’t allow friendliness between them and asked his mission in her home, he proceeded with very funny superlatives to state the obvious that Korshie had found a beautiful flower in uncle Tete’s home and desperately wanted to pluck it before someone did and as a well brought up boy, he wanted to ask permission from uncle Tete before he went over to the tree to pluck it.

Mamaga chanted, danced, cracked the funniest joke all with a straight face only to tell Torgbui Nupola there was no flower in the house and she was yet to meet this respectful boy, Torgbui rushed out heart in hand to inform the other members and they proceeded to knock with all the dramatics and entered the house bearing beautifully wrapped gifts, oh my! Did that soothe Mamaga’s heart, but that was only for a minute, after she had inspected everything and demanded to see Korshie, Korshie was then ushered in amid drumming and dancing; all I could say was the croaks of frogs when really it was the gang of finely clad young men in the most colourful kente clothes I had ever seen, surrounding Korshie who looked regal in beads, a jumper (usually white, off white or cream coloured sewn lace material) and a red and green kente cloth. He was given a prominent seat and his family was quickly served, after duly satisfying tradition, Torgbui Nupola demanded to see the flower they had come to pluck and of usual characteristics Mamaga demanded a fare as she claimed Ama was far off in another country and to reach her she needed to scale many walls and fight many battles. She brought a slim beautifully young lady in Kente with her face covered, Korshie immediately rejected her as his bride, (this is sometimes done to test the certainty of the groom) along came two others which he also rejected (some families bring out three people pretending to be the bride. In recent times this practice has lessened or fizzled out completely) however, it is still practiced in some states in Nigeria.

Ama finally came out amidst drumming and dancing too with a bevy of girls clad in white and a piece of kente used as head wrap.

In recent times, engagement in Ghana have become a themed affair where the couple tell their friends and invited guests to wear a particular shade of cloth and they have a number of people walking them out. In my grandparents’ and parents’ era, engagement was viewed as a family affair and was usually done at dawn with very little fanfare. There were not that many ‘white’ weddings and the traditional marriages were duly recognised as marriage.

If one party wanted to dissolve the marriage, all that had to be done would be the man or woman’s family returning the schnapps that was the initial bonding sign back to the respective partner being divorced family.

Ama is asked if the items presented by Korshie’s family should be collected, she affirms and Korshie proceeds to place a ring on her finger, she’s then handed a white Bible and her mother comes to aid her to sit on the stool brought her as part of her dowry. She’s placed on the stool three times, this signifies the acceptance of the marriage and the fact that she is no longer viewed as a girl but rather a woman.

The Ghanaian traditional marriage scene has now become one of the coveted marriages to plan seeing as now, it’s done with a lot of pump and pageantry, many begin with what they term pre-wedding shoots, where the bride and groom take themed pictures together shoot by professional photographers. The day that used to be one of simplicity and pride  has grown in leaps and bounds to include professionally catered food, make-up artists, photographers, fashion designers, drink providers, planners and the like.

So I say, are we going to see another dimension to the highly sophisticated traditional weddings or this is as far as we can go with our culture. We wait and see, next time you see me, I definitely will not be wearing a 6 inch heel but my own ahenemaa clad in my kente saying yes to the many things my groom has brought to my family for my hand.

I have never had dreams of the white dress and red roses nor the big cake that will be cut for the guests to only get a tiny piece as a child, but now that I’ve grown and seen the many pictures on all social media sites I tell you I am hooked! You see many years ago in the snow land, proposals were done over meals or on one of those fancy dates.

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