Photo Courtesy: Unknown
The Coastal wedding is not only an event of family gathering but also a deep cultural affair. It is one of the most prioritized events in the Swahili community which is one of the largest language groups in Coast and these cultural events can be very interesting. Once a man has come forward to the lady’s family to bring his proposal, then that is just the beginning of the Swahili weddings. The engagement event itself has a lot of merry and the lady’s family prepare with different kinds of foods and more to that; mashairi are recited to the bridegroom’s family to show the great joy that is joining the two families. Dowry is discussed whereby the two families negotiate on the amount of money, property or furniture to be paid to the bride.
Swahili weddings are quite similar to the Arab traditions of weddings since there is said to be a blood relation and connection between the two tribes. The Swahili elders are said to save money, utensils and even gold special for such an event in the family. This just shows to what extent this event is important to them.
A Swahili wedding is never complete without the numerous tasty foods served for the guests and most importantly, for the men of the two families which is known as ‘chakula cha mkono’ which is normally prepared by the bride’s family. The foods include mikate ya sinia, vitumbua, sambusa, kebabs, vilosa amongst others. And of course biriani being majority’s favourite doesn’t miss out for the lunch event. The recipes have not changed over the years and they really display the Swahili culture in depth.The families prepare themselves by making arrangements of the initial wedding day. The women apply the ‘piko’ and ‘henna’ at their arms and legs which are the most likeable adornment amongst the Swahili culture. Shopping for the bride are done immediately while the men share duties on the wedding program. The Swahili women have always been known for the colourful and glittery attires and jewellery that they wear during the event without forgetting the complicated hairstyles everyone prepares for uniquely.
Photo Courtesy: lifeinmombasa.com
Most of the times, the event occurs in a hall or sometimes at home grounds. Some families send invitations through cards while others send family members in small groups to invite other guests. This has always been according to the pockets of the family and how big or small a wedding is going to be. The hall is usually decorated in such an attractive way with colourful designs with a couch or comfortable seat placed on a stage for the bride and groom when they arrive.
The initial wedding event is the ‘nikah’ ceremony which is mostly done at the mosque whereby the bridegroom is asked for the consent of the marriage while the bride is represented by her father or brother or uncle in the father’s absence. The women are usually located in a place near the mosque whereby they hear the Imam or Kadhi asking for the consent. This is done according to the Islam religion since majority of the Swahili are known Muslims. Both the bride and the groom are asked to give their consent thrice to ensure that no one forced them in to agreeing. Halwa and kahawa sometimes with meat is usually served during this event.
After that, the men are served their food separately while women have their other events going on like a lunch party ‘the shinda’ whereby the women wear the same kind of clothes ‘sare’ to show solidarity amongst them, ‘kupamba’ and ‘kesha’ whereby the latter are commonly done during the night to wee hours of the morning. The Swahili weddings are commonly characterized with the ‘tarab’ songs and a lot of dancing and thus, usually, no men are allowed in the area.
The climax of the event is when the bride arrives at the hall where the merry is taking place. She is made to sit at a special seat or couch on a stage where everyone can see her. Not long after that, the bridegroom comes along. The guests and all family members have a photo session with the couple where lots of pictures are taken with the ones present. The bridegroom then takes away his wife after a long tiring night at the event.
The bride is advised and given tips on the new marriage life she is about to begin and the couple is usually regarded as newlyweds until the first child is born or after a certain period of time has passed. The bride is also given so many presents to start her life and mostly it includes house utensils, jewellery and clothes especially the leso which is very common amongst the Swahili.
The Mijikenda weddings also have quite some similarities with the wedding programs of the Swahili and thus, have an aura of the unity at the coast. If you haven’t been to one, then make an effort to get an invitation. For sure, it is an eye catching event; that you will always remember.