Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Wedding Party

16 years ago when we moved to Tera, one of the first families we met was Maimouna's. Maimouna became my house worker and my faithful friend. Among her 11 children were two who were Daniel and Suzanne's age. Soumeyla and Daniel were always pals and Suzanne and Sofie were pals.

On May 24th we went to Tera to participate in Sofie's wedding. She is 17 years old. While arranged marriages are still common, her's was "semi-arranged". The young man she married likes her so he made sure that the family arranged the marriage with Sofie. She is his 1st wife and she married into a much wealthier family than she grew up in.

The bride is sequestered on her wedding day, with her friends to keep her company. Imagine being in a house with no windows and no air circulating while it is 105 degrees outside. Inside must have been at least 120 with the heat index. It was awful.
Here is Sofie and one of her friends. Sofie is wearing the black scarf. She is a beautiful girl with lots of spunk. Last year she hit a cousin with a piece of fire wood because he was dissing her about the food she had cooked. He had to go get stitches!

Suzanne, as one of Sofie's "slaves" sat inside with Sofie. The girls helped make sure she was beautiful and ready to meet her husband. They also teased her about how mean he would be to her and how ugly he is. Like bridesmaids anywhere, Sofie's "slaves" spent a lot of time helping each other with their makeup!


Later in the evening the groom's friends arrived on motorcycles. They did "zeroes" in the sand of the road outside of the house (much like doing doughnuts in the snow). They paid up any remaining money for the bride price. They brought a car for Sofie and vans for other people. The youngsters climbed in the vans on which were piled her trouseau and her new mattress. Many of the "slaves" went off on the motorcycles with the guys. Those of us who don't enjoy riding in over-crowded vehicles walked to the groom's house. They had actually rented a "honeymoon suite". Outside a big dance was held for the young people.

Meanwhile, the bride was sequestered in the honeymoon suite. Her "slaves" sat with her. Many brides are crying by now, sad to leave mother and home and all that they know to enter a marriage with a man they've never seen before. Sofie didn't seem too upset though.

And the groom? Never met him. He is not even invited to the wedding. Truthfully, I've never quite been able to figure out when he shows up to begin his duties as a husband. For three days both the bride's and the groom's friends hang out where the bride has been taken. She cries and refuses to eat to show how sad she is about leaving home.

The tradition is that the brides' girlfriends and family all dress in new outfits made of matching cloth. The groom's friends and family also buy matching cloth in a different pattern and wear outfits made out of that. The bride wears the groom's family's cloth. Here is Suzanne wearing Sofie's cloth and Sofie wearing her husband's cloth. Both Suzanne and I hated the cloth that was chosen, but we had to wear it. It is yellow and gold and we just look horrible in those colors. Not only that, but they had Suzanne's outfit made ahead of time, and it was something she would never have chosen for herself.
At any rate, it was fun to go back to Tera for a day and to spend time with friends again. It was a tiring weekend, though, as we went up Saturday afternoon, were up until about 1 a.m., then drove back to Niamey on Sunday after having a church service in Doumba.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

She is beautiful! That is so fascinating about the matching cloth, I am sure it makes it easier to identify what side of the family you are on!
Did Suzanne have to stay in that hot room the entire time with her?

Love, JO

Dusty Penguin said...

I'm anxiously waiting to see pictures of Suz in her gown that you and the tailor made!