Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How to Negotiate for a Woman

This past Sunday afternoon, we went out to negotiate for a woman. No, it’s not what you think at all! Of course I know that I already have a wife! And no, Kathy did not want me to get a second one to help her with the housework! It was on behalf of a friend.

Aristide is a young man I’ve known since we first came to Burkina. His family owns the big photo place in town where I always get my pictures developed. Anyway, he invited us to be part of the group of family and friends that goes to the potential bride’s family to ask for her hand (in hopes that they will get all of her, of course :) It all began several months ago when a representative of the future groom’s family went to the future bride’s family to ask about the possibility of the two families being joined through marriage. The bride’s family set a date and time for the future groom and his family to come and make a formal request for the girl.

Interestingly, the groom’s parents do not accompany their son. They stay at home. Since this is not just a joining of two individuals but a joining of two families, it is the father’s oldest brother, the head of the larger family, that accompanies the young man and his friends. Likewise at the other end, it is not the girl’s parents who are addressed, but the girl’s father’s oldest brother.

We arrived at the future in-laws’ place to find a large number of the girl’s family awaiting us on the veranda. After we were all seated, greetings were exchanged and water was served. In the traditional way, a bag of kola nuts was offered to the host family as a sign of goodwill. The bag, still closed, was passed around to each member of the girl’s family so everyone could be a witness to the transaction.

After some further discussion, which we did not understand, Aristide presented himself and shook hands with the members of the girl’s family. Then we were invited into the house to partake of a meal of rice, vegetables, beef, and salad, after which we shook the hands of all the girl’s family again and said goodbye. That appeared to be the end of this traditional ceremony. In three months’ time, the civil and religious wedding will take place.

Oh yes, by the way, we did manage to get the girl!

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