Relationships - Male/Female
The marriage process among Muslims in Gambia is a relatively simple affair. If a
man is interested in
wedding a woman, after informing his parents, then
male representatives (uncles, brothers, close relatives) of the groom
are then sent to the woman's house. They present some Kola nuts & express the groom's interest. If the woman's representatives agree
then they set a date for the wedding & announce this to all relatives.
Usually such weddings are held at a Mosque of Jaka but could just as
well be held in the woman's home.
Only men are allowed at the Mosque or Jaka ceremony and the groom is
specifically barred from attending the gathering! At the ceremony more Kola nuts are
handed over as well as some token dowry money maybe between £50 to £100 though this could be higher as it is set by the brides
Speeches and prayers are then said and that is more or less it. The
process at the Mosque is called "Takka" which means to tie (much the
same as tie the knot in English)!
It should be noted that a wedding can take place even if the groom and
bride are outside the country and living in different continents for
that matter. Furthermore there is virtually no engagement period as it
is simply announced a week or less before the wedding date, though
arrangements would have taken place one or two weeks prior.
If a Christian woman and a
Muslim man are to wed then it could be
possible to have a ceremony in the Mosque and a civil ceremony in
Banjul at the registry office.
Should the marriage turn to talk of divorce then it
is up to the man to write to his wife's parents or failing that her
uncle or close elder relations and say in the letter that he is
divorcing his wife giving an explanation of the reasons why. There
then follows a period of talks when a family delegation from the man's
family would try to talk to the husband asking him to re-consider his
decision. This is something that has to be done under
unions among people of the Moslem faith, usually follows certain
traditional Islamic tradition with an infusion of ethnic customs and
practices. It is an elaborate ceremonial tradition with its own rules
and forms of etiquette. Although men marry at a somewhat later age,
most women marry between the ages of 14-20 (20-30 in urban areas).
The wedding is mainly an arrangement between two families and not between
individuals, especially when it is a case of a second or third wife,
although today in most of the country the couple to be wed is
consulted and their wishes respected. However, great importance is
still placed on marrying within the social group.
The courtship begins with the offering of kola nuts to the parents of
the bride-to-be by the suitor's family. If the father accepts them, a
bride price is established ("la dot") and a date for the ceremony at
the mosque is arranged. The origins of "la dot" probably signify
imparting a guarantee of stability and also a compensation to the
bride's family for the loss of one of its members.
The day of the "tying of the marriage" the uncles and fathers of the
betrothed (the couple to be wedded are not present) meet at the
mosque. Three witnesses are present before the Marabout, and kola nuts
brought by the bride's father are distributed to the guests. The
remainder of the dowry is now handed over to the bride's father by the
groom's father or other male relative. The average dowry now is over
D3,000 but among the urban bourgeoisie it may be a lot more. After the
mosque formalities the groom delivers to the bride's home all the
gifts she asked for and which have previously been agreed upon:
usually a wooden bed, a radio, a watch, shoes, etc. (Today this may
also include a television or VCR.) Then a goat, a sheep, or a cow is
killed and food prepared for the assembled guests (the bride and groom
remain separately in their own homes.)
When all the dowry is paid and accounted for, a wedding date can then
be set. Wedding ceremonies should be held on Thursday evening, but
today because of work constraints the weddings are often held on
Sunday. The bride prepares herself at home as close friends help wash,
perfume and dress her in white clothes with a white veil or pagne
(cloth) covering her face. Her hands are dyed with henna and her hair
is braided with beads or coins. If she is Fulani or Tukulor she will
wear 3 gris-gris around her neck to protect her against evil spirits.
After drumming and feasting all night at the bride's home until about
5 o'clock in the morning, she may go to the home of her new husband.
There a cow or sheep is killed and more food prepared and the
celebration continues until evening. From this time on the bride stays
with her husband. The next few days involve various rites and ritual feasting marking the bride's official membership in the husband's
compound. One week later the "jour de linge" (laundry day) marks the
end of the honeymoon. The wife and her friends gather up all the
laundry from the week and go to the well. Clothing and linens may be
deliberately soiled by the husband's friends; dancing and celebrating
highlighted by a special feast mark this day.
Relationships - Male/Female