One month ago, we celebrated quite a momentous occasion: the joining together of my family and BG’s family. This was done in Meru, BG’s “ancestral” home. I was accompanied by some of my friends, and we were warmly welcomed by her family. Below are some photos to document the event. After the welcome refreshments, all but the wazee (senior men) were dismissed so that the formal discussion could take place. I was surprised that I was allowed to remain, as most people had said I would also have to leave. At this point, I was quite nervous, since I had been told these discussions could be rather intense.
We were asked why we had come, and explained that we had identified a ‘flower in their garden’. BG’s grand-uncle was the main spokesman, and explained that dowry is not a transaction – it is the beginning of a relationship. Their girls are not for sale, and if we had come to buy one, we had come to the wrong place. He detailed the Meru traditions, that the normal requirements are sheep, honey, etc, but emphasised that this is what happened in the past. If we had brought a token of appreciation, they would accept whatever we had brought. My friend Ken Onywoki was my main spokesman, and he said that we had brought gifts for BG’s mom, her grandparents, her uncles, her aunts, the community, an introductory token, and an amount for food (in addition to flour, rice, sugar, tea, oil, and other items we had brought). We gave these over, and our formal discussion was over. Ken said it was the easiest and smoothest negotiation he had ever seen. I am so grateful that it went so well, and that it truly was the beginning of a new relationship. From there, we assembled to head to the next compound for the festivities.
We had to give another ‘token’ at the gate, and once we got in, it was quite a spread!
It was a set-up fit for a wedding: tents, seats for over 200, food for probably 300, a choir, speeches, the works. One of the traditional elements of a dowry celebration is picking out the girl from a group who have been wrapped up in shukas, colourful wraps. Usually they are all about the same size, and the cloths make them all the same vague shape so it can be hard to pick the right one!
After that, her family gave us traditional gifts (a three-legged stool, a fly whisk, and a shield for me, jewellery and a bag for BG) to celebrate the new union and we were then prayed over and blessed by BG’s family and some of my friends. Thanks to all of you who came, for those who planned, cooked, contributed, and in some way made this day the great day that it was.