An Ankole 'Give-Away' Ceremony
Written on Saturday 21 March, 2009
Major life events are always fantastic insights into customs and culture, wherever you are. So, when one of the nurses invited us to her wedding and ‘give-away’ we were delighted. The give-away is the most important day for the bride; it is held at her parents’ home the day before the wedding and is a ceremony marking her last day with her family.
Fausta’s parents live in Ntungamo, a neighbouring district in the Ankole region – famous for its cattle. We travelled in a hospital vehicle, with 6 other staff from the hospital. The journey was fairly uneventful, although we did have an unplanned stop at a garage while a puncture was repaired.
Despite leaving late, and stopping for the puncture to be repaired, we were the first people to arrive. African timing means that an event starts when people arrive: and anyway, the chairs were still being delivered, and the tents being decorated. I think my mother would have had a fit if we were still decorating the morning before our wedding, let alone when it was due to start!
The first thing that we were served was the fermented millet porridge drink that signifies that a friendship has been formed between the host family and guests. Food was served as people arrived, consisting of beef, goat, rice, matoke and ghee – all eaten with your hands. The ceremony itself started when the groom’s family arrived – greeted by children singing a song about the couple composed for the occasion. The groom simply sat and watched the proceedings, after being identified by Fausta fixing a flower to his lapel. Fausta then served cake to her family (symbolising her last meal with them). Ed was pleased that Kisiizi staff were her ‘second family’ so we got cake – not so for the groom’s family and friends!
The speeches, we were told, were unusually short, and we left before the sun went down. I was quietly relieved by this, because we had to cross a river balancing on a log – not something I fancied trying in the dark! All in all, a really fun day.