Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Introduction

While in Uganda, my team had the rare opportunity to observe an Introduction, which is a ceremony marking the engagement of a couple. It is a game of sorts between the couple's family to decide upon the dowry. This is as important as the wedding and usually takes days to complete the steps. The Introduction we attended was a shortened version. The ceremony itself lasted several hours. My friend and team leader, Kelly, went a few day earlier to help the family prepare and she told me the DJ played music ALL NIGHT the night BEFORE the Introduction. My team stayed for about four hours of the actual ceremony and then left early.

The setting was beautiful.

The ground was covered in grass like this and made a carpet of sorts.

Decorations included lots of flowers and pineapples.

Because the ceremony was not in English, it was hard to follow what was happening. There were several processions of different people. Men would bring in drinks, carried on their heads (this happened at least 10 times) as if some kind of offering. It was part of the bargaining process between the families. I have no idea how these men carried these on their heads. Each crate was filled with 12 glass bottles and very heavy. The young men who hauled them away after they were presented had a hard time lifting them from the ground.

Between processions a troupe entertained us with dancing and music.

Then we had the procession of the girls. The way I understand it, it’s a way of teasing the groom. The bride’s family presents all their daughters and he is to pick one. They started with these young girls.

They were followed by a group of older girls. Each time the girls were presented, they would dance in, sit on a mat and then be talked to by the groom’s father. Eventually he would place a paper with money in their hands and they would dance into the house backwards.

Finally the bride came in, flanked by her sisters and grandmother. She is the woman in the middle with the gold dress.

Finally after much ceremony, the groom came out and looked over all the women, settling on the bride. They had an embrace and she and her group danced backward into the house. The families dickered some more. Gifts were presented and a meal was served.

The whole time these festivities were happening outside, more rituals were taking place in the house between the mothers of the couple and other family members, such as the mother of the bride offering the women in the family of the groom a container of milk. I don’t remember the significance of the milk, but there was one.

We left after the meal, but the party went on a few more hours. Though it was hard to follow I was fascinated at the money spent and the time given to this cultural event. These families do not have running water or power, but they spent an enormous amount of money (the budget was $4000) on this ceremony. I guess it shows they value their people more than their things.

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