Friday, September 17, 2010

The Head Washing Ceremony

The taxi pulled up in front of Mariama's house. One of the older ladies gathered the scarf a little closer around Mariama's face and cautiously led her out of the vehicle. Mariama guessed that she was the matron. A female griot coming in their direction, started singing the eulogies of the bride's family, the family she was marrying into, the past glorious moments of the ancestors. The crowd grew progressively bigger as Mariama was led into her mother's room. Through the narrow slit left where the matron's hand was holding the scarf under her chin, she could see that a crowd of men was already under the big acacia tree. She knew they were ready to tie the knots or as they say around here "tie the marriage".

Blogger's note: The "tieing of the marriage" is one of the most important rituals, if not the most important ritual during this African wedding. I'll elaborate on it in a distinct format in a future post.

The matron sat her on the edge of the bed and with the help of an aunt and another woman she didn't know, they changed her clothes to an indigo Topa long boubou (west african caftan) and wrap set. A matching topa scarf was put over her head. Her aunt brought a brand new pair of plastic sandals. The matron physically put each foot one after the other in the new shoes.
"The sun is going down. We need to go." She said.

Mariama had a vague idea of what would happen for the next seven days but she knew she'd be learning many unspoken things about her culture along the way.

A small crowd of women waiting in the living room, joined and formed a circle around her. There was now two griots singing. She could hear the drums beating louder. Some women were clapping to the rhythm of the drums. In the middle of a big circle, two young ladies were trying to outdo each other with various energetic dance moves. The matron was holding her scarf and a corner of her boubou to prevent her from falling. She slowly led her to a 12 inch high stool in the middle of the women. A new shower bucket containing water was waiting; beside it, a new towel neatly folded in a wicker basket. The only men present at this stage of the ceremony were the two drummers and some boys, curious about what all of this ruckus.

The matron stood her with the stool a couple of inches behind her feet and facing her, she held her by the shoulders.

To be continued...

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