I consider Africa to be in a league of her own. Her people, culture and habitat are her unique “super powers”. Africa has deep rooted foundations in terms of beliefs, values, norms, culture among other elements. Also, Africans do not take their culture lightly. This is because it is a strong bond that keeps them together and in control.
One of such cultural elements is the African Wedding. It is usually said that the wedding lasts for just a day but the marriage is for a lifetime. Still, a lot is put into making this day a memorable one. It is not just a union between two people but also their families. The family, which is the foundation of the society, is very much valued in the African culture.
As we all know, an important part of any wedding is the dressing. Africa, being rich in culture also translates it to the dressing especially for the “big day”. Here are four selected African tribes/countries and the attires worn for traditional weddings.
The Yoruba tribe is one of the three major tribes in Nigeria. With a total reach of eight (8) states in the country, it also extends to other African countries- Benin and Togo.
For the Yoruba traditional wedding, the bride’s look consists of the famous “Iro” (blouse) and “Buba” (wrapper). Several materials are used to create the look. They include, “Aso Oke”, lace, cotton and chiffon fabrics. She finishes her look with a head wrap known as “Gele” and “Ipele” worn across her shoulder or around her waist.
A lot of care is taken into tying the gele as the fabric is usually styled into beautiful layers. In addition she adds a net material over her head as a veil or covering as she makes her entrance to the wedding ceremony.
Her husband, also in similar clothing material, wears the “Agbada” on “Sokoto” (trousers). He tops it off with a hat known as “Fila” in the Yoruba language.
Both looks are usually accessorized with local beads worn as neck and hand pieces.
Xhosa is traced to the Bantu ethnic group in South Africa. The Xhosa people are situated in Eastern and western Cape, South Africa.
The Xhosa wedding is characterized by a lot of traditions and rituals which include the “Ukuthwalwa”, “Isiduko”, “Ikhazi” and “Ukuyalwa”.
The Umakoti (which is the Xhosa bride) is beautifully adorned in a small tartan blanket worn over her shoulders. This symbolizes how nurturing and caring she is. She wears the “Isishweshwe”- a long printed skirt. This sends a message to other men that she is taken. She is also wrapped in a towel around her upper region as an emblem of marriage.
Lastly, scarf made of wool is tied around her waist. This is usually done to conceal her waist and shape and also to shield her fertility. She finishes her look with a black head doek. This symbolises respect for her elders. Her bridal accessories include beautiful necklaces, bracelets and anklets made of beads.
The Xhosa groom is usually dressed in a white wrapper and an “Ingwaca”. The Ingwaca is a little blanket worn over the shoulders of the groom. He finishes his look with neck, head and wrist beaded pieces. Also, the modern Xhosa groom adds a shirt or vest to his look. In addition, the material choices of the couple are using the same which is similar to the Yoruba tribe.
The “Kwanjula” (Ugandan wedding) is characterized by lots of music, clapping and dancing. It is not only a family affair (which is usually large in number) but a village affair as well. This is because the members of the village troop out in their numbers to witness the colorful occasion. Who doesn’t like weddings?!
For the wedding occasion, the Ugandan bride wears a “Gomesi” which is a floor-length dress. Now, a lot of effort is put into choosing the right color of the Gomesi. A dark skinned bride will usually opt for a brighter shade of color and vice versa. She adds a colorful sash which is wrapped around her waist. Her outfit is elevated with colorful beaded necklaces, bracelets and anklets.
Her husband is usually dressed in a suit jacket or blazer worn over a “kanzu”.
The Kanzu is a white/cream colored robe or tunic. It is common to the Bangdana men of Uganda as well as Tanzania. It is embroided around the sleeves, abdomen and collar. This embroidery is referred to as “omulela”.
In addition, the groom is not usually the only one adorned in this outfit. All the malefigures in his family also wear the Kanzu. Interesting!!
The traditional Rwandan wedding is one that is fully ground in cultural rites. It consists of a number of cultural practises and ceremonies according to the traditions of the country.
They include; Kuranga, Gufata Irembo, Gusaba, Gukwa, Gutebutsa, Gutinyisha, the wedding day and Gutwikurura.
The bride is dressed in an “Umushanana”. This consists of a long wrap skirt and a silk (or lace) sash drape worn over her shoulder. The Umushanana comes in various colors and beautiful styles. At one glance, it has a striking resemblance to the “Saree” worn by Indian women. I think I need to add that to my wardrobe.
The bride glams up her outfit with stunning headpieces, earrings, necklaces and bracelets.
Traditionally, the groom wears a two-piece cloth and goes bare-chest. He pairs with two beaded necklaces and a sisal headgear. But the fashion has evolved over the years. Now, the groom wears a silk shirt with the two-piece cloth. One of the pieces is beautifully draped across the shoulder similar to the bride. He rounds it off with necklaces, cowboy hat, walking stick and local leather sandals.
African weddings are super colorful, festive and filled with tons of activities. Wedding planning for these ceremonies will surely be a great feat!!!!
But the heart of it remains beautiful and the family ties make it merrier!!! So, for the newly engaged African couples in diaspora, you can have the traditional wedding of your dreams. All it takes is proper planning and execution. Cheers!!!