Thursday, 9 May 2013

Culture Spotlight: Igbo kwenu

Lately I've been so enamored by our Nigerian culture and how rich it is. We often concentrate on the elaborate western church wedding that we forget how rich our culture is in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Nigeria has about 371 tribes with 250 ethnic groups and all of these tribes and ethnicity have their peculiar culture especially with regards to marriage rites.

The traditional marriage is the real marriage as far as i'm concerned while the white wedding is just the blessing of the union. They are both important for sure.

The Igbo traditional marriage is called the 'igba nkwu nwanyi' which means literally " the wine carrying of a woman" and is loosely divided into 3 stages-

Ikwu-aka (the knocking) this the equivalent to the introduction ceremony though it is a much smaller event. the groom to be comes to knock on the bride's father's door accompanied by his dad or uncle or any other older male member of his fanily ,to make his intentions known.

Ime-ego- This is the payment of the bride price

Igba nkwu-  is the ceremony proper. Most people have the ime-ego and the igba nkwu on the same day.

Before the igba nkwu, a list is given. This list is a pre-requisite for the groom to take his wife

Some of the items on this list are very hilarious. 20 pieces of Morning Rose Powder.. like seriously? do they still sell those? I must however stress that this list varies from place to place. At an Onitsha igba nkwu you can pay as low as 1000 naira as bride price.

The Groom is usually donned in the traditional igbo isi-agu outfit accessorized with red cap, coral bead, a walking stick and/or horse tail. If the groom is not igbo then he can wear his won traditional attire.

Nollywood actor, Mike Ezuruonye at his 2010 traditional wedding

The Bride
The bride normally wears two outfits- the maiden outfit and the George.  She makes her first entrance in the company of fellow maidens who will dance around the arena of the ceremony. The maiden outfit is usually complemented with white chalk (nzu) coral beads, jigida (waist beads) and other traditional accessories.  At her first entrance the bride and maidens will dance while her mum will lead the dancing girls holding a tuber of yam or a live chicken. This is a gift for the groom's mother.

While the bride and her entourage retire, the bride's family will check the items that the groom and his family has brought and cross out each item from the list earlier given the groom. When they are satisfied the bride will make her second entrance.

At her second entrance, she will carry wooden cup filled with palm wine to give to her prospective husband. The groom is hidden in an obscure corner for the bride to seek out. While she goes looking for the groom , other bachelors will try to woo her to give them the drink. She will firmly rebuff their advances and keep searching for the groom. Once she finds the groom, she goes on her knees and gives him the palm wine thus sealing the union. This is the 'wine carrying' proper.

After the groom finishes drinking the palm wine the new couple will now walk, holding hands, to the bride's father and kneel before him. The bride's father will then give the groom kolanut to eat and  palmwine to wash down the kolanut, while the bride rubs his back as he does so. I'm guessing it's for easy digestion, who knows? the bride's father will then give the couple his blessings.

At the end of the ceremony, the bride's dad will formally hand over the bride to the groom while the groom's father witnesses the exchange. This is the emotional part of the whole fun fare. I'm yet to see a bride that didn't cry at this point. The bride then follows the groom and his family home. Talk about being severed from the father's loins. sounds brutal donnit?

The above tradition varies from place to place. How is it done where you are from? Do share


  1. hmmmm! that list? igbo babes are on their own o! this one wey husband scarce like this. Yoruba people dey give out their brides almost free o! make una dey there dey roast

  2. It's not like this in my place. that list is most likely from Imo state. They always act like they are selling their daughters to the highest bidder. Igbo tradition is too beautiful


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