Wedding in Arochuku

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March 1964

Ah, this our very Arochuku. As went to a wedding this morning at the local Catholic church, which is (during the week) a primary school building. The primary schools here are all just roofs with a four foot wall around and an enclosed room at one or both ends for supplies. Anyway, nuptial mass began at eight am, followed by a group photo of all the guests (very popular}. Thence came a very formal, and strange to us, ‘reception’ at which the bride and groom were totally ignored. This formality seems to be an Igbo tradition. It opened with the appointment of one of the chiefs as chairman, then presented the kola nut, a traditional sign of welcome, which in less western ceremonies is taken very seriously, the youngest present breaking the kola the distributing it eldest man first in order of age down to the youngest. This requires a fantastic memory and big palavers arise over mistakes, etc. After the kola came a legacy of British rule—wine, toast, and wedding cake. Then to get things going properly so had beer (in the morning, yet) followed by palm wine. Incidentally, Arochuku has by far the best palm wine in all of Nigeria. It is sweet when fresh, and has a good flavor not unlike soda pop. Some of the palm wine, mostly that of the raffia palm has a soapy appearance and a bad odour. The best wine comes from the oil-palm tree in regions near rivers. The fan palm does not have enough sap to be tapped; so_there is no palm wine in the Northern regions.

Image:Wedding_Invitation_in_Arochuku.jpgBack to the wedding: during the drink we had bits of the cake, peanuts, and chin-chin (fried bits of dough) passed to us, while the wedding presents were offered, announced, and received. This is a most amazing tradition to a westerner. The presents were all money, and the amount and name of giver are called out as each is presented. They must have collected fifteen pounds at this affair. During all this the newly-weds sit up front, taking no part, and looking bored.

The master-of-ceremonies is collecting-the gifts while another is totaling up the take. This whole thing is topped off by some closing remarks by the chairman, with a short reply by the groom. It took four hours—all in Igbo!

Igboko wedding invitationAccording to Pius Igboko, the uncle of the groom (who, incidentally, paid for all of this) this is just to satisfy the white man. All the arrangements, bride price, and traditional ceremony are completed before this day. And afterward, this evening, after the men have had time for some serious drinking, comes singing and dancing which last far into the night. A good night, too, for there is a full moon. I took my tape recorder and recorded some of the doings this morning, all in the vernacular, and will take it again this evening. The grandfather of the groom is the oldest man in Aro, tho he is still very healthy and extremely sharp. He remembers all that goes on at an event like this and can recall any incident at any future time. He remembers details of meetings of chiefs twenty and forty years ago. Precedent is very important in Igbo law, and this requires someone to remember all that went before. The Aros evolved a simple pictograph written language to help their memories, but most of the history is oral, and must anyway be interpreted by some in the Ekpe Society who knows the symbols. The Ekpe Society had little to do with Juju, but was primarily for keeping the history and traditions in the community.

Jim Ludden

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