Friday, 12 December 2008

Lugbara Marriage (Oku 'Biza)

(A Lugbara couple during their memorable Wedding at St. Andrews Church Makerere in 1999. A different photo appeared in the Wedding Page of The New Vision on 1st November 2000)

"Oku Biza" literally translated means 'the Ceremony of Catching a Woman' though not like the Karimojong (whose marriage culture involves courtship rape). Modern Lugbara are peaceful and sanctify their relationships in churches or mosques. For the non Lugbara males interested in the Chandirus, Ayikorus and Amagurus of this world, be informed that Bride Price may be a priority in some families. Sometimes, you may actually have to pay at least a cow for each kid your Lugbara partner conceives. In the very distant past, at a time when tribal warfare characterised Lugbara Society, courtship is said to have been impossible. In those days, parents used to arrange marriages for their children. Marriage reservations could be made by the parents even when children were of tender age. When warfare subsided considerably, courtship became possible. The boy's father would transfer bridewealth to the girl's home and thereafter, the couple was customarily married. Divorce was very rare in deed. It could only occur if the woman failed to have children or she was found in possession of poisonous charms or any other substance that could be used to kill people.

During the 1960s, John Middleton wrote extensively about "The Lugbara of Uganda". In the Chapter on 'Marriage and Exogamy', Middleton wrote, "Marriage in Lugbara was marked by the transfer of bridewealth from the minimal lineage of the bridegroom to that of the bride. By the rules of exogamy that regulated the choice of a wife, a man might not marry a woman of his own clan. Nor might he marry into the major lineage of his mother, this prohibition was inherited for three generations. The range of permitted marriage was not the same as that of permitted sexual relations ... The word for 'to marry' is 'je', the same word used to mean 'buy', 'exchange' or 'barter'. It shouldn't be translated as 'to buy' in this context for the simple reason that this translation refers only to the modern economic activity of purchase with money which was not traditional ... There were then about seven head of cattle which represented the procreative power of the woman. The 'cattle' might in fact be goats and even money, bicycles and other goods were known to be transferred instead although this was unusual and thought improper ... Arrows were also transferred. They were a form of currency for use in certain situations of which this was one. Several hundred arrows were collected from both the father's and mother's kin of the bridegroom and handed over to the bride's father who in turn distributed them among her kin. The transfer of arrows marked the establishment of the ties of affinity between the two lineages. Finally, there were gifts of beer given to the girl's mother to recompense her for the loss of her daughter, to heal her grief and also to enable her to get a substitute for a few days to help in the home ..."

There is so much he wrote I should not copy here for rights infringement reasons. Otherwise, you can buy the whole book and read.