Rt.Hon Muganwa Kajura article

It took months of formalities before a couple settled in as husband and wife. It was the parents’ duty to find partners for their children. Marriage was based on research and love came later.
According to Oswald Ndoleriire, a family would go looking for a suitable girl to marry or a father would have booked a wife for his son.Kuswera mu matundu (Booking an unborn girl -child as a wife)
One form …of betrothal was Kuswera mu matundu or antenatal betrothal, where a father booked an unborn child for his son. Or, a man would tell a close friend, ‘my wife is pregnant, I give her child to you.’ If the child were a girl, this friend would have her as a wife for his son.

This young girl, who had been booked, attained the status of ‘wife’ at an early age. At five or six she was handed over to the family that had booked her where she grew up as a daughter and got groomed by her mother-in-law to be. During this time, the boy meant to marry her had no knowledge that this was his future wife, and took her like a sister.

Insisting that couples have a right to be united in marriage when they were old enough the colonialists later stopped this booking and it became a crime.

Preparation for marriage
Those not booked earlier would start preparing for marriage at puberty. Girls would start applying special ghee on their skin, trimming their nails and shaving their hair.
A boy’s family looked for a girl whose personal and family background was good and avoided families with chronic or hereditary diseases. When a good girl was spotted, a go-between, kiranga obuko, was dispatched.
He would reach the compound and clear his throat loudly. They would welcome him and he would say he was looking for friendship.”


The prospective bridegroom, accompanied by a few kinsmen, would pay a formal visit to the girl’s home, bringing a gift of a large goat and pots of banana beer. On this visit, the boy’s father vaguely announced his intentions, and thereafter promised to pay another visit. On the next visit, he made his point. “If there were many girls, they would be brought in and the boy would point out the one he wanted.

The girl’s family would try to learn more about the other family’s reputation. When the proposal was accepted, they knelt down and thanked their hosts. Throughout, the bride’s group assumed an air of haughty superiority, while the groom’s family was humble.
Next, they would take beer over which to discuss the bride price, amaarwa g’ekicwa muhendo. When this beer was delivered, the negotiation started. Bride wealth included cows, goats and many pots of beer. Usually, families married from families of equal social standing.


After the payment of the bride wealth, a small strap from the hide of a small animal, engonge, was tied on the arms of the couple as a symbol of engagement, like engagement rings.

The bridegroom’s family brought beer (Amaarwa g’ekigambo or ‘alcohol for the word’) to the girl’s family and they were told the date when to take the girl. When the girl’s family was ready to give away their daughter, they sent for amaarwa g’ekimwa isoke, or ‘beer for shaving the hair.’ The groom’s family would deliver this beer. The bride had to be shaven as it was taboo for both the bride and the groom to appear on their wedding day with hair.

The fatter the better
Effort and time was put into preparing the bride for her wedding. She did not do any chores. Among the cattle keeping communities, she was fed on milk to make her fat, as fat was, and still is, attractive. She was smeared with cow ghee and her body perfumed with special incense. Her body was scrubbed with a type of red soil, which left her skin smooth.

The girl received presents, ensagalizi, from parents and relatives, including straw mats, cow hide carpets, baskets and bark cloth. The bride took with her a bag full of incense made out of dried and smoked papyrus reeds and scented herbs. The bride would take these herbs, known as emigajo to their bedroom, which made the house smell good and also aroused her husband.

Give Away

An Introduction CeremonyThe bride was taken at night. The in-laws arrived at her home in the evening. Shortly after their arrival, the bride was taken into a nearby bush and given marriage tips by her paternal aunties, abaisenkati and they sang a special send-off song, ijooje. The bride sat four times on her father’s laps and her mother’s laps, which was okubukara, a way of officially bidding her farewell and blessing her marriage.

The in-laws would then sing, engoma nyabahuma, begging to leave. At this point all the women would be crying for their parting member. When the bride was about to leave the house, one of her cousins would lie across the doorway to prevent her from leaving until the bridegroom’s party gave him 10 cowrie shells. This cousin would carry her on his back and whenever the party stopped to rest, the bride would sit on the laps of her aunt.

The New Home

When the bride arrived at the entrance, a senior wife in the household, or a wife of one of her brothers-in-law closed the door using a curtain (made of bark cloth while holding a gourd. This lady said, oginsangiremu, originsigamu, ‘you found me in this house, and you will leave me here.’ She would then give the gourd to the bride, which meant, ‘you are now my co-wife, come in and churn.’
The essence was that the new bride should never attempt to chase away another wife.
When the bride entered, the groom would sit on his father’s laps four times and four on his mother’s laps. The bride would do likewise, which was okubukara, a sign of welcome and acceptance of the girl.

First Sexual Encounter

Later, the bride and groom went to the room for a ceremony known as okukuza, the first sexual encounter between the couple. Before 3 a.m., omwihwa, one of the groom’s sisters would climb up the wall and crow like a cock. The aunt, still with the bride and groom would make them lie together, the aunt would then hold the bride’s hands behind her to make it easy for the groom to penetrate her. If she was a virgin, blood would seep onto the mat, a mark of honour for the girl, her aunt and family. If she was not a virgin, it would disgrace the girl and her family but she would stay in the marriage.”

The warning
This was okuteera omusango, when the groom and his parents received warning from the visitors shortly before their departure, to treat their daughter well. It was done by an old man on behalf of the bride’s father. He would say: ‘This child of mine has come with two names; when she receives a third one, let me know. My child does not visit unnecessarily. She does not visit and spread rumours bringing enmity between homes. She does not stare at passers-by, she does not abuse people, and she does not steal. If she abuses her father-in-law beat her. If you can’t cope with her, send her back to me.

The bride would also be told to behave well. Then the visitors would depart, leaving her aunt who would stay for a few more days. If the bride had been found virgin, the mat with the patch of blood was taken back to her mother, with a gift of a goat. If the bride had no virginity, the groom burnt holes in the mat and instead of a goat, sent her a sheep. The mother would weep in shame.
In the last ceremony, the bride would leave her enclosure. She would uncover her head and start doing housework.

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