Saturday I was able to attend a traditional Uganda introduction ceremony.Â This is traditionally the even that occurs for a couple to be married.Â Today, many Ugandans do an introduction first and then get married in a church like the west.Â At the traditional ceremony everyone wears the traditional attire of a man, a Kanzu, and woman, a Gomez.
Rose arrived in the morning to help me dress in my Gomez.Â Last week I picked out the fabric and had a tailor make the dress.Â She helped me tie the stiff fabric that is wrapped around your waist and folded over to make a â€œcrinolineâ€ under the dress and add bulk to the back.Â You put the dress on like a jacket and button it on the top left.Â There is a long piece of fabric, which you fold on the left side and drape over the large sash you tie around your waist.
When I came out of my guesthouse room and an older Ugandan woman sitting in the front saw me, her eyes went wide and she said to me, â€œYou look smart!â€Â I discovered after that moment that â€˜smartâ€™ is a very positive affirmation for women and I have to admitâ€¦ I heard it a few more times that day!Â She helped to adjust my sash and when she was finished there were about five women standing around talking in Busogaâ€¦ but I didnâ€™t need a translatorâ€¦ I knew they were all admiring the musungu in a fancy Gomez !
We road a boda boda (motorcycle) to the meeting place where Roseâ€™s friend would take me to the wedding.Â I had to ride like a woman â€“ side saddle â€“ because it is impossible to spread your legs in all the fabric!
When I got there I met Steven Mukwaya.Â He is a high school economics teacher in a local Catholic school and spends his weekends doing introductions for extra money.Â At a traditional introduction you have two â€œspokesmen.â€Â One speaks for the brideâ€™s family and the other for the grooms family.Â Spokesmen are Uganda comedians who help make the event both entertaining and a celebration.Â Steven has the perfect personality for the job and I had the honor of being his date!
We waited at this restaurant for the groom and the groomâ€™s family to arrive.Â A taxi of women arrived, each dressed in a beautiful Gomez.Â I slowly walked out with Steven and when they saw me they immediately had smiles on their faces.Â I walked over and they all stared at me as if they had never seen a Gomez in their life!Â They were a chatter of Busogaâ€”commenting on the fact that I look â€˜smartâ€™ and that my designer did a wonderful job.Â I was overwhelmed at the welcome I received from everyone and honored that they were glad to have me as part of the celebration!
We stopped in two other locations before we reached the wedding.Â We kept waiting for more family members to join our caravan.Â We drove through a very rural village and I was able to see many village homes.Â Most homes in the various towns are square and look like American ranch homes.Â Homes in a village are round with a thatched roof.
The celebration was supposed to begin at 1:00pm.Â It was 4:00pm when the brideâ€™s family was ready to receive the groomâ€™s family.Â We lined up women on one side and men on the left.Â Steven had to be in front with a microphone leading the conversation between the two families.Â So, I joined Lynn and Dino a very sweet couple who were able to explain what was happening.
As the guests of the groom, we sat in the most decorated tent.Â There were three other tents.Â Two with the brideâ€™s family and the other for people from the village who wanted to join the celebration.
Once we were seated the groomâ€™s speaker (Steven) asks for people to come out of the brideâ€™s house.Â There is a series of young girls, aunties, young women, grandmothers, young men, and women with food for the groomâ€™s guests who come out of the house by the request of the speakers to modern, Ugandan music.Â Basically each time people come out we are looking for the bride. There is a lot of talking between the speakers, clapping, and women are asked to kneel at various points in the ceremony.Â The bride finally came out dressed in an elaborate orange and gold Gomez â€“ she was beautiful aka â€˜smart.â€™Â She and her attendants walked around the middle space and the kneeled before the groomâ€™s family.
Now itâ€™s time for the brideâ€™s auntie to find the groom, who is hidden in our tent.Â She found him and penned on a corsage.Â There is more talking â€“ basically introducing the groom to the brideâ€™s family.Â Once he is â€˜acceptedâ€™ the bride walks over and greets the groom.
Now itâ€™s time for the groomâ€™s gifts.Â Traditionally, this is the â€˜doweryâ€™ for the payment of the woman and the parents stipulate how many cows, chickens, and goats are needed in payment for their daughter.Â Today, the groom gives â€˜gifts.â€™Â Our groom was an engineer and brought MANY, MANY gifts.Â Some of them come in baskets â€“ gifts of fruit, oil, flower, beans etc. and the women carry them in on their heads.Â The first time we went through we had to kneel when we gave the gift on our head.Â The bride went back in the house and changed into a pink and gold Gomez and now that she was out of view, I realized that the musungu carrying gifts was now the center of attention.Â I had to focus so hard not to trip on my Gomez!Â When I kneeled correctly, I could hear affirmation from the guests .
There were many gifts including â€“ cows, chickens, food, sodas, beer, a cistern, and solar panels.Â The last gift is a ring given from the groom to the bride.
I was mesmerized by the cake!Â It looked exactly like the traditionally way they cook motoke â€“ in banana leaves in a pot!Â Even the bricks, which the cake rested, were made of cake.Â The cake was very dense and the icing was like a dry fondant.Â I have never tasted anything like it â€“ it was sweet, kinda grainy, and everyone had only a small piece (which is the first time I was OK with only a small piece of wedding cake!!).
The bride changed again into a modern looking Gomez, without the high shoulders and brought a basket of gifts to the groomâ€™s family.
The last event of the night is to eat dinner â€“ by now it was about 9:00pm.Â The bride changed once more into a blue Gomez for dinner (I can not imagine how much all her beautiful Gomez cost!!).Â The groomâ€™s family had a special buffet line and were served first.Â (I was thankful to be the guest of the groom!)Â It is tradition to eat with your hands â€“ rice, peas, chicken, beaf, motoke, chipati all with gravy and sauce.Â I tried to wrap the rice and sauce with my chipatiâ€¦ but I still made a mess!!
Things quickly wrapped up after the meal.Â Everyone was up and moving around.Â I was surprised there was not dancing, but it seemed like everyone wanted to drive home from the village before it got too late. Â Steven and I found a car in which to ride back to Jinja.
On the way homeâ€¦ Steven charmingly asked me, â€œWhat gifts do I need to bring to your parents to marry you?â€ I replied, â€œYou would need to bring them the stars and the moon!â€