By Jonathan Adengo
Pardon me for sounding traditional and old school but I think introduction ceremonies today have lost the plot. Such gatherings where the media is invited to cover the ceremony and the compounds are flooded with items (gifts) from home furnishings, to cars and baskets filled with more items, not to mention brown envelops given out to the bride’s parents are legion nowadays. And if you come to think of it, introduction ceremonies today have apparently become a ground for people to show off their wealth.
What is even intriguing is people today go a step further to get loans or bombard their friends, workmates and even strangers with messages reminding them to attend their introduction ceremony meetings where, of course, you have to contribute towards preparations for the function.
With the dawn of modernity, the cultural aspects of the ceremony are either being sidelined or blatantly ignored, all in the effort to appear larger than life during the function.
Gloria Otto, a young woman who hopes to ‘introduce’ one day, says the ceremony is a very memorable one that cannot be taken lightly.
“It’s a landmark in the couples’ lives and thus should be celebrated in the best way possible,” she argues. “The preparation meetings are used to brainstorm on the different activities and functions to be performed on that day.”
Grace Ameede, who recently held an introduction ceremony, said her day was a success. She made sure that everything was colourful. She says they had everything planned for from the gifts to the decorations.
Organising such ceremonies usually costs an arm and a leg. Otto says she does not mind borrowing outfits if it’s going to save costs and also make the function a success. After all, the items and costumes are going to be used for only one day. However, she says she would never allow her man to borrow gifts meant for her parents.
Joan Nanteza hires out items for introduction ceremonies like ready-made dresses and items like baskets, tents, chairs and decorative items. She says she started the business four years ago after realising how lucrative it is.
It is a shock, however, that some of the in-laws’ gifts are also hired for display during the occasion and are returned after the function.
It is also a common practice today for people to hire spokespersons to mediate for them during the function. These are people (usually organised in associations) who are well versed with the norms and traditions of these ceremonies.
Ashraft Zaliwango, a hire spokesperson attached to Sanyu Ly’abega Spokespersons Association, says these associations are usually trained on the different marriage ceremony proceedings. He says their charges vary depending on the association one is attached to and other factors like the spokesperson’s popularity, season, distance, and the roles to be played among others.
You can but only imagine what has caused society to go down this path. Is it the fear of judgment from their peers?
The basics of introduction ceremonies
In Buganda, Zaliwango, a spokesperson for hire, says the traditional wedding was done secretly. The man would visit the parents of the girl and meet the Senga (aunt). Afterwards, they would write letters to the girl’s parents to make their intentions known.
The groom would then arrange and go to the bride’s place with his entourage. The groom would come with gifts for the in-laws, which included clothes like kanzus for the father and uncles, gomesis for the mother and Sengas (aunts).
Other gifts such as sugar, salt, enkoko ey’ omuko (chicken meant for the girl’s brother), ekibo ky’enyama (meat), enjatula (hymn book), omutwalo (Shs 10,000) and ekita ky’omwenge (local brew) would be brought for the bride’s family. During the wedding, the groom’s family brought paraffin in the morning, normally called Kasuzzekatya .
In other tribes, cows and goats are usually paid to the girl’s parents as dowery. Emma Emaasit, an elder from Teso says money on top of the cows and goats is usually given as a sign of appreciation to the girl’s parents.