By Joan Salmon
It is in the pomp, the number and category of people in attendance, the type of cake, the price-tag to the clothes, the list is endless. It would indeed be right to say that there is a lot that is changing in the 21st Century and culture has not been spared.
In the past, in Buganda, it was only the senga, father and a few notable people on the girl’s side as well as a handful of people from the boy’s family that attended the Kwanjula. More to that, there were a few things brought as was dictated by culture. But today, not only is the function filled with lots of people, the gifts are beyond what culture dictates and some are an abomination to the norms.
For example, in Buganda, bringing carrots, pumpkins and bananas are said to be abominable, but because people are in the need to bring as much as possible to ’beat’ the function they saw on social media, they forget to inquire about what gifts are ideal.
While we were getting a hung of that change, in came the Kukyala which has now been turned into a society function from being an in-house function.
According to Joseph Sendagire (Mzee Bakidaawo), a spokesman, the Kukyala (visit) was generally a small function that involved family members only. “Times have changed and so is how people do things.” Indeed the times are way different than they were ten years ago and social media has played a big role in making this change even bigger. From being done in the senga’s home with an aim of getting to know the future in-laws better, the function can now be done in gardens in a bid to accommodate the many guests in attendance. When it gets to decor, and food, the budget gets even bigger, enough to fund a wedding back in the day. That is not forgetting the several changes of clothes, numerous gifts at hand, and the several activities that have been added to the agenda.
Senga Masaba, a counsellor, decries the change that social media has brought into cultural activities. “We appreciate that cultures vary and so do homes. However, copying what people see on social media has come to a point where they do not respect culture. Some do not follow norms, for example, in Mbale, an in-law must come with items such as a saucepan but some forfeit it thinking it does not matter while going for items such as solar panels for pomp yet they have no meaning to culture.”
She says that she is not against an in-law buying for his mother-in-law a solar panel, a car and bringing them at the Kukyala. “No mother would not appreciate it but let us also remember and respect the culture of the girl we are getting married to.”
Senga Masaba also says that while social media may be a driving force in the changes we see in the Kukyala, a lot rides on the culture, the in-law’s pocket as well as those at home. “At times the mother would also want to honour those that have helped her raise the child hence the huge number of people in attendance.”
Sendagire mentions that nothing has really changed regarding the expenditure on Kukyala, saying it is still as before. “You cannot control one’s expenditure as everyone has what they want to do hence spend as they wish. Even in the past, some families spent a lot while others did not. The trend continues today but the only difference is that while people did not publicize what they did then, many do now.”
He believes that if one feels they have the money to go for an extravagant function, they should go ahead.
While many may blame social media, Agatha Kisakye, a mother and educator, thinks otherwise. “While people use social media to update others about their achievements and what is happening around them, it is not really to blame for the heightened expenditure that goes into the Kukyala.” She, however, believes that the issue is people’s attitudes as they go with what they see on the internet without finding out what works for them. “It is like a disease as they have run away from the primary things to settle for flimsy issues.”
In the end, because people are not grounded but are blown by the wind of being relevant at all costs, Kisakye says, there is no core reason for the function. “People live superficial lives because they are trying to prove a point. In the end, owing to no real foundation for what they are doing. When the steam has fizzled out, so will the relationship.”
Besides that, while people are busy updating the world about what is happening in their lives, time is being consumed. “It is like a rat race with people trying to be relevant yet nothing real is happening. By the time they choose to settle down and get real, their ‘life clock’ is spent and the real important things have been missed,” she adds.
Kisakye mentions that the change in these functions also shows that culture has been diluted as parents are also looking at the amount of gifts brought as the major point. “Even if they would have cautioned their daughter about a certain vice they see in the in-law, they let it slide because the compound has been ‘littered’ by gifts.”
While we cannot change the trend of events, one can only hope that in all the pomp and celebration we can still get back to the gist of the matter – marriage, and do it for all the right reasons.