Timothy Teko, a civil servant, first saw Agnes Achieng, a banker in primary school as she played dodge ball with her friends in 1996.
After school that day, he met her again as she helped her mother at the shop. Timothy asked if they could be friends, to which she smiled but did not say a word.
Later, Timothy and friends would peer through her classroom window and smile at her.
“I also started going to their shop specifically to buy kerosene for obvious reasons and the days I wouldn’t find her at the shop I would go back home angry for missing the opportunity of seeing my friend,” Timothy says.
Their friendship grew but they lost contact when they joined secondary school because Timothy had relocated with his sister.
They met again during her Senior Six vacation when he went to visit his brother back in the same village.
The magical hug
In 2007 at university, he hugged her during a guild president rally and it felt different.
“I couldn’t explain what had just happened to me yet I had been her friend for many years. After that hug, I could not get my eyes off her even as we parted ways after the rally at the Freedom Square,” he recalls.
Timothy says what attracted him to Agnes was her charming character, dedication, focus, hard work and love.
“She is always smiling,” he says.
For Agnes, Timothy’s sense of humour, calmness, hard work, care, love and kind-heartedness
made her heart skip a beat.
“He is so funny that his jokes make me laugh to tears,” she says.
The following year Timothy could not resist Agnes any longer. He crafted a ring out of wood and aimed for her heart.
“He knelt before me asking if I could marry him and I looked at his creative unique ring with a smile,” she recollects. First, she wondered how long it took him to craft such a ring inscribed with the initials AT (Agnes Timothy).
She said, ‘yes’ with tears rolling down her cheeks, and Timothy’s words to her were “Honey, take this ring as a sign of my true and undying love for you”.
“I was so excited for my long-time friend proposing to be my future partner. It was amazing that we would be together. I got my mind off the wooden ring to my best friend,” she says.
The couple revealed that it took them three months to prepare for the ceremony. The decision of bride price had to be made first. This is purely done by elders and the rwot (head of the bride’s clan).
Timothy reveals they had a pre-visit to Agnes’ family with his elders to discuss erwor, the bride price in a ‘mini parliament’ presided over by the rwot.
Elders from the groom’s side had to remove their shoes, crawl through the entrance to access the parliament where they sat on mats. On the other hand, the elders from the bride’s side enjoyed the comfort of their chairs until the end of the bride price negotiation.
On agreement of the bride price, the date of the bride price delivery was set before the actual day of the event.
Once the bride price was delivered, the parliament resumed to verify if what was agreed on in the initial discussion was delivered.
When all was settled, the clan flag was waved by the parliament guard. They sang songs of excitement including blowing of whistles, an indication that the celebration could officially now start.
Parents from both sides required consent from rwot and the elders for the traditional marriage celebration to start.
After the parents of Timothy and Agnes got consent from rwot and the elders, the function was supposed to start.
However, according to Agnes, the traditional obligation which had to be endorsed by the elders in the mini parliament delayed so the function started late.
Timothy’s mother wore antelope skin for the function, which identified her as the groom’s mother.
“We welcomed Timothy with mwelbull, a dance that women performed. Timothy presented a goat before he could enter our compound because the entourage cannot be allowed in without it,” Agnes explains.
The groom and his team continued with traditional dances and folk songs as they waited to be allowed in.
“We picked up Agnes and took her home, where she was welcomed by the women and my mother,” Timothy says.
Alagat, a particular type of metal, was put around Agnes’s neck and she was also smeared with cow ghee and they dressed her in cow skin to symbolise that she is now someone’s wife among other initiation rituals. All this while, the elders were given kutkuto, a local brew which is prepared using roasted maize flour brought from Agnes’s home.
The groom wore a traditional cap with a white ostrich feather and held a small horn covered by fur. His outfit also comprised a leopard and cow skin at the front, then a necklace and long sticks got specifically from the mountains. These were provided by the clan members.
The sheets tied around Timothy’s waist like a skirt and scarf were bought from Kangole Market in Karamoja and hand-stitched by Karimojong women.
For Agnes, her traditional skirt, waist and neck beads were also homemade by Karimojong women.