Monday, October 29, 2007

Bride price...

Other than funerals I guess it’s accurate to say that the next big events are weddings. They too have their own protocol and formalities. A lot goes into the engagement as well as the formal ceremony and the process actually starts once the man asks for the woman’s hand in marriage. It’s a whole elaborate affair that involves families as opposed to the more Western notion of it being individuals. The individuals themselves become a part of the ‘skit’, playing their assigned roles in the ever unfolding drama.

A big part of the negotiations seems to be that of the bride price – crudely put, the amount in cash and kind that the man’s family will ‘pay’ for the woman in question. It’s funny to get questions about bride price given that I am from Jamaica. I remember once sitting down with a group of farmers after work hours in the Northern part of Ghana over a bowl of pito (locally brewed liquor) and the talk turned to brides and bride price. Never been the former and by extension not benefiting from the latter for me it was certainly an interesting discussion to say the least. After they had all offered me their condolences at me not yet being married, they started to explain the customs and how this was negotiated. At a point in the discussions realizing we don’t have bride price, one guy later asked: ‘you mean the women in your country are free?’ Hmm, loaded question and one I am sure many Jamaican men would spend hours debating and clarifying.

Anyway, the issue of bride price came up again this morning as my helper’s brother is finally getting married. The discussions have taken a year and even at this stage with the wedding set for December the negotiation still is taking place. Thought it would be interesting to share the list with a bit of explanation:

1 bottle JH Henkes Schnapps – only the best schnapps can be offered; a tradition carried over from the says of trading with the Dutch, it is thought that the Dutch schnapps is better than the local brands

Knocking and acceptance fees Father - USD 20

Knocking and acceptance fees Mother - USD 20

(This is just for going and literally knocking on the door; when you enter this paid to both parents. This is even before discussions are started)

Father’s down fees - USD 20

(from what I understand this is not charged by all tribes; this also is to represent a token of the amount of money that has been spent on the woman by her family and a gesture saying you as the man’s family is appreciative)

Mother’s Tamboba fees - ½ piece of cloth

(Same as the father’s down fees; see explanations on costs below)

Head drink+ 1 bottle JH Schnapps - USD 200

Dowry and one bottle whiskey - USD 200

Bible and ring and a bottle of wine

Akonta Sekan - USD 20

(The money that the woman’s brother will receive from the husband to be before you are released)

Ahyiadze (translated from Akan ‘we are coming to wed you’)

1 big suit case

Six ½ pieces cloth (a half piece of cloth is roughly six yards; again the best in the Dutch was prints, namely the brand name Holland; one piece is roughly USD 65; there are also local brands such as GTP which goes for USD 25 – USD 30)

Earrings, necklace etc

Underwear, bras, panties etc.

Sandals, shoes

1 bottle Castle Bridge Gin

I crate minerals (aka sodas)

1 crate malt

1 crate beer

Begya Nsa - USD 20

(drinks for the witnesses)

Fascinating isn’t it? The costs for the actual wedding has not been calculated at this stage.

Ok, well am off to calculate how much I am worth.


saskia said...

ah the Dutch and the Drink..
ne'er the two shall part!

Happy Samhain me oirish lass!

and ye may locate me as Zwolle on that counter gadget, took me a while to figure out as well.. No lost lover keepin check on ya from Zwolle me luv

Denise said...

In all my years in Holland doubt if I have ever visited Zwolle, much less having a lot love there! Hmmm, speaking about lost loves guess who turned up in Ghana this week? Clue - emphasis on the 'lost' and not the 'love' ;-)