Tuesday, June 15, 2010
A Malian Wedding
In Malian culture, it's so important that a woman finds a man/husband (its the same word in Bambara). My village was so happy for me when I announced to them that I had 'found' a husband (again, literal translation is 'found'). So, when I heard that my friend Fazetti had found a husband, I was immediately excited for her. I was told a month in advance when the wedding would be, and that I better attend.
Now, I've been in Mali for almost 2 years and had yet attended a Malian wedding. My fellow PCV's laugh at me, because I've missed out on many Malian cultural things like muslim holidays (my host family is Christian), or wearing the traditional Malian cloths. However, I am really happy that the first time I attended the wedding it was for a good friend, and as a result it ment so much to me and will stay with me forever. When I arrived in Kamona, the festivities had already begun. The whole community gathered to support her and her family. Food was given, family from surrounding villages came to say goodbye, and to celebrate with the family. Fazetti stayed in a room with her friends, and little children of the families to sing and dance for her. But also, just to be with Fazetti, as this may have been the last time they were going to see her. You see, the man chosen for Fazetti is from a different village about 25miles away. Far enough away that it's possible she may only come back to our village 1 time in her lifetime.
It was a long and hot first day of the wedding. I had a Malian outfit made specifically for the big occasion. My first and prob. last Malian outfit, but all my friends and family in village were so excited to see me in their traditional cloths. Here in Mali, when a person gets married, it is the responsibility of the couple to transport all of the guests to the site. In our case, there was a 25person van that came to pick us up to make the 30mile journey to Diaramanna. Fazetti's new home.
Just before we were going to pile into the small bus, Fazetti came out of the house, covered from head to toe in an all -cotton blanket. She was wailing. I've never seen a Malian so upset like this, not even at a funeral. I felt her pain. She was sat in front of us (I always sit with the old men), and they waited for her to calm down a bit before they gave her parting words and prayers. This was the most touching moment for me. I didn't expect this. Fazetti was so devestated to be leaving her home, her family, her life. She was literally in mourning. I could relate her pain to mine when my grandma died. She just kept crying and crying and crying, covered up in her special wedding blanket. I couldn't hug her or hold her or hold her hand to tell her it's ok, because that's not culturally appropriate here. Also because the old men were about to do some serious stuff. So, as I sat next to her, starting with the oldest man of our compound gave her advise, gave her many blessings, and wished her much luck in her future marriage. The same thing went on for 2 more of the old men. Her parents did not say a word, nor were they in my sight. It was done, she knew she was on her way to never come back again.
We then piled into the car. It took us 2 hours to get there. It was nighttime and the dirt road was very muddy from a rainstorm 2 days before. Upon arrival,we were greeted with special drinks, and then a dance party. I went to sleep. It was 2am by then! It was a beautiful night though, the Milky Way is above us now, and there were so many stars in the sky! It was a night like that that I know I'm blessed to be living here in Africa, to be able to see such amazing gifts of nature we have been given, but most people don't see.
yes, in Mali if you are in a waiting area you actually talk to the people you are sitting around. This conversation ended up as the older man telling us (jokingly) why our last name and the people of my African ethnicity are so horrible. I made it back just in time to present Fazetti to the elders of her new village, and to exchange money. The family of Fazetti had to pay about $10 to the marriage broker, than offer money to the new village elders (about $20). Then, the women from my village presented Fazetti, she got the blessings from the elders of her new village and a promise to look out for her. We also asked for their forgiveness for anything Fazetti may do wrong, as she is still a child and learning things.
So, back to the church, the ceremony was nice, it was really hot in the church and I had to leave when the preacher started yelling his sermon at the audiance. They did their vows, and then at the end the whole congregation went up to shake their hands and give them coins. My 19 year old friend was now married. We paraded to her future house, and that was that. The people from Kamona all piled back into the bus and off we went. Little Debora and Mari may never see their sister for years. And so it a wedding in Mali, and for many unwilling brides around the world. I am so lucky to be able to live in a society where we can actually choose who we marry (even though 50% of those marriages end up in divorce......)