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An Igbo Marriage

Photos taken by Okechukwu Anthony Mezu

and provided by Dr. Rose Mezu

 

 

 

 

Books by Rose Ure Mezu

 

Women in Chains: Abandonment in Love Relationships in the Fiction of Selected West African Writers (1994) / Songs of the Hearth (1993) /

Homage to My People (2004) / A History of Africana Women's Literature (2004)

 Black Nationalists: Reconsidering Du Bois, Garvey, Booker T. & Nkrumah (1999) Chinua Achebe: The Man and His Works (2006)

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An Introductory Note 

By Rose Mezu

These wedding photos (above/below) are presented as part of a cultural education of life in the cultural towns of Africa.  They are intended to offset and counteract the usual dismal, poverty-ridden, and disheartening images normally shown to black American audiences about life in Africa.  Like every other place, Nigeria, or any country in Africa for that matter, has several facespoor, median, and rich.  My circle is not too rich but in-between and quite representative. 

A wedding, of course, is a festive occasion and people -- men and women -- are at their best in terms of dressing.  But that's Nigeria for you -- extravagant, grand and colorful.   You will love the country if you do really visit -- go round the states I mean, not just Lagos and Abuja -- but perhaps, Owerri, Emekuku, Aba, Enugusome of the Eastern Igbo townships. The country is oil-rich, even if the bulk of the wealth is in a few private hands because of bad leadership at both the national and state levels.  That is why people are trying in this election year to promote political parties with more ideological convictions such as APGA (All Progressive Grand Alliance) that has a more ideological orientation even if largely Igbo. What America is to the world, Nigeria is to the black world, a kind of Mecca.

The scenes here are from Emekuku -- a town in Owerri, Imo State of Nigeria.  The bride is my third daughter and she is Dr. Kelechi Rosemary Mezu-Nnabue.  She is a Doctor of Optometrist completing a second doctorate in Public Health. Her husband, Chigozie Nnabue is a mortgage banker and he is from a town about thirty minutes from our home in Emekuku.   They met here in Baltimore and have since returned to the US. 

The wedding is Catholic (Emekuku is the seat of the Catholic Church in this region), but it was preceded by a cultural traditional wedding in my compound  called Mezuville in Emekuku.  This ceremony brings the respective families and communities together in love and harmony.  These invitees will act as witnesses to this marriage and they will work together to ensure the stability and longevity of the marriage (even if turbulent) in years  to come.

In the cultural wedding scenes, the guests are welcomed as they arrive and are seated amidst traditional music.  As you can see, guests invited or uninvitedare free to come.  No one is ever driven away and one does not need an invitation to come.  There is food for everyone a  kind of an open house.  There are dance groups and musicians drumming to keep the mood happy. It is all very festive in this tropical, warm, sun-kissed region of Africa. Consider, that you were snow-bound, chilled to the spine here in Baltimore at that time. The contrast is very glaring.

Then, the Mother of the Bride makes her entrance (that's me in blue) with her entourage - fellow women and her peers, sisters and friends and dances round the ceremonial ground, being greeted and feted by the guests.   Money is sprayed at all the occasions
Naira (Nigerian currency), dollar, pound sterling, Deutsch mark, and what have youit is all part of the gifts to the couple on that occasion.  Other gifts in kind are given too.  People know it is expensive to stage such a wedding and the money goes to help offset the costs somewhatthough it never gets anywhere near what it actually costs.  However, it is all a happy occasion and well worth the expenditure.  It has been under preparation for over a year and the people concerned are saving for it.

Then, the nubile bride comes in with her maidens
peers, classmates, relatives and  friendsand does the nubian dance of the bride.  She next goes to her fatherpater familias (it is all so patriarchal!)and kneels showing obeisance and respect and he gives her a cup of Palm wine -- symbolic gestureand charges her to go look for her husband who is hidden somewhere in the crowd by his friends.  So now she does the dance-of-the-maiden searching for the groom and her attending maids are all the while on the lookout for him.  IT IS A LOT OF FUN AND GAMES!  She will find him at last, offer him wine and claim him as her groom and will bring him to her father who then blesses them as they kneel before him  in respect for his blessings.  Thus, the father has married them in the  traditional manner before the assembly of friends, relatives, and the greater community.

The Church wedding followed three days later.  This usually may take up to a year or never depending on the strength of the Christian faith of both the  couple and their families. We chose to do the Christian Church Wedding three days apart.  We are Roman Catholics and this wedding was solemnized in the Assumpta Cathedral  of Our Lady  (Blessed Mother of Jesus) of Assumption at Owerri, capital of Imo State in the South-Eastern region of Nigeria.  We are Igbos
one of the three major tribes in Nigeria.  

After the wedding, the photos are taken and the scene shifts to the Concorde Hotel, the International five-star hotel that is an Owerri landmark for the wedding reception. Close to five hundred people attended.  It was a happy, colorful event, followed a few days later with the full wine-carrying ceremonies of another daughter, Olachi (God's Jewel) who is a medical doctor.  Ola gets married at end of year at Emekuku, Owerri around about the same time and in the same fashion her sister did.

The "plaque scene of mother and father passed" are portraits of my husband's late parents.  We took our grand children who are visiting Nigeria for the first time to see where they are buried in the family compound.  My father-in-law who was called Clement has the Chapel of St. Clement built directly above his grave.  Of course, you know that traditionally, we reverence our ancestral dead.  Their memories are always with us and they are never quite forgotten.  As Diop put it, "the dead are not really dead, but with us still."  We loved them and try to keep their memories alive.

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Photo 1 (above left): Dr. Rose Ure Mezu -- Mother of the Bride, making sure arrangements are in top shape for the Cultural Wedding  ceremony taking place in her compound, Mezuville, Emekuku, Owerri in Imo State of Nigeria.

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Photo 2 (above right): Kelechi Rosemary Mezu, O.D., D.P.H.; and Mr. Chigozie Nnabue, a mortgage banker, during their traditional wedding at Mezuville, Emekuku, Imo State, NigeriaDecember 26, 2002.

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Note on Names

Kelechi means "Give praises to God." Chigozie means "May God bless." Both are great Igbo names and as is traditional with Africans, even the names of kids and the circumstances of their birth are centered around the Godhead. Igbos are mainly Christians. They are also traditionalists. We are cradle Catholics. RM

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Photo 3 (left): Revisiting the Graveside of Patriarch Clement U. Mezu grandfather of the bride at the Old Family Homestead built by Pa Clement Mezu.  The kids are his great-grandchildren being introduced to his life as he lived it.  He died in 1983. 

On top of the the grave is built  the Chapel of St. Clement erected by Dr. Sebastian Okechukwu Mezu in honor of his father and consecrated on November 1983 by the then Catholic Bishop of Owerri, Bishop Mark Unegbu, now deceased.  Masses and family prayers are usually said in the Chapel. 

 

Above: In lime green clothes are Dr. Rose Ure Mezu and her husband, Dr. Sebastian Mezu.  In pink, Dr. Nina Mezu-Nwaba  is a pharmacist and came back to Nigeria with her four kids  for her younger sister Kelechi's wedding. It is the first visit for her children, who were all born in America.

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Photo 4: The Family Homestead. The Chapel of St. Clement is to the right above the family mausoleum.

 

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Photo 5: Some of the Mezu Girls at the home of their Uncle, Hon. Ambrose Mezu, adviser to the Imo State Governor. From Left is Dr. Nina Mezu-Nwaba - Pharmacist and mother of the kids shown above; Dr. Olachi Joy Mezu, O.D., MD.; Dr. Ure Laura Mezu, MDboth graduating in may 2003 and beginning their residency;  Ogechi Vivian Mezu, a N.Y. model and pharmacist student, twin to Olachi. I guess, by their pose, they are feeling young and trendy and all's right with their world.

Young people will congregate in my home everyday as long as they and my boys are in town.

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Photo 6:  The prepared ground for the ceremonythe Tennis Court of Mezuville, in festive colors and balloons.

 

 

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Photo 7: A section of the guests seated as they arrive.  They are dressed in traditional,  festive attire.  People in the tropics love very vibrant colors, cheerful as the tropical sun.

 

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Photo 8: The Nnabue Family, the Bridegroom's people come accompanied by their cultural dance troupe and drummers.  A Traditional wedding is an occasion for great festivitiesmusic, dancing, and merriment. It marks a union of many families and communities.  Refer to Olaudah Equiano's comment, "We are almost a nation of dancers, poets, and musicians. Thus, every great event . . . is accompanied by music, dancing and great rejoicing."

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Photos 9  (left ): Now the Groom's people make a grand entrance dancing to the pulsating beat of the drummers' music.  Notice their exuberance, panache and bravura. They come in large numbers in a show of strength, for the Igbos have a saying, "Igwe bu Ike" - literally, that strength is in numbers.  They will go home with the bride at the end of the ceremony for her to get to see her new home.  She will go accompanied by her maidensher sisters,  peers and  special friends.  She will come back the following day to prepare for her Church Wedding.

Photo 10 (above right): Dr. Sebatian Okechukwu Mezu offers traditional greetings welcoming to his home at Mezuville Emekuku the Nnabue kindred. It is led by Dr. Nnabue, Dean of Imo State University Law School and older brother to the Groom, Chigozie. He speaks for the family by his social and academic standing, even though his father is still living. [Those in red hats, I understand, are chiefs. Ed. note]

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Photo 11: The in-laws are seated.  The canopies are arranged according to various branches of the families, in-laws and extended relations as well as special guests.   They are sitting, chatting before the start of the ceremony, but will be entertained by various dance and performing cultural troupes.

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Photo 12: The Father of the Bride, Dr. Sebastian Okechukwu Mezu offers prayers using the Kola -- a great symbolic icon in African tradition.  He will invoke his ancestors, trace his genealogy as far back as he can remember, and finally introduce the reason for the assemblythe wedding of his daughter.  Then, he will offer a paean in her honorlauding her accomplishments and if she has been a good loving daughter, he will restate his pride that she waited to marry formally rather than run off to do so.

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Photo 13: I sit and watch events.  (This photo actually comes after my entrance as the mother of the bride.)  It is blazing sunshine and my husband drinks to quench his thirst.  The period id the Harmattan season -- around Christmas; it is usually cool, not humid and does not rain.  Ceremonies are usually held at this period.  This is the closest we have to a tropical Winter.

This is the season of harvesting crops from the farms. It is the season of plenty!  Of Love! Believe melots of fun aboundweddings, cultural festivals with masquerades, naming ceremonies, Coming-of Age Ceremonies, etc.

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Photos 14 (left): Now, I make my entrance accompanied by my entouragemade up of my sisters, relatives and select friends and members of my community.  There is great vitality and joyous abandon.  It is the crowning moment of a mother's life when her son or daughter gets married.  Since it is my daughter, the event takes place in my compound.  When my sons get married, their brides' families will cater this ceremony. My husband comes to greet me and it is time now for me to be feted with gifts of money (in every available currency by the way), et cetera.  

Photo 15 (above right): Can you see the women doing their stuff? and my husband coming to congratulate me for raising a great daughter? He has done well too, by the way! Tongue-in-cheek, you say? Believe me, it is hard to raise ten children successfully and still keep a career and a home! The triple mountains on a woman's back?

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Photo 16: Now, the Bride, Dr. Kelechi Rosemary makes her entrance with her entourage.  It is the nubile dance of the maidens.  They are dressed in lace, Ashoke (traditionally woven material), and ushered in with music from the drummers and flutes.

Kelechi is in the middle dressed in yellow lace and her sisters are in white and purplesame color.  They will dance round the ceremonial arena and greet the assembled guests.  The ceremony is underway at this time and the arena is full of guests, villagers and friends, even without invitation. Nobody can be turned away. 

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Photo 17: Finally, Kelechi comes to kneel before her father, who now is the patriarch.  He pours out Palm wine into a goblet and will give her to go in search of her groom.  It is now time for fun and games.  

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Photo 18: Accompanied by her maidens, Kelechi Rosemary goes in search of her groom, who is hidden somewhere in the crowd by his male friends.  It is a playful event.  Many young men will plead to be offered the wine.  There is a lot of laughter and merriment as she refuses each in turn.

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Photo 19 (left): Eventually, she will find him, bring Chigozie to show him to her father as the Chosen One.  Her acceptance is symbolized by her giving him the Palm wine to drink. It seals their love!

Photo 20 (right): Dr. Mezu now blesses the young couple and pouring libation on the soil hallowed by his ancestors and by Highest Divinity, he offers wishes and prayers for the young couple's happiness, fruitfulness, good health, long life and prosperity and the love and support of their kinsfolk and friends. It is now a union of families. 

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Photo 21: The Bride and Groom do their Bridal Dance.  Everyone comes to greet, fete them with gifts and joy.  The dancing continues until late in the evening.  It is an all-day affair. 

 

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Photo 22: The Groom, Chigozie takes care of his Bride Kelechi. He introduces her to all his relatives who had come to accompany him on his big life's adventurea most serious phase of life. We can guess the stuff of their dreams! Everyone wishes them even better!

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 Photo 23: Food is being shared and people are just relaxing, eating; friends and kinsfolk are meeting again and passing on news items.  New acquaintances are being made, young people are meeting for the first time, perhaps, and may forge a lasting alliances.  People have come from all over -- America, Britain, Europe, the urban cities of Nigeria, or of other African countries.

 

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Photo 24: The site is the Maria Assumpta Cathedral, a day before the Catholic Church wedding of my daughter, Dr. Kelechi Rosemary Mezu at Owerri, in Imo State of Nigeria on December 31, 2002 - four days after her cultural wedding.  

It is another epochal event that will involve kith and kin and friends and villagers.    Weddings involve a lot of energy, resources, etc. but they also are a cause of joy and mark a regeneration of our world.   

The little girl is my 8-year-old granddaughter, Adaure Ashley Mezu-Nwaba, a Third Grader.

 The Prelate is the Catholic Archbishop of  Owerri, Rt. Rev. Anthony Obinna. The Mezu family paid him a courtesy visit on invitation the Sunday before the Church Wedding at which he will officiate. 

Contact: http://jewel.morgan.edu/~rmezu/index.html / http://blackacademypress.com/html/mb/index.php

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 16 May 2009 

 

 

 

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 Related files: My Plans to Satisfy Nigerians