By Frederick Womakuyu
IN 1993, I and a group of Bagisu clan men trekked 18km from Sironko to Kapchorwa to attend an introduction ceremony. The entrouge consisted of clan elders and close neighbours.
We carried a jerrycan of Busala (local brew), four hens, a kanzu and coat for the girlâ€™s father and gomesi for her mother. We also took a jerrycan of paraffin, a panga and a hoe.
But today, introduction ceremonies are so posh that suitors arrive in flashy cars with expensive gifts. Kwanjula has been commercialised in many societies of Uganda.
â€œTraditionally in Ankole, the kwanjula started with a go-between and the boyâ€™s father going to the girlâ€™s family. The girlâ€™s father would then invite them formally for a ceremony called Okugamba obugyenyi,â€ says Alex Kobusingye, a local government officer.
The suitorâ€™s group would give a gourd of local brew to the girlâ€™s family and they would discuss bride price. Even at this stage, the suitor and the girl never attended.
Mary Kyokwijuka, a sales executive, says: â€œAfter agreeing on bride price, the girlâ€™s relatives would go to the boyâ€™s home for okujuga (choosing the cows or goats for bride price). Families, which did not have cows, gave hoes.â€
The boyâ€™s relatives would visit the girlâ€™s home again to ask for the day for okuhingira (give-away).
However, Kyokwijuka says some families in Ankole are now rejecting bride price because they look at it as exchanging their daughters for wealth.
Kobusingye says these days the introduction is combined with okuhingira due to financial constraints.
Gerald Omese, a lecturer at Arapai Agricultural College, says their introduction involved the groom writing to the girlâ€™s parents proposing a date for the visit.
About 10 people would visit the girlâ€™s home to negotiate bride price. The groom would put money in an envelope for the girl. If she took it, it indicated consent. If she returned the money, the manâ€™s team would add on.
He says the parents of the bride and groom would then discuss the dowry and how the girl would be collected.
Fred Emertai, a businessman, says unlike today, in the past the girl was not supposed to be taken away immediately.
He says: â€œToday, introduction and delivering of dowry take place on the same day. People go with the dowry and present it after the negotiations.â€
â€œIntroduction ceremonies among the Acholi were a private affair,â€ says Ken Ogwal, the youth leader of Acholi-cultural rites. â€œSelected people from the bride and groomâ€™s families participated in the negotiations, which took two days and they began late in the evenings.
But today, they take only one day due to insecurity in the area, poverty and education, which has led to many people despising traditional ways.â€
Ben Watmon, 64, says things have changed because of the disunity among the Acholi so families have their own styles of doing things.
â€œIn the past, the process kicked off when a girl told her parents about the suitor. If the parents appreciated, they invited the boy and his team for a visit,â€ he says. â€œThe suitor usually went with respected elders, relatives and friends.â€
Watmon adds: â€œThe team would introduce themselves and be hosted to a meal. Later, they would receive a letter from the girlâ€™s family containing demands. The groom would be asked for money and a date for the introduction would then be fixed.
â€œThe suitor would be asked for two types of gifts. The gifts to show respect for the girlâ€™s family and the bridal gifts comprising a lamp, 20 litres of paraffin, match boxes, washing soap and toilet soap.â€
Watmon is angry that today some people come empty handed or with few items and walk away with peopleâ€™s daughters.
The introduction ceremony involved four functions. Ben Okeng, a poultry farmer, says it began with a function where the suitor would go with a colleague to the girlâ€™s home. The colleague, who was supposed to be known to the two families, introduced the suitor.
â€œHe would also give money to the girl. If the girl accepted it, her parents would start inquiring about the boyâ€™s family,â€ he adds. â€œAfter sometime, they would hold an introduction ceremony where the two families would formally be introduced.â€
The parents of the bridegroom then asked for more money. Okeng adds that food was not a big issue, but they served a lot of lira lira (local potent gin) and kango (millet brew).
Moses Okwir, a teacher, adds that another ceremony would be held at the girlâ€™s home, where the two families would discuss bride price.
â€œIf the girl came from a rich family, her people would ask for a higher bride price than the set 16 cows, some goats, a spear, hoe, a gomesi for the mother, a coat for the father and money.
The girlâ€™s family would go to collect the bride price after which the girl can leave on any day in the morning.