An Igbo Marriage

My little sister got married yesterday, back home in Nigeria. I wasn’t there unfortunately, that would have been extremely complicated. More unusual, for us in the West at least, the groom wasn’t there either; the traditional wedding was conducted in absentia while he was three thousand miles away in London. Yesterday was the culmination of several months of planning starting with the Introduction Meeting between the two families to check each other out. Chibuzor is an expensive young woman with an almost royal bride price. A while ago the groom sent money to the elder men in his family, to pay to the bride’s mother, who has longed for this day. She has waited her turn to be amongst the women of the village, who share out the bounty of a bride price and wondered if the day would ever come, while her high flying daughter pursued a career in law.

And so they came, they were approved of, my sister and her husband to be breathed a sigh of relief while her mother, Felicia, received the cash to go shopping, no mean feat when the list looks something like this.

Bride price list

Cake in the shape of a palm wine pot

2 wrappers for Felicia – lace

3 blouses – Holland

2 head ties

Sandals, slippers, wristwatch, necklace (gold plated)

20kg sacks of salt,

2 x 40kg bags of rice (cost £40)

Beverages – Milo, milk, tea, cocoa,

Beauty products, skin creams, cosmetics etc

20 litres of kerosene – I for Felicia, 1 to share with the village

Palm oil and other vegetable oil (groundnut)

Stockfish

Sugar

Detergent/soap 50 bars

42 yams, some to share

Kola nuts

Alcohol for the men – gallons of palm wine, beer, Mackeson

Minerals, Fanta, coke etc

Felicia would be very happy despite the hard work and her women friends would have helped her go to market so that by yesterday a feast could take place.

The next stage of affairs will be either a court ceremony and/or a church ceremony which may even take place in London. I know they have a wonderful future ahead of them and I wish them all the love and happiness they deserve!

Raku Cats and Amethyst, the Archaeology of Me

Naturally I want to leave behind something wonderful that creates a perpetual image of an interesting woman of the third millennium AD. But what is there to me really, what makes me ‘me?’ I have watched documentaries about the spread of mankind around the planet, the long walk from Africa, and have often said that all people are African, but some are more African than others. Half of my genes are English and I stake a claim to those being of good Celtic stock. I feel a strong tie to this south western land of green hills, red sandstone and mellow climate, and feel that I’ve been here a long time. But I may have only arrived with the Norman Conquest, with the Vikings, or on a coach from Llandudno. My other half is from the West African Igbo tribe, but those borders were only laid down by the raiding Empires in the last few centuries. My late father, who I strongly resemble, was not the blackest of Africans and could well have descended from Arabians mixed up in Saharan territories. That would account for my love of desert.

So who do I think I am, to be able to leave something wonderful? I shall leave my genetic fingerprint and hope that it continues to walk, in a lucid gypsy manner, around the globe.

But of material things, what will remain after I perish and return to dust?

In the 70’s I had a passion for ceramics from the Troika pottery in Cornwall and have just four durable pieces. I treasure a small, white, china bell decorated with a butterfly and ‘I love you mum’ in red. I’d love someone to find it intact in a thousand years and try to imagine me! Sat beside the television is a near life sized Raku Siamese cat by Dillon Rudge, well known in these parts. The beauty of the Raku may be a weakness that would cause it to fracture, but perhaps a 25th century archaeology student would be given the challenge of painstakingly re-assembling it. There is a French silver frame, the picture would fade away and the glass would shatter, but the tactile design would last as would my few gold rings and silver bracelets.

I make beads from polymer clay; if it’s accurate that carrier bags will not decompose for hundreds of years, then the beads should not only survive, but turn up around the world, as a few foreign tourists have bought them. Few can say that they don’t use plastic; I for one, have thrown away countless empty bottles, from decades of buying products to ‘manage’ my difficult hair, not the legacy I wish to be best remembered for. What would a future scientist conclude from an analysis of the traces left in one of these containers?

The most permanent possession of mine that will remain, is one that I am but a transient caretaker of. It’s been around for millions of years, and unless deliberately sledge hammered, will be around for millions more. Amethyst is mentioned in Greek mythology, mine is a small geode, most likely from South America, but possibly from Africa, as things are.

(With thanks to my friend Kathy whose Facebook post inspired this piece)