Igbo Marriage System: A Discourse on Endogenous Stages and Meanings
A valued heritage of a cultural community is commonly shaped by veteran beliefs and practices. It is such that social and cultural beliefs and practices essentially hold well and endure for a society’s particular way of life such as marriage. Marriage (ilu di – for a woman and ilu nwanyi – for a man) is a strong and powerful tradition. In other words, customary marriage rule is highly valued in Nigeria, particularly among the Igbo. Igbo society is culturally adhesive and enduring due to its lasting endogenous marriage system as a cultural heritage – and is therefore admired and envied by other societies in Nigeria and beyond. An Igbo woman properly raised in Igbo culture is a prized builder of a stable family and society.
A female or a male who is of ripe age to marry is faced with a critical moment to do something about it. Age not withstanding, once a person is considered mature and is able to carry the responsibilities involved, marriage can be endorsed or encouraged. Parents, siblings and even close friends will mount pressure on the person to marry. Marrying and bringing pressure on someone to marry counts more as a cultural obligation for the continuity of the group. Marriage begins with the seeking stage, expands into the culturally approved social exchange transactions and it ends with the rite of taking a wife home to settle down and begin to live life according to the expected kinship roles and alliances. Marriage in this society therefore finds its foundation in the predominant folk theory of kinship, which brings culturally-designed exchange symbols, beliefs, and gender aspects greatly into play.
Unlike mating, which is biological, marriage is chiefly cultural and symbolic. Marriage accords social honour in ways that indigenous ceremony accompanying marriage is rarely compromised or played with. My goal in this brief article is to give insight into the endogenous sequences of marrying in Igbo society and bring to the fore the symbolism of this tradition with regard to communities in Mbano of Imo State of Nigeria. Traditional marriage is essentially focused on family – and kin-relationships, and to assure this, the communally attentive marriage system allows for deep celebration of marriage ceremonies. These ceremonies, I contend, help to establish a strong sense of involvement, acceptance, connection, comfort, and protection for the Igbo and their neighbours. As straightforward as I see this essay worked out, I explain two of the several sequences in Igbo marriage tradition and hope that our growing children in towns and in the diaspora will benefit from the present discourse – namely the stages and meanings in the plural and enduring cultural context of Igbo marriage heritage.
Igbo people are pentecostally and catholically religious, friendly, culturally resilient and politically adaptive. They live in all parts of Nigeria, Africa and beyond. Their forebears predominantly settled first in east-central and south-eastern Nigeria – geographically expressed as Igbo land area. The marked out Igbo area is surrounded by competitive ethnic neighbours such as Delta, Efik, Urhobo, Idoma and Igala. Marriage values shared are typically influenced by the penchant high migration of which the Igbo live by – mainly for economic and social enterprise, development and cooperation. In all circumstances, the Igbo are creative, respectful and are either deemed confident, arrogant, feared or envied given their high spirit of adaptation and ambitious culture of collaborative existence. Igbo population is currently quoted to be about 50 million which is exponentially significant in the size of tolerable modern family, societal unity, transformational democratic politics and nation building. This article is not focused on modern and changing dynamics of Igbo marriage in the global time. So just do not bother asking this writer why I did not discuss the modern dimensions of Igbo marriage which another article will look into.
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