In Africa there are many sets of values that govern and guide the behavior of every member of a particular society.
This set of people are found in the coastal region in the southern part of Nigeria and are the most ancient ethnic group. Efik and Ibibio people are closely related.
Coming of age of women
This is a ritual-like seclusion tradition for the females in this region that lasts for 6 months at the end of which the girl is now considered a woman. During these 6 months, the girl is pampered, given massages three times daily to bring out her natural endowments for a full figure and healthy waistline is considered her beauty and given as much food as she can eat. She is also taught the ins and outs of marriage and how to take care of the husband and his people.
The older women teach them how to keep their homes from experience, teach them how to manage a household; cooking,cleaning and taking care of the house. They are not allowed to do any work, just have meaningful conversations and sleep.
They are also taught cultural dances like Ekombi, folktales and folklores, music and other forms of entertainment. They gain some artistic skills like how to design a basket, calabash and other materials. They are taught about sexual relations and how to satisfy their husbands.
After this fattening process, a grand celebration is thrown and people from all over are invited to come and honor her success in passing through this ordeal. This occasion is celebrated with cultural dances and other forms of entertainment. This lasts throughout the day and the night and gifts are given to the females to show how happy the family are for her successful coming of age.
During this ceremony the family of the girl brings out artifacts and other objects of great importance. In an interview conducted in a report of field work, one of the interviewees who passed through the process of the fattening room stated “So,culturally, like most of the cultural artifacts are brought out on the outing ceremony to decorate the nkuho’s seat… Most of the artifacts there, depending on the family – like in my royal home, we will bring out our golden gong, our golden panes, our silver spoons, our canon. My father had a canon that was used in fighting the war. Our artifacts from years of slave trade, the palm fronts, the golds that were collected during the early stage, depending on the family. Sometimes families borrow. You can borrow from some other families artifacts such as golden lanterns, the traditional long guns, the Dane guns, heads of Carmel, heads of lions that a family member had killed. And this differs from one family to another. So families do borrow these things to enrich their canopies. So it all depends on what you want to showcase, depending on your level of affluence”.
It is a thing of pride for a girl to have gone through the fattening process, both to the family and the girl herself that at times they look down on other girls that have not gone through this process and consider themselves not to be agemates.
The marriage rites in this culture is one of the most important rites, an elaborate ceremony is thrown before, during and after the marriage. There is usually a long and rich list given to the groom and his family.
The marriage rites and rituals for first girls known as the Adiaha and that of others differ. Even though it is not the intention of the parents that their daughters not get married thereby bringing shame to the family, they are also pained that their first daughter is leaving. There are certain rituals that will be conducted for the Adiaha to leave
ADIAHA MARRIAGE RITUAL
A ritual called Awa Oduongo which literally translates to sacrifice and throw away is performed. This ritual is performed on the Fiong Aran or Etok market day. The items needed for this ritual are; hornless sheep, tortoise, squirrel, female fish (one stick), nice fish (one stick), 6 bottles of schnapps, 1 jar of local gin, 5 jars of palm wine, 25 pieces of yam, 1 tin of palm oil, afang, ikon, assorted vegetables, ifia oton and other types of firewood, a bundle of plantain, a piece of wrapper, cartons of beer, crates of soft drink, Esarisa unen (a special breed of female chicken).
This ceremony is slated to start at any time of the day. It is usually the duty of the groom’s family to inform the bride’s family of when they will be arriving. In preparation of their arrival, the males in the bride’s family dig a wide pit at the backyard of the compound where the ceremony will be held.
The groom and his family will be welcomed by the bride’s family upon arrival and the ritual commences immediately.
The bride and groom will be escorted to the backyard. Two sticks will be pegged in close proximity at the spot the sheep will be slaughtered, these sticks are called Eto itumo and Eto Okono. An Odon woven in a form of mat with an opening between to make way where the sheep is to be slaughtered will be used to cover the two sticks. The bride and the groom will stand facing each other between the Odon.
After the slaughtering of the sheep, prayers are said for the prosperity of the family and fertility of the bride. While the ritual is going on, the items brought by the groom’s family will be cooked for the celebration. It is a taboo for the parents of the bride to partake in eating the food; they are provided with chewing sticks to chew and watch the merriment. The food prepared must be consumed on that same day; leftovers will be poured into the pit where the ritual took place. A curse is placed on any partaking member who decides to use any piece of the ritual that has been carried out to do evil. If any item from this ritual gets close to the belongings of the bride’s family, everyone in the family dies except they carry out a different kind of ritual to avert the curse. After this ritual has been successful, a second one will be carried out, this one is called the Awa adia.
This one is usually carried out one week after the first one was successful. This ritual is essentially for the groom and the potential in laws.
At exactly 5:00am on the day of this ceremony, the groom and one or two of his family members show up at the bride’s house and different meals will be served to them. The potential father in law takes a bite of food and remains for him and drinks and remains for him from the same cup. The groom accepts everything and thanks the bride’s family for the kind gestures. After the breakfast, he goes home and prepares for the main ceremony that will take place in the compound of the bride. After the ceremony comes the marriage proper after the last list of items have been presented by the bride’s family and accepted by the family of the groom. It is said that the reason the bride’s family sends her off with those items is so that the groom does not say she came to his house with nothing.
MARRIAGE TO OTHER DAUGHTERS OF THE FAMILY
There are four basic steps when it comes to the marriage rites of other daughters that are not the first daughters.
Ndidiong ufok; this one is knowing her house. You visit the woman’s family to let them know of your intentions to marry their daughter. It is like an introduction to locate the in-laws. This usually happens after the bride and groom have reached an agreement either by choice or by betrothal.
Ukong udok; this is knocking on the door. After the bride’s family has accepted the proposal, a second meeting is held. In this stage, the man shows his readiness to marry their daughter
Uno mkpo; the delivery of gifts. To compensate for taking away a member of the family, the groom and his family deliver gifts to the bride’s family. The last stage is the most important stage. The last stage is called Usoro ndo. The last stage is the most significant stage, it is the traditional marriage proper and not so different from the igbo traditional marriage ceremony.