Saturday, July 31, 2010

Three down...

Finished third seminar in Kampala--just two days. The journalists were great--very active, attentive, and bright. I was impressed, and hope that they will cultivate the seeds that we planted together. Three down, 21 to go!!

See peace journalism home page and Facebook peace journalism group for more.

Here comes the bride--dancing

From the Parkville Luminary

NEAR ENTEBBE, UGANDA--If Americans families had to dance at wedding ceremonies, here’s guessing that many fewer people would get married. Certainly, the ugly prospect of my family dancing down the aisle at my wedding would have kept me chaste and single lo these many years. (Well, at least single).

At a traditional Bugandan wedding, dancing family members are just one of many delights to behold. The Buganda are the largest tribe in Uganda. Their traditional home is in the central part of the country which encompasses Kampala.

Photo--Me giving the groom "the business" while Park student Andria Enns looks on.

My two Park University students, Andria (Andi) and Keith, were lucky enough to attend a Bugandan wedding toward the end of their study abroad experience in Uganda. Although interacting with Ugandan radio journalists at my peace journalism seminars and producing blogs and radio reports was certainly educational for my students, I especially value events like weddings (and funerals) as invaluable cultural learning tools. Thus, it was with glee that I accepted the invitation to this soiree extended by the groom, Caesar, a wonderful friend with a great sense of humor (necessary when you’re named Caesar) and infectious laugh.

The festivities began, oddly, at a restaurant/pub about a 20 minute drive from the wedding site. The wedding party (sans bride and bridesmaids) gathered here to get a pre-ceremony briefing and say a pre-ceremony prayer. The briefing seemed a bit like our rehearsals—do’s and don’ts, general procedures, and so on.

After getting instructed, we jumped into cars (and one van/taxi), and headed, convoy-style, to the ceremony site. Some unknown guy asked if he could ride with us in my car, we said sure, and off we went. Good thing, too—the free-rider knew the way, and we got separated from the convoy.

A 20 minute ride later on a bumpy, dusty road lead us to the wedding site, the front yard of a house filled with three large tents and lots of colorful decorations. The ceremony began with a traditional procession (women in one line, men in another) into the front yard. The women were striking—colorful, smiling, very feminine, and beautiful. The guys, me included, were dressed in a traditional long robe, a kanju, covered by a standard Western-style suit jacket. I think the kanjus looked better without the jackets, but what do I know.

As the ceremony began, we perched in the back. An emcee, for lack of a better word, seemed to talk endlessly before the action began. Loud dance music played as four or five pretty women emerged from the house into a stage-like area. These women, and literally dozens of others who followed, didn’t walk to the stage, they danced their way down some stairs, then danced around in circles a couple of times before finally settling down into a plastic chair. At this point, the emcee, speaking Bugandan, talked at length with each woman (the men would come later), asking them questions that often got laughs. Smiling, each woman responded, and those responses also got chuckles from the 200 or so guests. I was later told that these women were family members who were being facetiously grilled and teased about accepting the groom into their family.

This procedure repeated itself for the next two hours or so, first with women, then with men. The groom sat in the audience while all of this transpired, while the bride was hidden away.

Finally, the groom was introduced to the bride’s parents, who were asked to accept him into the family. This led to another knee-slapping Q&A session. At last, about two and a half hours after it began, the bride and her bridesmaids appeared, dancing their way to the stage area. The bride was resplendent in her orange off the shoulder dress, and seemed much more happy than nervous. At this point, sadly, we had to leave to drop Andi off at the airport, so we missed the really good part when the groom and bride are finally together on the stage. We were told this would probably occur about 7:00 p.m. We left at 4:45 p.m.

As we discussed the ceremony afterwards, the students and I agreed that the most striking thing was the amount of laughter, and how that contrasts to the almost-funereal tone at Western weddings. Indeed, if we learned one thing at the wedding, it was the Ugandans love to laugh. Also, we learned that Ugandans dance much better than Americans.

For wedding photos, see post below.

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