Thursday, December 9, 2010

Edna's wedding

Whether it’s in cows, sheckles or diamond rings, one thing weddings around the world have in common is an ability to break the bank.  When I was in India years ago I attended several weddings which were always lavish crowded feasts in which people who normally worried about paying the rent saved up enough to hire 12 piece bands, horse-drawn processions and feed hundreds of their acquaintances.  It’s no different here in Kenya.   
A few weeks ago, we, along with the 200 person office we work in, were invited to attend a co-workers wedding.  Edna’s a delicately featured soft spoken and kind woman who met her husband to be, a Kenyan soldier on assignment to do peacekeeping in Sudan, in church.  She made a gorgeous bride.
In typical Kenyan fashion the church service, scheduled for 10 AM, started at noon, and the guest started arriving at the reception at around 4.  The reception was a vibrant mix of African and Western.  Guests presented their gifts  -- toasters wrapped in shiny paper along with goats -- to  bride and groom by queuing up and dancing up to the couple with their offering.  Traditional Luhya dancers were hired along with a DJ and MC.  An impressive white wedding cake was lavishly displayed in a tent of its own, and the guests dined on goat and ugali.  Suits and shiny bridesmaids’ dresses mixed with vibrant African prints and headdresses and fire red Kenyan military uniforms.  There were the familiar best man-type speeches but incongruously punctuated by ululating from the crowd. 
I used to go to events like these and lament the fact that they weren’t traditional enough.  I would grumble about the encroachment of Western culture on the purity of the indigenous traditions.  But I’ve learned now to appreciate the beauty, complexity and even occasional irony in the mix of cultures and know that it’s a pure representation of Kenyan culture as it is today.   
The lovely bride and groom
traditional Luhya dancers

Dancing up to the couple with wedding gifts

The beautiful bridal party

Party crashers

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