My first Itaara

igba book coverHow much do you know about your traditional ceremonies? I, myself know close to nothing as I recently discovered.

My older brother is getting married, and the families decided to do all the traditional ceremonies as close to the letter as possible. So it’s been interesting, and I fear he’s gone and set quite a bar for the rest of us.

The ceremony has 5 stages according to Ciiku, namely:

  1. The groom to be and his friends come to the bride to be’s home to state their intentions
  2. Then the groom to be and his family and friends come to discuss dowry
  3. Then they come yet again to eat together and do those other traditions which I don’t know how to explain in English – This is the ceremony commonly known as “ngurario” [the hiding under the lessos happens in this one] – At this point you are considered married.
  4. The final ceremony is when the brides family visits the grooms family to see where their girl is going. – This ceremony is called “Itaara“
  5. The soda ceremony – I think previously they used to bring porridge but these days, the in-laws are supposed to bring sodas. Don’t know why…. hmmm… I should ask.”

This past weekend, my brother invited Muthoni’s family to their family home, for stage four – the Itaara. Now traditionally this event is meant only for the women, but me were present. It started with sing-off at the gate, and I’m ashamed to admit that we were out sung. We welcomed our guests in and the singing continued until all were at their respective places.

Food, drinks and socializing started next, giving us a chance to speak to the ‘outlaws’. This was followed by introductions of the main families, prayers and then the main event.

Women from my family went to the house to prepare to receive Muthoni and the women of her family. They were invited in and welcomed with roses.

Back then, showing the ‘new wife’ her new home was done a little more practically. Things like going to collect firewood and water from the river and bringing it to the homestead was actually done; everything we did was ceremonial. Let me tell you, women who carry that much wood on their heads over long distances are amazing. My share of wood was super heavy!

Muthoni was shown to the store, shown how to use the cooker, where things were, then there was a part with a pot and mokimo that I didn’t quite understand. It was all emotional, and I think Muthoni feels truly welcomed to our family.

Now as one of the ladies later explained, this entire day was a test of whether my brother and his family could adequately take care of Muthoni and that she would be safe and happy. We passed!  The soon-to-be in-laws brought gifts of potatoes and so on which were added to the store, and after this exchange we ended the day with music, porridge and laughter.

I believe next is the soda ceremony but I’m not sure about that one.

One final note, I’m not sure what will happen when our children get married. My mother and aunties were talking about how much less their knowledge of tradition is, that they only get by with the fundamentals. Does that mean that the next 3-4 generations will have nothing left of our traditional wedding practices? Is it a big deal? Share what you think.


3 thoughts on “My first Itaara

  1. GreyRok says:

    Maybe when our time comes, we’ll have our own traditions? Or will it be better if we all have the same cultural background, making integration easier?


  2. ann mutonyi says:

    I think it would be a good idea to know the traditions and practice them whenever we want to. (they sound very interesting) Many of us always like to experience other peoples cultures especially in social ceremonies. its exciting!


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