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This research is made to investigate the changing patterns of the Igbo traditional marriage costume till date. From the pre- colonial period, Igbo man was known for his plethora of materials and intelligence by making good use of his brain especially in harnessing materials around him creatively to achieve various useful purposes. Observably, there might not be specifically a particular attire or costume set aside for marriage ceremonies. In other words, they made use of the available materials that was within their reach at the time and explored them into their traditional wears such as the Ufa, Ukaw and the Akwete materials .They also produced other adornments which they complimented the costumes with such as jigida, leg and wrist bracelets and beads which were mainly made of natural objects around them like animal bones and seeds from fruits, cowries and ivories. This had been the nature of the Igbo traditional costumes until the coming of civilization which led to the abandonments of these ancient materials that led to the increase of the patronage of foreign materials and acculturation of other cultures into the Igbo culture. This study therefore, tends to study the historical changes of Igbo marriage costumes from the pre-colonial period to the present and also critically examine if those costumes are still in use in the contemporary period or not. The research also studies the effect of the changes if any to the Igbo culture, marriageable youths and the Igbo society at large. The theoretical framework adopted in this study is the interactionist theory. The methodology used to test the reliability of this research include the use of Library mode, Internet based method, interview schedules, focus group discussion method, field research and the observational research method. Through, the researchers findings, it is discovered that civilization has dwindled most Igbo traditional attire especially those used for traditional marriages and this has created lapses in the culture of the people and their identity. Socially, there is delay in marriage as people tend to accumulate enough wealth in other to shoulder the financial expectations of marriage which includes the high cost of marriage costumes. However, the economic growth of the Igbo is also negatively affected especially in the area of performing marriage rites which involves the purchase of costly recent and mostly foreign costumes that are being used in the contemporary period. There is also an amalgamation of various cultural outfits and ornamental adornment both from within Nigeria and outside the nation that the use of marriage costume as a means of cultural and indigenous identity is gradually going down the drain. Furthermore, it is recommended that for the reincarnation and preservation of the Igbo marriage costumes to take place, parents, schools, age grades and associations, traditional rulers and the government will have to play a major role in reviving the Igbo traditional marriage costumes especially in the face of modernization and the present high level technological advancement which is on the increase on daily bases.
1.1 Background of the Study
The definition of marriage varies according to cultures. Marriage to a lay man is the legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife. In some jurisdictions, it is a union between two persons of the same sex, usually entailing legal obligations of each person to the other.
Marriage is also called matrimony or wedlock. It is a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them and their in-laws, as well as the society in general. When defined broadly; Marriage can be recognized by a state, an organization, a religious body, a tribal group, a local community or peers. Oxford advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines marriage as the legal relationship between a husband and a wife.
According to the definition above which states that marriage could also be a union between two persons of the same sex which has a legal backing, however, this research stands with the definitions that are based on marriage being a union between a man and a woman which is the most acceptable in Igbo land and not the other way round.
To the Pastoral Statement of the Irish Bishop’s Conference marriage is regarded as a relationship between a man and a woman from which the generation and upbringing of children is uniquely possible. According to this pastoral statement, the Catholic Church with other Christians and those of no particular religion, view the family based on marriage between a man and a woman as the single most important institution in any society. It further acknowledges that marriage as a biological fact that a man and a woman can join together as male and female in a union that is oriented to the generation of new life (1, 4).
In another vein, Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan Anderson contend that marriage is the union of a man and a woman who makes a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. They maintained that marriage is understood as the conjugal union of husband and wife, serves the good of their children, and the society at large (245,287). John Finnis a professor of law and legal philosophy at the University of Oxford describes marriage as the chosen act of the two spouses who thereby commit themselves to living as husband and wife, carrying out their commitment and abstaining from choices inconsistent with their vow until they are parted by death. He further stated that it is a distinct fundamental human good because it enables the parties involved, that is the husband and wife to flourish as individuals and as a couple by also procreating another person into existence as an embryo, child and eventually adult fully able to participate in human flourishing on his or her own responsibility. (1, 4) Nnamchi Dorcas, suggested that marriage is a universal institution which is recognized and respected all over the world. She further describes it as a social institution governed by the social and religious norms of the society. Consequentially, the sanctity of marriage is a well-accepted principle in the world community. Therefore, marriage is the root of the family and of the society at large (3).
Another scholar Olajide Ganiyu acknowledges marriage as a social or legal contract between people that creates kinship. He opines that it is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or sub-culture in which it is found. Such a union is often formalized via a wedding ceremony also called matrimony (23).
From the definitions, it is clear that marriage involve at least two persons of different sexes who agree to marry each other by living together and also producing culturally acceptable children. However, the object of marriage in the society has been changing over time, in the very early stage of humanity, marriage contracts could have been predominantly entered for survival reasons (Anyebe 13). However, Ogiri Happiness suggested that marriages these days are entered for selfish reasons where the poor connect to the rich to pool resources and to connect through space and time (15).
In conclusion to the above concept and with the support of the views of other authors, marriage can be concluded as a union of a man and a woman, guided by social and cultural norms of a particular society or religion with the aim of reproducing children who eventually develop into adult to participate fully in the development of the society.
Different forms of marriages are practiced around the world. These include monogamy which has to do with marrying one wife and polygamy which deals with marrying several women at a time, especially to improve in the area of labour and to show the capability of the man in terms of wealth. These forms of marriage are mostly common in Africa; however, in Igbo land for instance there are other forms of marriages which will be extensively discussed subsequently. There are also different types of marriages which include the traditional marriage, court marriage and the church marriage. Specifically, this study wishes to concentrate more on traditional marriage.
Daniel Durojaye defines traditional marriage as the act of marriage and its customs and practices in a particular culture. It is the established form of marriage recognized in a given country, society, religious or social group at a given time. He goes on to say that it requires the families of the future bride and the groom to engage in mutual visits and exchange of gifts. It is a means of keeping both families alive and strong (16). According to Family Watch International a non-governmental organization headed by Sharon Slater, asserted that traditional marriage is essential to a healthy society, throughout recorded human history and across all cultures. Traditional marriage is therefore, a union of a man and a woman which is essential to creating, promoting and protecting the family (1). Practise
To fully understand the critical role of marriage in the society, it is important to view it as a social institution that provides some basic social needs for the society. A ‘social institution’ is the network of shared meanings, norms, definition, expectations, and understandings held by the members of a society. It is what guides and governs how the members of the society are expected to act and interact, what is socially desirable and legitimate, what they should be striving for and so on. One of the major social institutions is Marriage. Marriage is and has often focused on children and what is best for them, because the rising generation literally is the future of every society. Adshade and Brooks, identifies marriage as one of the original institutions uniting men and women in genetic reproduction and household production (2). Therefore, traditional marriage instills values, guidance, expectations and sense of what is legitimate in the couple through the stages and symbols involved in the process of the traditional marriage.
According to Family Watch International organization, marriage practices have been in existence from the beginning of creation, According to the scripture, God instituted marriage as the pinnacle of creation. On the sixth day, in the first creation story, the book of Genesis tells us: ‘‘God created man in his own image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: ‘‘be fertile and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it’’ (Genesis 1 27-28) (2). In the second creation story, God says ‘‘it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.’’(Genesis 2: 18). This suitable helpmate was formed from the very rib of man and thus woman was ‘‘flesh of his flesh’’ (Genesis 2 22-23). Because man and woman were created for one another, ‘‘a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh’’ (Genesis 2: 24). Scripture teaches that marriage is not mere human institution, but something God established from the foundation of the world.
Adshade and Brooks gave a short account of the history of marriage. They based their account on the result gotten from anthropologists, neurologists and paleontologists. They differentiated the early mating patterns into three periods which include the early foragers, hunter gatherers and the agriculturists. The early foragers were the first humans, those who lived between 5 and 1.8 million years ago, had a very little value for marriage. The kind of marriage that existed then was what Marlowe referred to in Marina and Brooks study on the origins of the institutions of marriage when he stated that marriage that existed at that time was amongst many hunters –gather societies which promoted (at least serial) monogamy (1).
The Hunters period was between 1.8 million and 23,000 years ago, the male and female whose offsprings were the most likely to survive were those that formed the very first marriages. It was a period of pair bonding, as well as the additional drive to temporarily ‘‘love addictive’’. Relationships began with conception and ended when the child became more independent of its parents (4).
The Agriculturalist Period started about 23,000 years ago, humans started to grow their own food; there was a revolution of human relations. The inventions of the plough over 4,000 years ago meant that the most productive household arrangements were ones in which men and women divided their tasks. Men were stronger and less physically tied to children and so they went out and worked on the land. Women stayed closer to the home and cared for the children and engaged in a myriad of other chores. The period supports movements towards long term stable pair bonding (5).
This is the era in which marriage became the union between two people that was recognized by their community. Agriculture tied people to their land, meaning that at the end of a certain period neither men nor women had any inclination to wander off to find a new family. And so they stayed together and worked as a unit to feed and care for the children they produced. This period was referred to as the Neolithic period that generated a more settled agrarian environment which generated to polygamy (Adshade and Brooks, 1).
Marina Adshade added that:
The creation of marriage as a legal contract between men and women came into being over time as communities settled to what was a ‘‘normal’’ way for them to organize a family and then codified that normalcy into law. In addition, early marriage was borne of ancient societies’ need to secure a safe environment in which to breed handle the granting of property rights, and protect blood lines. These days marriage was much about love and desire. In its roundness, the engagement ring, a custom dating back to the Ancient Rome, is believed to represent eternity and everlasting union. It was once believed a vein or nerve ran directly from the ‘ring’ finger of the left hand to the heart. In European nations, marriage was traditionally considered a civil institution. Around 5AD great Christian theologians wrote about marriage and the Christian church started taking an interest in the ceremony. It is at this point that Christians began to have their marriages conducted by ministers in Christian gatherings, but it was in the 12th century that the Roman Catholic Church formally defined marriage as a sacrament, sanctioned by God (n.pag).
In addition, Patterson, Larry added that in most European countries, marriage is basically an economic arrangement negotiated between families in which family considerations of status, future economic stability and prosperity were the most important considerations in selecting a potential spouse (1).This idea of marriage is comparative to African society. Ayisi added that in every African marriage, the main means of a man and a woman coming together is based on procreation therefore a childless marriage ceases to be meaningful in the African context. Obi, Celestine listed various types of marriages that exists in Africa which includes the
Polygamy: it is legal in many parts of Africa and Asia and in the Muslim countries. Some societies accept polygamy, in which a man could have multiple wives which is generally considered as a sign of wealth and power.
Polyandry: This involves a woman having multiple husbands, occurs very rarely in a few isolated tribal societies.
Monogamy: A marriage which involves one spouse exclusively for life or for a period of time.
Endogamy: A marriage within the boundaries of the domestic group, between members of the same group.
Female husband marriage: A marriage in which a female who has been raised as a male takes a wife in order to ensure the continuity of the family. She does all the functions of a husband to the wife except sexual functions.
Ghost marriage: This is where a wife is married in the name of a dead person. She gets pregnant by any male she likes but the children will be in the name of the dead person
Proxy marriage: Marriage ceremony during which the wedding couple is absent. It can also apply to all forms of marriage.
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