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1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Marriage is an important institution worldwide particularly in Africa. For its importance, marriage has been categorized differently; we have the traditional marriage which takes into consideration customs and norms, followed by Islamic and Christian marriages which are often regarded as modern marriages. In this present dispensation the three marriages have borrowed a lot of things from one another that one hardly distinguished each one. Traditional marriage being the oldest though not abolished but is relegated to the background so much that in most places it remains a shadow of itself. So when people perform traditional marriage one finds out that it is only the name that remains.
This therefore raises the question of whether people still know what traditional marriage is. It is against this background that the researcher wish to study traditional marriage among Ibiaku clan in Mkpatenin Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state to bring back into lime light the lost memory of the people’s traditional marriage.
1.2 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The main objective of this study is to make an in-depth study of the traditional marriage system among Ibiaku clan and the importance that is hitherto attached to it. The second objective is to examine the various processes that were involved in traditional marriage like the fattening institution and the visit of Ekpo (masquerade) to the fattened girl.
1.3 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The scope of this study is traditional marriage among Ibiaku clan in Mkpatenin Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. Although the researcher is going to be referring to traditional marriage elsewhere, but this work is limited to Ibiaku clan. In other words, this research will only focus on the traditional marriage system in Ibiaku clan within the period of 1900 to 2000. The researcher have chosen this period (1900-2000) as a reference point for the essay to be able to establish how the traditional marriage institutions in Ibiaku clan has evolved over the past century focusing on continuity and change in tradition.
In this work, primary and secondary sources were consulted. I interviewed Mr. Edet Onyong who is a son to the priest that performs traditional marriage. Mr. Bassey Umoren a participant in traditional marriage, Mrs. Nene James Effiong an eye witness to traditional marriage. The researcher interviewed them because they were relevant to this work based on the fact that they all did traditional marriage, which means they have the experience and are eye witness to traditional marriage in the clan. Secondary sourced that are relevant to this work were also used which were found in the University of Uyo library
1.5 LITERATURE REVIEW
A number of literatures exist on traditional marriage across ethnic groups, but no specific one has been written on traditional system in Ibiaku clan. Thus, the books reviewed here are on traditional marriage elsewhere which will serve as background knowledge for the researcher.
The work of Philip and Henry Marriage Laws in Africa defines marriage as “the voluntary union of man and woman intended to last for their joint lives” it is a state in which a man and woman live together in sexual relation with the approval of their social groups. This book is of great relevance to my work as the researcher will have to discuss the conditions in which a man and a woman can live together as husband and wife.
Parrinder, in his book titled “West Africa Traditional Religion, considered marriage as “a secular contract between two persons and families”2 he pointed out that in many countries the religious element is not great but enters as a final blessing. The books also discuss the fattening process and the female circumcision which he considers as the major and indeed indispensable component of the fattening ceremony, to him, it involves the cutting of the erotic areas (clitoridectomy and cutting of the labia minora). Parrinder’s book was very relevant to this researcher as discussion of the fattening institutions is also pertinent to this work.
Another book of value consulted was “Who Are the Ibibio? By Udo, the book looks at the institution of marriage as that which shapes and form the activities of the association known as family3. He defines the two forms of marriages prevailing in the clan that is polygamy and monogamy, to him, bride price is symbolic and does not have economic connotation Udo’s book was very relevant to this project work, but he failed to mention that bride price was returned to the husband in a case of divorce and separation which this researcher will like to discuss in due course of the essay.
Talbot in his book titled “The people of Southern Nigeria”. Wrote about the fattening house, he saw the fattening house as the first event in the life of an Ibibio girl that is the beginning of another important phase of her sojourn to womanhood4. to him, it is the process of making the girl muscularly hypertrophic and a process of learning mannerism. The book expatiated more on the need for a girl to be circumcised and the dignity that is associated with fattened girls. As one may agree that Talbot did justice in his work he however did not mention that a fattened girl can bleed to death in the process of circumcision, a fact that this researcher shall further expatiate on in the course of this research.
Also the book written by Akpan titled, “The Wooden Gong” provide an insight on the historical origin of fattening, he also noted that fattening was an effort to make the girl increase her size.5 in a way to make the girl increase her size, a female elder who specialized in the trade of fattening of girls is invited for the task of regular massaging of the girl, he stresses the need for the application of oil (palm oil) and a special powder known as Idout which also serve as a pigment or dye to add glamour to the complexion of the girl. This book is relevant to this essay as the researcher will have to discuss the importance of the regular application of oil and the special powder on the fattened girl.
This essay is to set a balance to the traditional marriage, fattening institutions and the changes in traditional marriage system among Ibiaku clan which is due to the rapid economic growth and the adoption of western culture.
1.6 NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Philip and Henry, F.M. Marriage laws in Africa. Ibadan: Longman, 1971, p. 43
2. Parrinder, E. G. African Traditional Religion. London: Sheldon press, 1974, p.103
3. Edet, A.U. Who Are The Ibibio? Onisha: Africana Fep. 1983, p. 103
4. Talbot, P.A. The People of Southern Nigeria. London: Epworth press, 1963, p. 130
5. Akpan, N.U. The Wooden Gong, London: Longman, 1965, p.4
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