Monday, September 27, 2010

A Tuareg wedding – “A room with no view” the Bride’s perspective

Over the past year I have learned a lot about the culture that goes along with a Tuareg wedding. Until now I was not closely enough linked with a family where there was a marriage to be able to take part in the entire experience. That made this past weekend special.

I will set the scene for you from the bride’s perspective and explain a bit of the culture as I go.

When we arrived in the morning at the hut of the family, we first wanted to see the bride. It turns out she was at the tiny concrete house of a neighbour in her “seclusion”. You see, the bride is not a part of the festivities. She is away in a room with some friends where she sits all day. Here in this picture she is in the middle of a mattress on the floor in the corner completely covered with her shawl, hiding away. In the morning there were lots of women visiting, but the overall mood was not was of festivities in this room.

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They henna her hands and feet (Aminata’s had been done the day before) and they braid her hair. The older woman who is starting to braid her hair in the photo below is a woman who has never been divorced. This is actually a rarity in Tuareg culture, who are not polygamist, but serial divorcers. The meaning being that they wish her a good marriage that she will never leave.

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The henna on her hands and feet was beautiful. The most intricate, beautiful work I have seen done here in Niger!

 

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The room was sweltering hot. It was easy 40 degrees outside even in the shade and the room felt just as hot. They had pulled a power cord from a neighbour to run two little floor fans, but it barely made a dent. Everyone had sweat pouring down them. Good thing African fabric really hides sweat stains! Poor Aminata was even hid away under covers at some points. She only left this little room the entire day when she visited the latrine. She was not allowed to smile, or laugh, or show joy. It is hard to imagine getting wedding day shots of a bride where she hides her face, scowls and looks downcast. But that is what it was. She wanted pictures, but the appropriately miserable looking pictures. So different for me to switch my thinking that way!

So in their culture, like many others I have heard of, especially in this part of the world, it is expected that the bride is sad and sombre her wedding day. Inside she might be jumping for joy, but it would be shameful for her to show that. It is shameful and embarrassing for her to show joy at leaving her family. She is supposed to be upset to leave her family and mourn this new life of “roles and expectations”. I was so sad to see her sad all day, not enjoying anything. In my head it is so deeply ingrained that this should be one of the most special, joyful and love filled days for her! And yet…it seemed hollow and sad.

She sat. People came and went, sometimes she was alone. She could faintly hear the music across the street from her own party. She was hot. She was nervous. Unsure of what that night, the weeks to come, and her future would bring. Like bride’s all over the world, it was a day where everything would change.

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1 comment :

Lana Voeller Photography said...

As usual Chantelle you did a beautiful job of these photos and the story is always my fav too.. love it.. the last pic is my fav.. and the one of the bottom of her feet it is amazing the details..
xoxo thank you again for sharing.. can't wait to see if you have photos of the wedding.. I am sure that it will be beautiful!