The traditional marriage or give away ceremony in Buganda is one function you will get to like because it keeps you on your toes.. The preparations for any traditional introduction or marriage ceremony are tiring and trying financially, physically and mentally as you wonder why you have to fulfill a lot of traditional must do requirements and spend so unreasonably because ‘tradition’ requires it so. But from the day the ceremony is held, you will like it for the rest of your life because of the cultural and organized displays as well as the value that many people continue to attach to this ceremony called Kwanjula.
Kwanjula basically means to introduce. It is a day when the bride to be introduces her future husband (and his people who escort him) to her parents and relatives.
I have attended many introduction ceremonies but the Baganda’s Kwanjula is a more elaborate and engaging ceremony that what you have to do right keeps you on your toes until the last minute of the ceremony, or you may miss being given the lady of your life.At the beginning, you have to go and see one of the lady’s aunties(Ssenga), the one she has chosen to act as Ssenga – the official aunt. The Ssenga is very central to the Kiganda marriage ceremony and is a respected role that many ageing Baganda women yearn to perform. You are required to write a letter to the lady’s family, the bazeyi or elders. The letter has to be in flawless Luganda and has to be written through the Ssenga or aunt who thenceforth becomes the official go between the two parties. The letter is then taken to the Ssenga (with a little money for transport of course) to take it to the Bakulu Bano (fellow respected elders). In the letter, the man is asking to be allowed to get born in his in-laws family by going there to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage.The Bakulu then accept in writing that you can go on a specified date and ‘get born into their family’. They also gave you the maximum number of people you should take which is most times not more than 50 people. The father in-law will also ask for his Mutwalo, what could be taken as bride price.
The mutwalo is accompanied with some items that you will need to take along for example: fruits and vegetables except egg plants (Ntula and Biringanya) and a few others, which if taken would be considered as cultural taboo that may lead to the man being fined or denied the bride altogether. There has to be bread, sugar, salt, soap, paraffin, cooking oil, curry powder, and a host of related items. You are required to buy certificates from Buganda kingdom to show that you respect and support the cultural monarchy, one of the four certificates being the marriage certificate. The Kanzus for the Father in-laws and brother in-laws, Gomesis for mother in-laws and Ssengas (Kanzu and Gomesi are cultural dresses for males and females respectively). These are a must. You have to prepare money for the envelopes- for the father in-law, mother in-law, Ssengas, brother in-laws (with a special one and a cock for the official brother in-law).
The traditional marriage ceremony in Buganda may have changed over the years, but it still remains a battle of wits and cultural tongue-twisting between representatives of the two sides who engage each other in a question and answer challenge or in knowing, mentioning and following century old norms and traditions. Both families are required to have a spokesman to speak for them. The spokesman takes the role of the final emissary on the day of introduction and he has to pull a lot of antics learned from tradition and experience to engage or answer challenges from the other side’s spokesman. It is the battle (friendly and of words) between the two that makes the Kwanjula and the whole ceremony memorable and unique from any other ceremony.The spokesman takes the role of the final emissary on the day of introduction and he has to pull a lot of antics learned from tradition and experience to engage or answer challenges from the other side’s spokesman. It is the battle (friendly and of words) between the two that makes the Kwanjula and the whole ceremony memorable and unique from any other ceremony. The spokesman will range between 250,000- 300,000 but the price is negotiable.
The dressing is also another crucial aspect on this day. The men are supposed to wear coats and kanzus while the women will need to put on gomesi preferably but this also depends on what culture the intended son-in-law comes from. The greetings then begin starting with the girls of the house who also welcome the visitors followed by the boys and then the sengas. Since the senga is the most important person on this day next to the bride to be, she actually runs the whole function from introducing the guests to choosing the bridegroom. When the bridegroom is chosen, the mugole can then come out of the house and greet her visitors most especially the bridegroom. This is the beginning of a new family to the bridegroom since he has been inaugurated or allowed into his mugole’s family.
The rest of the ceremony is as interesting as the gifts (which are left outside) are brought and allocated to the different beneficiaries and the hosts lay their demands and wishes on the new family. Once the gifts are brought, the host’s spokesman asks the bride and Ssenga “Ebintu Tubirye?” -whether they should accept the gifts. When they accept, the part of the rings follows were the bridegroom puts a ring on the brides finger this in kwanjula denotes marriage, and then the cutting of the cake follows and that brings us to the end of a memorable day.