Marriage and Social Structure in Comoros.

Researching about Comoros I came upon an article about how lavish Comorian weddings were that I knew instantly I would have to write about that!

In the Comoros, marriage is a way to move up in the social structure for both men and women. Owning land, prestige and class are determined by a mix of Native African and Islamic laws that even change when going one island to another. On the native African side, the organization of society is matrilineal, meaning it is tied to the alliances of men to the women lines: “mabeja.” There is often a struggle with the patrifilation (related to the father and father’s father.) that came with Islam. (5)

Native African Influence

In Ngazija, land is strongly identified with women. Mitrilineage land coming to a sibling groupthrough its mother is administered by the first born sister, oce she is married, and eventually divided between all sisters. Men subsist from their own matrilineage land before they are married, and their wives’ afterwards. (5)

Islamic Law Influence

Custom conditions males to provide economic support for their families, but gender roles are strictly defined. Males consider it unmanly to do housework or to remain in the homes of their mothers after childhood. Most marriages are monogamous, but multiple marriages are common, with most Comorans marrying three or four times. Around a third of the marriages are polygamous, but the number of wives is limited to not more than two.Marriage partners are selected from within an individual’s village to prevent bride wealth from being spent elsewhere. (6)

About Marriages

There are two types of marriages in Comoros, the little marriage (known as Petit Mariage or Mna daho on Ngazidja) and the customary marriage (known as Grand Mariage, ada on Ngazidja, harusi on the other islands). The little marriage is a simple legal marriage. It is small, intimate, and inexpensive and the bride’s dowry is nominal. A man may undertake a number of Mna daho marriages in his lifetime, often at the same time, a woman fewer; but both men and women will usually only undertake one ada, or grand marriage, and this must generally be within the village. (2)

The hallmarks of the grand marriage are dazzling gold jewelry, two weeks of celebration and an enormous bridal dowry. Although the expenses are shared between both families as well as with a wider social circle, an ada wedding on Ngazidja can cost up to €50,000 (74,000 US dollars) Many couples take a lifetime to save for their ada, and it is not uncommon for a marriage to be attended by a couple’s adult children! (2)

The ada marriage marks a man’s transition in the Ngazidja age system from youth to elder. His status in the social hierarchy greatly increases, and he will henceforth be entitled to speak in public and participate in the political process, both in his village and more widely across the island. He will be entitled to display his status by wearing a mharuma, a type of shawl, across his shoulders, and he can enter the mosque by the door reserved for elders, and sit at the front. A woman’s status also changes, although less formally, as she becomes a “mother” and moves into her own house. The system is less formalized on the other islands, but the marriage is nevertheless a significant and costly event across the archipelago. (2)

Cr. Fundación Henry Dunant

The Celebration

The two celebration usually occurs between the months of July-September, but preparations for the wedding take about a minimum of 6 months to 10 years!

Comoran women want a grand marriage more than men, as it just not helps them acquire high social status, but they would gain a huge sum of fortune from the groom. Comoran ranks as #1 in countries that have influential women and women are highly respected and honored in their country. (3)

The Bride

In the first week, called the bride prepares the groom’s attire for the grand marriage, if the groom has multiple wives every wife must prepare an outfit. The bride is also finishing her personal beauty ritual called the “Mesenzal.” This preparation could take a week to 6 months depending on their social status for the bride to shine and be as beautiful as the moon.

Cr. theguardian. com

Here are some beautiful brides from Comoros. Cr. Instagram beauteilescomores

Cr. theguardian. com

The Groom

On Thursday of the first week, the groom visits the family of the bride together with his family and most trusted friends, there the families exchanges messages for each other. Speeches are made to commend both party’s families. After this the traditional distribution of money or as they call it “Jeleyo”, from the groom, will be given to the village people and food for every guest.

Here is a lovely groom:

Credit: Instagram beauteilescomores
Cr. theguardian. com

The end of the week marks the “Djaliko” celebration, Thursdays being meant for women and Fridays for men. Friday prayers will take place for the men, the seating arrangement will depend on the hierarchy of men. Djaliko will mark as the end of the first-week preparation for the wedding, witness men in special outfits depending on their socials status dancing in the streets from men who had their grand marriage leading the procession to men who are single. At the end of the procession, men and women will be gathering in the center of the town, dancing all night and celebrating the groom and the bride. (3)

Cr. theguardian. com

On Saturday is the preparation for the feast, as family, friends, and neighbors of the groom and bride help each other in the next days. This day marks the height of preparation for the grand wedding. People from other villages and cities will start to arrive and to take feast. Women will be helping out to clean the bride’s house, while men will usually arrive in the evening for the Isha — the evening prayer time. Gathering of guests called Al Zkir, the single and most important part of the marriage, will take place later in the afternoon through the evening reading of some verses in the Quran, sermon from elders and scholars, and reciting the 99 beautiful names of God, the invocation of the groom and percussion in the background — only men in the tribes are allowed to attend in Al Zkir.

There is a lot of feasting and dancing everyday in the second week as more and more guests arrive. Finally it is time for the Groom to officially leave to meet his bride in her home. She will be as beautiful as the moon waiting for him.

On the 10th night of the wedding the groom’s family made final preparations before departing for the home of his bride. Dressed in full traditional attire, with a long, curved sword strapped to his hip and a veil covering his face, Dhinourayni climbed into a throne decorated with colored lights and held aloft by four bearers. To the beat of drums, the procession of about 200 people set off through the winding alleyways of the ancient Medina, chanting, singing, and occasionally throwing grains of rice at the throne to ward off evil. (4)

After eventually arriving at his bride’s house, the groom joined her in the bedroom, where his mother-in-law washed his feet, and the couple were hand fed mouthfuls of food, as per the custom, before finally sharing a kiss. The crowd in the bedroom cheered.

Cr. theguardian. com

Some more lovely couples:

Last, here you can find two videos that showcase a Grand Wedding in the Comoros.

Short one (8:00 min): (To watch it, click play in the reel below the big video’s screen.)

https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2015/08/24/spc-inside-africa-comoros-islands-grand-marriage-a.cnn

Long One (48 min):

(1) everyculture.com/Bo-Co/Comoros.html

(2) Wikipedia

(3) bluelatitudesgroup.rezdy.com

(4) www.theguardian.com/world/2020

(5) Two Marriage Forms in the Comoro Islands: An Investigation. Gillian M. Shepherd. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute Vol. 47, No. 4 (1977), pp. 344-359 (16 pages)

(6) Cultural Sociology of Divorce: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1. Robert E. Emery.

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