Bamasaaba had a very rich marriage custom called Bukhwaale Bwe Bamasaaba. Today, intermarriages and modernity have since put this beautiful cultural practice to extinction.
Elders had a proverb, “Umukhasi aba umumiliyu inga asaala abaana” which is translated as,
“A woman is beautiful when she is producing children.”
Marriages in the days of our forefathers were sacred and respected with utmost respect. Cases of separation, infidelity or divorce were very unheard of. Parents played a very crucial role when it came to selecting spouses for their children.
Whenever the boy came of age, his parents would move around to find the most suitable girl for his marriage.
The mother of the boy would move to negotiate with the parents of the girl. She would say, “Indi ni’mbako ne ili nikumwini ta – I’ve a hoe but without a handle and I’ve seen one in this homestead. I request that you give it to me.” The mother would then put the hoe “imbako” in the basket, “indubi” and hide it in the corner of the girl’s house and leave.
When the parents of the girl later would discover the hoe, they would know that the visitor wanted one of their daughters for marriage. The parents of the girl would discuss the issue and if they agreed, the girl’s father would fix the handle in the hoe and give it to the wife to take to the boy’s parents. The girl’s mother would select women friends to accompany her.
At the boy’s home, they would be received with pomp. They would be served with matooke, beef and kamalea. Later, they would serve them with “imange ye busela/kamalwa” a pot of local brew. As they drink, they would then discuss marital issues. Dowry was not discussed at this point. Then they would return home with gifts.
Thereafter, gifts would be frequently sent to the girl and her parents to cement the relationship. Milk, honey, groundnuts were normally sent. Whenever they would slaughter a cow at the boy’s home, special meat pieces would be sent to the girl’s home. The boy would even offer to go and dig for the girl’s parents.
Important to note is that, at this time, both parties would investigate to ensure no negative traits. Should cases of theft, witchcraft, sorcery, epilepsy, night dancing “khubina”… be discovered on either side, marriage arrangements would immediately be cancelled.
Another way of getting a suitor was by elopement. It sounds awkward but very true. It’s perhaps the commonest marriage practice, not only among Bamasaaba, but also other tribes in Africa and elsewhere.
Here the boy proposes to the girl without the knowledge and consent of the parents. After relating for some time, the girl escapes from the home and go with the boy and start living together as husband and wife. She normally leaves a message behind with her sister or friend so that the rumour can reach her parents.
After some time, months or even years, the boys writes to the girl’s parents requesting to meet them and formalize marriage.
Today, people talk about beauty and freedom of choice. Those days, character was of more value than outward beauty. Bad girls never married from known families – they would get married far away where their bad characters weren’t known.