The bride plays a significant role in Namibian culture, as it is believed that she is the connection between the ancestors and the unborn. She is thus treated with great respect and as such, most Namibia wedding traditions focus on her.
Coming up is a list of the most common wedding and marriage traditions in Namibia.
Namibia Wedding Traditions
- Kidnapping the Bride
Kidnapping of the bride is a common Namibia wedding tradition. Just before the ceremony, the bride is kidnapped and dressed in a leather marriage headdress.
- Exchanging Gifts of Meat
The bride and groom’s family exchange gifts of freshly slaughtered meat during the evening parties. This practice ensures that the meat consumed is always fresh. Note that the groom’s family will also provide a goat for slaughter after the wedding ceremony.
- ‘Kuku’ (Grandmother) Calls
The presence of the ‘Kuku’ at every wedding ceremony is part of Namibia wedding traditions. A Kuku or grandmother is a woman in her 40s or 50s. These women are given the name Kuku and dressed in bridal patterns and headdresses as a sign of respect. They call out with high-pitched voices and whip horsetails in the air throughout the wedding day.
- Bridal Covering
Before the wedding, the bride must go into hiding. On the wedding day, she remains all covered up and hidden in a little room with her ‘Omutike’ (escort – a girl who escorts her to her new family). When the bride wants to communicate with her Omutike, she whispers. This tradition is common in Herero weddings.
Lobola, or bride price, is a necessary part of any Namibian wedding. The groom is required to pay a bride price of 40 cattle before the wedding ceremony takes place. Interestingly, the marriage is not considered official until the birth of the second child.
The bride receives a beautifully decorated, handmade broom that signifies the beginning of their new home as husband and wife. Cowrie shells are also given to the couple to represent prosperity and fertility.
Kola nuts are exchanged and offered between the two families to seal the deal after the bride price has been paid, and to celebrate the announcement of the wedding date. The family of the groom also gives the bride’s mother a gift of a cow and a calf in appreciation for bringing up her daughter well.
Namibia Marriage Traditions
- Otjiherero Culture
As soon as the wedding date is established, the bride is not allowed to spend time with her friends. Instead, she stays at home under the close watch of an aunt. During this period, the girl is trained on how to run a home, as well as how to handle, please and respect her husband. Her female cousins are responsible for tutoring her.
As the wedding draws near, the bride is confined in the house and smeared with ochre (Otjize – powder mixed with fat). This ochre is rubbed all over her body to improve the skin tone in preparation for the wedding.
- Oshiwambo Culture
The Oshiwambo have one of the most interesting Namibia marriage traditions. Two to three weeks before the wedding, the bride goes to stay in the village. While there, she is not allowed to leave the house without her parents’ permission. When the young woman does go out, her role is to invite the elderly to her wedding. The bride is assigned a ‘Hegona,’ usually a parental relative who is responsible for ensuring that she is taken care of when she goes to the groom’s house.
Once the wedding date is set, the bride goes to her mother’s house the next morning. Her mother then takes her to an area outside her house called the ‘Oshotoshondjugo.’ A fire is lit right in the centre of this place, and she is required to inhale the smoke from this fire as a blessing.
After this, the bride receives a gift from the Hegona, and then from anyone else who is present.
- Caprivian Culture
The Caprivians take Namibia marriage traditions to the next level – they train the woman how to keep the man happy in the bedroom! They believe that not being able to please a man is an embarrassment. Immediately after the wedding, the bride is taken away from the groom and to her elders where she is taught the ‘qualities’ of a good wife.
- Damara Culture
The bride-to-be goes to her family home three to four weeks before the wedding. While there, she is helped by family members to make jewelry called “!Goro-!khoes” for her ankles and wrists. This jewelry is to be worn during the wedding, and after the bride goes to her new home. During her stay, her mother teaches her how to be a wife. The bride is also given traditional beauty products to use before and after the wedding, to give her a flawless appearance.
Namibia wedding traditions are a valuable part of the local culture, and should not be forgotten altogether. In conclusion, note that it can take up to a year to plan the wedding, and wedding celebrations last a week. The best part of all is, everyone is invited!