Pre-Wedding Battle Of Wits In Rwanda In Rwanda, marriage involves negotiations — sometimes an hours-long battle of wits before a wedding is approved. Anna Boiko-Weyrauch went to Kigali, Rwanda, for the wedding of two friends and sent this audio postcard
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Pre-Wedding Battle Of Wits In Rwanda

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Pre-Wedding Battle Of Wits In Rwanda

Pre-Wedding Battle Of Wits In Rwanda

Pre-Wedding Battle Of Wits In Rwanda

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In Rwanda, marriage involves negotiations — sometimes an hours-long battle of wits before a wedding is approved. Anna Boiko-Weyrauch went to Kigali, Rwanda, for the wedding of two friends and sent this audio postcard

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Warm summer days lend themselves, naturally, to weddings. That's true in Rwanda, which is in the midst of its wedding season. During the traditional marriage ceremony there, the bride and groom each appoint a delegation to negotiate the wedding. It's an intense battle of wits that lasts hours. Anna Boiko-Weyrauch recently saw her friends Joseph and Betty get married in the city of Kigali.

ANNA BOIKO-WEYRAUCH: The minute Joseph Inkurenziza(ph) met Betty Mutesi(ph), he knew she saw the one.

Mr. JOSEPH INKURENZIZA: When she talked, then smiled, the first thing that came into my mind: Joseph, this is the type of woman that you should have.

BOIKO-WEYRAUCH: And he will have her - that is, if he's able to strike a deal. Gusaba, the name of this wedding ceremony, literally means negotiation. In traditional Rwandan weddings, the groom has to bargain with the bride's family for his new wife.

It's a tough task, so he usually asks a community leader to do the bargaining. Charles Karachi(ph) will head the delegation for Betty's hand. He says in the old days, parents negotiated this way to find the best husband for their daughter.

Mr. CHARLES KARACHI (Gusaba Delegate): They want somebody who has a lot of wits, who should be able to have a lot of, you know, skills and tactics to be able to meet the challenges of the world.

BOIKO-WEYRAUCH: According to tradition, the bride's delegation always refuses to give up the bride at first, even if it means a little bit of lying.

Mr. KARACHI: (unintelligible) She was turned into a nun.

BOIKO-WEYRAUCH: Ah, the bride went to Spain and turned into a nun.

Mr. KARACHI: Yeah.

BOIKO-WEYRAUCH: It's a trick. Of course, Betty hasn't become a nun, but Joseph's delegation has to play along with the ruse. Mr. Karachi explains to the other side that Betty can't be a nun because the president of Rwanda and the pope have an agreement banning Rwandans from becoming nuns. It's a good comeback.

(Soundbite of applause)

BOIKO-WEYRAUCH: Joseph is sitting on the sidelines, watching the whole thing. He's starting to look nervous, and then the negotiations heat up. The bridge's delegation can accuse the groom's family of anything to hold on to the bride.

For example, the bride's family can say the groom's cousin once refused to give their daughter a ride when it was raining. The groom's delegation has to think up some explanation. Here's Mr. Karachi again.

Mr. KARACHI: There was an attack to our country from many, many forces. So when they were carrying the explosives, they didn't want her to go into vehicle because if she went into the vehicle, she would be in danger. But meanwhile, I had to find my brother, who came there after the car and picked her.

BOIKO-WEYRAUCH: Mr. Karachi gets Betty's family to agree to the marriage. Two black and white cows trot into the gathering. Joseph's delegation has agreed to give Betty's family the cows as a dowry, worth 4,000 U.S. dollars.

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

BOIKO-WEYRAUCH: Accompanied by traditional wedding singers and swaying Rwandan dancers, Betty flows out the house, dressed in multi-layered chiffon fabric.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Group: (Singing in foreign language)

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

Unidentified Group: (Singing in foreign language)

BOIKO-WEYRAUCH: The negotiations were a success, but nowadays, no one is really turned away if they negotiate poorly. The couple would marry no matter what. Still, Mr. Karachi takes his role very seriously. He's eager to see young people get married, including myself.

Mr. KARACHI: (unintelligible) girls and boys. Now I've seen you. Can I do my role? Can I play my role?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BOIKO-WEYRAUCH: But when I do marry, I know Mr. Karachi will be on my side. For NPR News, I'm Anna Boiko-Weyrauch.

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