This month, as many around the world celebrate the month of love, the question often arises as to how a b.a.w (black African woman) can balance the competing cultures she finds herself in. We are fed many images of romance from the books and magazines we read; our favourite Shonda Rhimes shows; and the music we listen to.
And then you meet your person. You’re in a committed relationship and you then look to ‘make things official’ – that’s when the fun stuff begins.
Quick disclaimer: these are sweeping generalizations. This is not to say that romance does not exist in our cultures but rather this is an aim to introduce the complexities and the real challenge that young African Christians face as they look towards getting married.
So, you want to get engaged? Have the whole surprise where no one knows but bae and whoever he tells? About that… apparently in most African cultures, it is not advisable to approach things this way. And we’re not talking here about bae calling your dad directly to ask for your hand in marriage. Nope. Uncles and aunts need to be notified in advance to alert the parents to this.
It gets better. Want to get married? How many ceremonies are you going to have? Are all 4 or 5 ceremonies necessary? Do the parents agree? Does the extended family agree? Does the wedding need to happen in a church? And the pastor?
Note that I haven’t even mentioned the actual doing life thing right? Or whether you’ll possess the means needed to get to the point where you can start your life.
There’s this tight rope you walk between your culture and faith. God may be the foundation of your relationship but there are cultural realities that you encounter that may have you questioning what comes first.
The general understanding is that your union should be blessed by God. God is love and He created marriage. But, like any good African child, you want your parents and elders’ blessings as you take this next leap into your life. In fact, there’s a whole commandment about honoring your parents.
On the other hand, does the recognition of your union necessarily have to involve a church, a pastor, or a verse read with you dressed in white? Again, I ask these questions so we interrogate the practices that have now become institutions that may not necessarily be a requirement from God.
Same goes for certain cultural practices. The aim here is to not throw out the baby with the bath water but prayerfully engage with the norms and standards we’ve tethered ourselves to.
These are some of the themes we’ll be covering this month on our blog site and Youtube page. We hope you will engage and join the conversation online. This was by no means a comprehensive breakdown of the paradigm we find ourselves in but rather a start of the conversation.
Larissa is the Content Manager at bAw, and sources the amazing women and men who share their stories on this and our other platforms. She’s also a Researcher and a serious politics buff – even though she may deny it! She adores her Saviour Jesus Christ and we see her as a future Joy-Ann Reid!