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Posts Tagged ‘party’

Nigerians–particularly Yorubas–love to celebrate. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals are all occasions for huge parties complete with plenty of food, deafening music, matching decorations that extend to the smallest details and all sorts of fanfare. An intimate dinner or cocktail party among friends doesn’t align with Nigerian culture. The bigger the better for the Nigerian party. Lucky for the sociable type these parties happen often, maybe too often. The average Nigerian adult has attended hundreds of weddings. While each of the aforementioned celebrations have qualities that make it unique, they all share a common order of events. They all start with an opening prayer. The MC then introduces the important guests seated at the high table. Caterers pass out a plethora of drinks (juice, minerals, malt beverages, bottles of wine, beer and everyone gets a bottle of water) and plates of food (usually rice with moinmoin and meat, or iyan egusi, or amala) to each guest. Then the celebrant dances while family and friends spray him or her with money. The celebrant’s friends stand around to pick up the 50, 100, 200, 500 Naira notes that fall by the celebrant’s feet. Then the MC or someone else gives a closing prayer, guests collect their gifts and go home with full stomachs and poorer hearing than they arrived with.

wedding decorations in Nigeria

An example of a brown and orange color scheme at a wedding party I attended. Bottles of minerals, boxes of juice abundant on every table.


So it went at the traditional Yoruba wedding I attended last weekend. People call this wedding the engagement. The church ceremony followed by a big party is the wedding party. So I celebrated the marriage of Esther and ‘Tosin in the traditional Yoruba style that has been a bit modernized by the imposing presence of microphones and photographers. While studying Yorùbá at University of Wisconsin, I happened to choose marriage among the Yoruba as a research paper topic and I am posting the 20-page paper I wrote, all in Yoruba of course, for any Yoruba readers to see if they are interested. I think the wedding will be best described by the photos I took.
Marriage among the Yorubas (part 1 of 2)
Marriage among the Yorubas (part 2 of 2)

guests at a Yoruba engagement

Guests at the engagement sit under tents out of the hot sun, chatting, eating and drinking. Everyone is dressed in native Yoruba attire, iro, buba and gele around the head for the woman, and buba with sokoto for the man. The guests at the engagement will be fewer than the guests at the wedding party.

yoruba wedding bride walking down the aisle

The bride and her friends walking her down the aisle, singing and dancing the whole time.

Yoruba wedding the groom waits for the bride coming down the aisle

As the bride walks down the aisle with her friends, the husband sits under the beautifully decorated canopy waiting for his wife to greet him.

Photographers don't miss any facial expression at Nigerian parties. They are always in the celebrants faces taking way more pictures than needed. Here the bride and her entourage walks her down the aisle. The women dressed in cream and red are in her bridal party.

Yoruba bride and groom with groom's family

The bride and groom, oko and iyawo, pose with the groom's family. At a Yoruba wedding, everyone in the groom's family wears the same color cloth. The same goes for the bride's family. These colors are different to differentiate the two families that are coming together through marriage. According to Yoruba beliefs, marriage is not just between two people, but two families.


women playing sekere at a yoruba wedding

Women playing a traditional Yoruba instrument called the Shekere as the bride dances her way to greet her husband.


dowry at a yoruba wedding

The dowry displayed for all the guests to see. The groom's family gives the bride and her family many gifts for the marriage. Here we see yams, bananas, other food stuffs and oil. The bride's family is seated on the right. The bride and groom's family sit on opposite sides of the aisle.

esther dancing getting sprayed

Esther, the bride, dancing with her new husband, 'Tosin. Fifty Naira notes fall in her arms from the Nigerian tradition of spraying money on the celebrants.

Yoruba women in aso ebi on the husbands side

Member's of the groom's party dressed in aso ebi (see earlier post for description). They are wearing a buba (the shirt), iro (the wrapper skirt) and a gele (head wrapper).


closing prayer at a yoruba wedding

One of the bride's maids praying for the new couple.

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I finally got out of Ibadan this weekend. My host mom invited me to go with her to a funeral in Ilobu, a village in Osun State, about 100 km north east of Ibadan.

A map of Ibadan to Ilobu

I was ecstatic at the idea of traveling to another part of Yorubaland, especially for a funeral. When an agbalagba (old person) dies, his/her children throw a huge celebration with lots of food, dance and music. A funeral for a person who lives a long life is cause for celebration here, not sadness. The burial ceremony for the late Chief Moses Ojo Anwo brought hundreds of people from all over Yorubaland to Ilobu to celebrate his “glorious exit” after 90 years of life.

We were five in the car to Ilobu: my host mom in the drivers seat, the wife of my dad’s brother in the front seat, me in the back squished between my host grandmother and the wife of my dad’s other brother.

My host mom, Peju Layiwola and I outside the church.

The road to Ilobu was in decent shape for the most part. You should expect to thrash from side to side on any road around here as the driver dodges pot holes. We stopped on the side of the road for 10 minutes when we noticed the temperature gauge on the car all the way up. I stood up outside the car, with my hands on the top to escape the heat inside the car and watch the heavy traffic pass around a semi-truck stuck in the mud. Wearing my traditional Yoruba dress, I attracted a lot of attention from drivers. It probably didn’t help that I was yelling “Good afternoon,” and “greetings for taking a trip” at drivers in Yoruba. A driver kept his eyes on me for so long, in complete shock at this Oyinbo woman dressed like a Yoruba and speaking Yoruba, that he lightly crashed into the car in front of him. The police man helping us tend the overheating car just laughed at this and the whole incident dissolved without a single argument or exchange of insurance information.

We arrived at the church in Ilobu just in time to miss most of the service. Every pew was completely full, so without space to sit we stood outside taking pictures and scrutinizing all the different traditional outfits.

Young girls hold their markets on their heads to sell to guests looking for something sweet or refreshing.

The church grounds were a flurry with activity. Young girls and boys carrying trays of sweets, sachets of water, little donuts and ice creams on their heads to sell to the guests, people greeting each other, cars coming in and out, demanding everyone move aside. I, as the only white person there, added to the commotion.

Dancing up to the front for Thanksgiving at the church with all eyes on me.

We did enter the church briefly to participate in the Thanksgiving; this entails dancing down the aisles up to the front to put 20 Naira or so to the donation bag. Of course I danced like a Yoruba woman does (video coming soon) and instantly all eyes in the church diverted to me.

Sellers, guests congregate outside the packed church.

After the service, all the guests drove a ways down the main road to a big field for the reception. Empty plastic tables and chairs arranged neatly under big tents covered the perimeter of the field and two band tents with huge speakers situated in the middle. Anwo, the man who died, had one wife with many children so different children sponsored a different band tent, conveniently located right next to each other, speakers facing the same way. The sound was horrifically loud. When we arrived drummers playing the talking drum swarmed me and started drumming the tune of “O-yin-bo” to amuse me and earn some naira.

My ear drums felt like they were going to burst from the bombardment of talking drum.

Three of them followed me all the way to my table, until finally after a lot of drumming my ear drums had had enough and I gave one 50 Naira. He promptly left my side. The caterers served us a choice of rice, moinmoin and beef or pounded yam with stew. I chose the pounded yam as it is becoming one of my favorite foods here. After eating, the lead musician invited the celebrants (the children of the deceased) to come and dance on the dance ground where their friends started spraying them with money. I wish I had pictures of this now, but it will have to wait for a later post. Basically people drop money, mostly small bills, on your face and all over you while you dance. Meanwhile someone collects the money from the ground in a bag for you. When I hear music it’s hard for me to stand still. I started grooving in my chair a little bit when my mom told me to stand up and dance. I did and she sprayed me with 100 Naira.

Guests of the funeral seated under the tent waiting to be served food.

All eyes of the guests seated under the tent were on me again. I must say, I can dance like a Nigerian woman pretty well. I have the arm/butt coordination down pat. Before long a man from the dancing crowd approached me to bring me into the crowd. My mom and grandmother encouraged me to go so I danced into the crowd of celebrants and within no time women and men started spraying me with Naira. I must have danced for no more than 2 minutes and I came out with 2,400 Naira, about $15. A couple women even sprayed me with 500 N bills, very rare for spraying! I am kicking myself now for not dancing longer.

So goes a typical funeral for a person who lived a long, fulfilled life in Yorubaland. Not one person at the event wore a black suit or a black dress. In fact, observing the clothes was one of the most incredible parts of the day for me.

Outside waiting for the church service to end, in aso ebi.

Each cloth is beautiful and bright, and of course an outfit is not complete without a gele or fila on top. Women wrap stiff geles that complement their clothing perfectly and the man’s fila sits proudly on his head, dropped to one side depending on if he is married or not. Then you see the “aso ebi” or family clothing. At big parties like weddings or funerals, families-men and women-will all dress in the same cloth. It will all be sewn in different styles but it is totally coordinated and is a stunning sight to see. Dressing is such a beautiful part of the Yoruba culture, I could never be bored at a party just for examining all the different clothing styles.

I am coming to love this country and culture more and more after every day that goes by, especially with every new Yoruba outfit I get back from the tailor. I may just come home with an entirely new wardrobe.

Women adorned in aso ebi at Anwo's funeral.


The Layiwola wives and me. I didn't have time to coordinate the aso ebi.

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