Tuesday, 2 April 2013

(52): Kayan daki and marital stability in Hausaland (I)

Our discourse will today focus on culture. Before delving deeply into the topic of marital stability let me start by explaining what Kayan daki means. In modern terms, the phrase simply refers to a fully furnished accommodation. In traditional Hausa society when a person gets married, his father normally allocates a room in his house where the spouses could live together. The room is normally furnished by the family of the bride. This is what is literally referred to as kaya (items) and daki (room).
In modern times the culture of Kayan daki has achieved a new height, instead of a room; the groom normally rents, or builds a house, and allocates a section for the bride. The allocated section is what is normally equipped by the family of the newly wedded bride. Marriage is normally a give-and-take relationship, right from the courtship, to the betrothal and the solemnisation of the marriage. Normally the man proposes, the woman accepts. The family of the man request for the formalization of the relationship, the family of the woman approves; and representatives of the two families meet together to tie the knot. Some of the responsibilities are shared, others shouldered by either of the parties.
In a traditional sense the entire process is defined by some cultural codes known as dattako (uprightness, reliability) karamci (generosity), kawaici (reticence), mutunci (respectfulness) etc. These important cultural codes, most of which have a religious root are important in ensuring marital stability. In an ideal situation, when the relationship goes awry, either the husband or the wife remembers that it is out of character for a person of his or her family background to exhibit the opposite of these cultural codes. This helps to soft-pedal, reconcile and move on with life without the knowledge of a third party.
One of the key gestures that signify these cultural codes, especially from the family of the bride is the provision of kayan daki. Depending on ability, some families can furnish the entire house of the would be bride. But this culture has undergone various transformations to the extent that it is threatening the institution of marriage in Hausa society. Both sides have contributed in the deteriorating nature of this culture.
From the side of the groom, an acronym emerged known as auren jari (matrimonial investment). Apart from furnishing the house, the family of the bride also supplies what is called gara (wedding present). Traditionally the gara comprises of sufficient food items that would last the new family for a calendar year. It is part of the courtesy and generosity to support the husband to look after his family until he has become economically rooted to look after his family, and also take away from him the pressure of shopping on daily basis.
Of course the family of the groom does have their own share of contribution. They pay the bride price, support the husband to find an accommodation, and give the pre-wedding gift; in modern times the pre-wedding gift comprises of large boxes containing clothes, jewelries, shoes and other cosmetics, that the bride would need.
The concept of auren Jari, became the talking point among some youths. When planning for marriage, auren jari became an important consideration. About five years ago, while discussing with a controversial former minister, he lamented how the culture of auren jari has become such a burden to the Hausa society. Some of the youths, go to the extent of seeking a second wife based on this principle, if they succeeded, the first wife would be treated like an outcast, simply because she did not come from a family that can support his economic needs. Parents were put under pressure to ensure that they supply sufficient   kayan daki so that the new husband will respect their daughter.
From the part of the girls, they become so enticed by the luxury provided for them by their parents, that they too add to the pressure so that their friends would not laugh at them for failing to comply with the new vogue in town. For those who are not economically buoyant, they became indebted for years trying to settle the bills they have incurred, and in some unfortunate situations, their daughter had already been divorced. The investment did no pay the desired dividends. The husband who divorced the wife will now shift his attention to another family, because he is rest assured, they would make similar provisions for him. The question to be asked is whom should we blame, and what is the solution to this catch 22 situation? Join me next week God Willing for an update.

2:00 pm

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