Growing up as a kid, in school I learned about other cultures in my country, but I never had an opportunity to travel and experience what it feels like to be in a different environment with a culture that is completely different from mine. I was much interested in experiencing traditional marriage of the Igbo tribe. My tribe is Yoruba, and I've been present at several traditional Yoruba marriages. They were very interesting, but I got tired of seeing almost the same thing, so I decided that one day I would visit a friend in the Igbo land to experience a traditional Igbo marriage.
I wanted to see how the dresses of the groom and the bride, including all the participants, would look like in real life, the order of their program, music, language, what their traditional food would taste like, the cohesion within their society and possibly make new friends. Though I knew it was going to be interesting to get to know a new culture, I felt like everything would be totally strange to me, including people, their language, their dressing, etc. Besides, I would be a stranger there, too, and everybody would concentrate more on the scene of the wedding, I felt. Well, I always believe that such an experience is enlightening and adventurous, so at the back of my mind I had that I was going there to have fun, no matter what happens.
On the 13th of March, 2008, I travelled to Ebonyi state, Nigeria, to a wedding a friend of mine had invited me. His sister was getting married to the son of a rich Igbo Chief in their town. They all are from the Igbo tribe. Ebonyi state is located at the south-eastern part of Nigeria, and is one of 5 states in Nigeria that are occupied and originated by the Igbos. When I got there, I was welcomed by my friend who introduced me to his family including the bride and some of his friends. I arrived at my friends house a day before the traditional wedding. People were seriously preparing for wedding. I loved everything I was seeing immediately. I was happy about the way I was welcomed, the way they dressed, because their women were pretty and hardworking, and the food they served me. I ate and was asking for more. It was completely different from what I was familiar with back home but nice.
The next day, which was the day of the traditional wedding, we all went to the venue, where the ceremony was going to take place. Before we went there, I realized that I had a little problem, as I was looking different because of my dress. Their dressing was completely different from the way we dress in the Yorubaland. I was surprised that their men were wearing well decorated wrappers and t-shirts, although I've read about it before. Dresses of their female had more beads decoration than the female dresses in the Yorubaland.
I was experiencing a culture shock because it was my first time of being there. My friend understood how I felt, so he told me to stay with him and go with him everywhere he goes. The venue was well decorated, and a lot of people had gathered there including the groom and his family, all waiting for the arrival of the bride. The bride was well dressed in her native attire and her face was covered in the way similar to a bride in my culture. Everything was well arranged and set.
As the wedding started what I first battled with were the language and the music, total ethnocentrism. I could not understand their language and most of the songs were also in their language. I was feeling like my language sounded better because I did not like the way their language sounded. Their music had different tune from the one I am used to back home. The dance and the dresses of the dancers were so different, but they all looked nice. Although I knew it was a wedding, I was a bit confused at some moments. The order of the program was different from the one we used to have in the Yorubaland. The master of ceremony appeared a bit weird to me because of his dress. He was speaking majorly Igbo language, sometimes he added English. They had a section with masquerade, when everybody was dancing.
I was scared a bit because people were dressed in a way more extreme and intimidating than the one I've seen before. I loved the food they served at the wedding. The food was different, more delicious and richer in nutrients than the food I have eaten on the day I arrived at my friends house. The food had more meat and vegetables, and I had to ask for more. I decided I would learn how they cooked that dish, and one day I will prepare it. Everybody was happy at the wedding. I enjoyed the sight of beautiful maids. They were looking lovely and gorgeous and the dresses they wore were beautiful.
I promised myself that I would come here again whenever I have the opportunity. Though I do not like the way their language sounds, I determined that I would learn it and listen lots of their music. I believe this will help me a lot next time I have such an experience. Eventually I had fun because it was a great experience for me. I did not want to leave because I enjoyed every moment. After the wedding my friend took me out with some of his friends to some places in their town like the museum, church, eatery and later we had a party at a club.
I met people like me who were not from that town. I met a young man who came from my town and that made me happier. Eventually I met someone who speaks my language. The man told me a lot about the place. He said that he was going to marry a lady from that town and promised to invite me to their wedding when the time comes. Indeed, I had fun in another dimension. I felt like going back again and if possible repeat the whole scenes.
After all, I concluded that the Igbo culture/tribe is not only the one of the richest cultures in Nigeria but all over the world. I concluded that experience is the best form of education. The adventure and experience created more understanding of the Igbo culture than what I had learnt at school. I realized that what I studied was incomplete without that experience.
- IGBO a tribe located in the south-eastern part of Nigeria.
- YORUBA a tribe located in the south-western part of Nigeria.
- ETHNOCENTRISM judging another culture solely by the values and standards of ones own culture.
- CULTURE SHOCK - a feeling of confusion, doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place that is very different from what you are used to (Webster).
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