Let’s talk about introductions.
First, let me introduce Sharon. She’s our strap team leader here in the Sseko workshop in Uganda. Sharon is a conscientious leader, talented seamstress and loving friend. And Sharon is comedian. Oh, my. Sharon is always bringing down the house with her witty comments and contagious laughter. Sharon had an introduction ceremony recently. An introduction ceremony, you say? I told you we were talking about introductions!
Here in Uganda an introduction ceremony is essentially an engagement party, where the two families meet and formally agree to the future marriage of the bride and groom. A lot of pomp and ceremony surrounds this day, a joyful and exciting time for the couple looking forward to their future together. Preceding the introduction ceremony, the groom must write an official letter to the brides father, asking for permission to marry his daughter. An appointed aunt, dubbed the Ssenga, performs the role of mediator between families for all interactions regarding the marriage and ceremony. When approved, the bride’s family invites the groom’s family to celebrate at the introduction ceremony.
The introduction ceremony is quite a game, with the groom’s family pretending to be looking for the bride among each round of women the brides family presents, guessing which woman she is, and often the brides family must look for the groom among his family as if they are surprised to meet each other. Each family is represented by a spokesman, and they playfully bicker back and forth during the long ceremony, according to cultural traditions, and act as the official MC's for the day. These spokesmen’s antics contribute to making the ceremony unique and memorable.
There is exchanging of the rings, and the groom presents the gifts he has brought for the brides family, which can include a range of items from vegetables, fruit, sugar, soda, suitcases, furniture, household appliances, chickens and cows. And the family and guests celebrate the couple with a large spread of food. The families and guests are expected to wear the traditional Ugandan dress for the ceremony and we all were happy to comply. The men wear what is called kanzu, a long white tunic with a suit coat. And the women wear a gomesi (pronounced gomas), a bright silky dress with pointed sleeves that is tied around the waist by a large belt.