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Stories of Cloth - Maymuna: A Somali wedding

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Stories of Cloth


Maymuna: A Somali wedding


A Somali wedding

In 1966 I had to flee my home town of Brava, in Somalia, North Africa. I came with my children to Manchester as asylum seekers. My children are now of an age to be married. Tradition dictates an arranged marriage, often between cousins, but some young brides reject this and marry for love.

In Brava my friends and I would sit beneath the shade of the acacia tree and embroider designs and patterns onto layered white cotton to make traditional Brava hats worn by our men folk at weddings; the holes are made with thorns from the acacia tree. We would sew for hours together, laughing and sharing stories. Since moving to England many of our traditions have had to change.

In a traditional Somali wedding, the festivities last for 3 days. On the first day the young bride has a party with the women of the community. She enters the festivities to the sound of drumming and warbling, beneath a canopy of cloth held by her four maidservants. She is dressed from head to toe in traditional clothing, only her eyes are uncovered. She is seated in a chair whilst the older women place lengths of coloured cloth over her for decoration, praying loudly, casting away all evil, and singing and dancing before her. Some brides wear shiny, sequined fabrics, others choose to wear all black.

On the second day the groom, the bride’s father and other male family members attend the mosque for a formal ceremony and money is exchanged to purchase the new bride. She is not present at this ceremony.

In England there then follows a typical western civil ceremony at a registry office and a reception at a hotel, where the bride will wear a long white dress, a veil, and flowers in her hair, before moving into her husband’s family home.

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