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Wedding Warrior

  • 09/15/08
  • Paul

Sorry for the hiatus - I'm back, and want to share a story best told in photos. A few weekends ago, I had the honor of being the Assistant Best Man in a traditional Samburu wedding near Wamba, Kenya. The groom, Jeremiah, is a wildlife scout I met while visiting Shivani's lion research and conservation project.

Decked out in beads and ochre
Decked out in beads and ochre. Ya, I totally blended in.

The guys got me fully decked out in beads and ochre, a red pigment that is mixed with goat fat to make a paint. This is the traditional look of Samburu warriors, or morans.

Jeremiah getting ready.
Jeremiah the groom getting ready.

The groom, Jeremiah on the left, gets his ochre applied with the help of his brother. We definitely spent a good portion of the weekend applying and touching up our make-up. It was definitely a weekend of firsts for me.

Jeremiah and Raphael, the Best Man.
Jeremiah and Raphael, the Best Man.

Raphael, on the right, was the perfect Best Man. His duties were extensive - from making sure the groom had all the necessary ceremonial accessories, to butchering the cow, to translating for the mzungu (that would be me). My duties were less demanding. Basically my role was to stand around and look awkward.

Taking a goat to present to the mother of the bride.
Taking a goat to present to the mother of the bride.

The wedding lasted from Friday to Sunday. On Saturday morning at dawn, we collected a goat to then present to the mother of the bride, as a symbol of the dowry the groom has paid for his bride.

Slaughtering the cow.
Slaughtering the cow.

A cow was slaughtered. It seems that this is the moment the groom passes from warrior (morani) to man (mzee). The cow is carefully butchered, with each cut of meat designated to different people in the village.

Shivani and Miriam, the bride.
Shivani and Miriam, the bride.

My friend Shivani with the blushing bride (literally), Miriam.

Wazee blessing the site of the couple's new house.
Wazee blessing the site of the couple's new house.

Saturday afternoon, the men of the village (wazee) cleared a spot that would be the site of the couple's new home. They lined the site with special plants and dribbled milk over it to lay their blessings.

The mamas contructing the new house - in about an hour!
The mamas constructing the new house - in about an hour!

Then the village women (mamas) sprang into action and built the entire house in only an hour. It was incredible to watch their coordinated effort - these ladies were pros. They had spent the previous weeks gathering the materials (saplings for the structure, hides and metal sheeting for the walls, and woven grass mats for the roof). And all of this just for one night.

The couple spends their first night together in their new house, which was built in the bride's family's manyatta (compound). But the couple will live in the groom's family's manyatta, so the following morning the house was taken down and packed up into Shivani's car to be relocated to West Gate.

Packing the house (and their family) into Shivani's car to be taken to West Gate.
On the last day we just threw everything in the car: our luggage, the father of the groom, the bride, and their house.
Jeremiah and Miriam, the happy couple.
Jeremiah and Miriam, the happy couple.

Trust me, they smile a lot more than this photo shows!

Classic manyatta scene.
Classic manyatta scene.

End shot: a classic scene of the manyatta (compound where several Samburu families live together, and keep their livestock). Being part of their wedding was an experience of a lifetime and I thank everyone for welcoming me into their homes.

Special thanks to Shivani Bhalla for her incredible photos.


Paul
About the Author

Paul began with AWF based in Nairobi for a year, before moving to Washington DC. Paul has worked at the Madrid Aquarium and at The Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands outside San Francisco. He was born in New Zealand but grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Paul received his B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Management at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. He is a member of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leadership initiative and is working on a conservation campaign to combat the illegal trade of Asian pangolins. Paul enjoys photography, travel, hikes in the woods, music, and nyama choma.

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