|Photo Credit: ph-microscope
The Kalabari are people inhabiting the Akuku-Toru, Asari-Toru and Degema local government areas of Rivers State. Early Kalabari people believed in Creation (ogina temebô teme). God creates, man procreates, all other creatures too.
The marriage ceremony, which is not just the coming together of two people but also both families are performed in a unique way, which is quite different from the regular way other ethnic groups perform theirs as far as the bridal list is concerned.
Traditionally, however, there are three (3) forms of marriages in the kalabari culture which are the Iya marriage, Igwa marriage and the Waribiobesime.
The Iya marriage is the highest form of marriage in the kalabari kingdom. The Iya marriage is considered as the zenith of a woman’s success. The significance of the Iya marriage is that the children of the couple belong to the groom’s house. Divorce is not permitted in this kind of marriage and when the bride dies her body is taken by the man’s family, unlike the Igwa marriage.
The Iya marriage is not complete without the “bibife” (buying of mouth) ceremony, where the mouth of the woman is bought by the groom’s family. This signifies that the bride has the right to eat in her husband’s house. This act also binds both families together. The ceremony of “Bibife” starts with the display of several kinds of food on a plain table and the ritual of buying the girl’s mouth. This is carried out by one of the elderly women in the family. They dish a small portion of all the foods and serve the girl to eat. However, the bride cannot eat until her mouth is bought.
BIBIFE CEREMONY TAKING PLACE
The Iya marriage is usually expensive compared to other forms of kalabari marriage. In the Iya marriage, the cost is triple whatever is done for the Igwa marriage, thus, lots of people run away from marrying a kalabari woman.
This is a lesser form of marriage than the Iya. The body of the woman when dead will be taken by her family and not that of her husband. This type of marriage is economical compared to the Iya marriage. A lot of people do not favour this kind of marriage because of the body of the wife when dead returns back to her family and her children have a lesser right in the house traditionally since they still rightfully belong to the woman’s family. Besides, it is a thing of pride in some cultures such as the Igbo people to bury their late wife in the husband’s compound rather than that of the woman’s family compound.
Because of the luxurious nature of the Iya marriage, some people due to ignorance, financial restraint or family opposition do the Igwa marriage and later on in life proceed to do the Iya marriage in order to claim their right. While an Igwa marriage can be later changed to an Iya marriage, the Iya marriage itself cannot be changed to an Igwa marriage.
This is a marriage between members of the same house who are not related by blood.