The Cultural Symbolism of African Bridal Attire — Guardian Life — The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News

By Chinelo Eze

January 23, 2022 | 7:31 am

“Something new, something old, something borrowed”, this phrase is a mythical traditional rhyme. The nursery rhyme details what brides must wear to be lucky. This philosophy has been adopted by other cultures. But for the African bride this precept does not take precedence, because she has all the necessary luck when she pays homage to him…

An Efik bride. Photo Xposurebystevedavid

“Something new, something old, something borrowed”, this phrase is a mythical traditional rhyme.

The nursery rhyme details what brides must wear to be lucky. This philosophy has been adopted by other cultures. But for the African bride, this precept does not take precedence, as she gets all the luck needed when she pays homage to her cultural heritage through the grand display of symbolic cultural garments.

The cultural significance of an African bride’s attire stems from her roots – the language she speaks, her lifestyle and the way she dresses. The African continent has diverse cultures that are constantly gaining recognition across the world. Each traditional group makes clothing from specific fabrics that have unique colors with customary meaning.

A Fulani bride. Photo Brookmatrix

Traditional African wedding dresses have distinctive features that make the experience stand out. How an African bride is presented on her wedding day is of the utmost importance, not just for the bride but for everyone. An African bride at her wedding, through her attire, becomes a personified representation of her culture, heritage and community.

Like most brides, the African bride looks forward to “D-Day” as her African prince to the awe of many proclaims his undying love. Maybe that makes for an interesting Romeo and Juliet tale, but the main thing here is how does the African bride dress for her wedding? How does it adorn itself culturally and why? With this in mind, an African bride is on a mission to truly represent her community in the culture through her native attire.

The vibrancy of the culture leads to an array of gorgeous African brides with distinct styles, colors, patterns, and ways of wearing their cultural attire. All this embrace of cultural clothing is a subtle blend of other cultures near and far.

Nigeria – a West African country is made up of several ethnic groups making up 371 tribes, hence the nation is rich in culture.

As brides are expected to be elegantly dressed, an Efik bride does so by wearing the native Ofod Ukod Anwang and Onyonyo. These native garments worn by Efik brides in their vibrant colors reflect the culture of the people and are very particular to those worn by other tribes in Nigeria. The latter is a two-piece garment consisting of a skirt and a top. This dress choice is to show the bride’s height; the feminine qualities of the bride. The Onyonyo cultural dress is a modified Victorian cut. This graceful native outfit shows the elegance of the bride. Both cultural garments worn by the Efik bride are further embellished with the latest traditional hairstyles and glamorous hair combs. To top it off, an Efik bride is not complete without an ornately decorated staff dripping with royalty.

Traditional Yoruba wedding attire is made from Aso-Oke cloth which appears in three primary colors of rich brown, navy blue and very light brown with streaks of cream. You can also choose embroidery lace. The bride can also customize the color and design according to the desired wedding theme.

Igba-nkwu marks the courtship traditions of the Igbo people. The brides are beautifully dressed and wear the native attire of a blouse and cape with modifications of a dress worn by some brides. Igbo brides use a wide range of materials; damask, lace, George, silk and the now popular ‘isiagu’ (lion’s head) print that speaks of the bravery of the Igbo tribe. Similar to other brides, Igbo brides richly punch up their cultural dress by using coral beads and are even now beginning to bead as Edo brides do.

In Ghana, another part of West Africa, a rich display of customary “kente” that is specific to the tribe, is important to Gold Coast brides. It is a traditional outfit that she and her husband wear for the performance of traditional rites. This fabric is then tailored to the individual bride.

South Africa

South Africa has a variety of cultures and tribes like other countries in Africa. The country is rich with diverse tribes confidently embracing their roots. The Xhosa, Sepedi, Zulu, Tsonga, Pedi, Ndebele, women of love showcasing their native cultural attire.

Sepedi indigenous wedding attire is in many ways very popular with the gay symbolic colors of yellow, blue, orange, red and turquoise signifying happiness. Worn best with hele, the Pedi bride attire was merged to form the identity of the community. The heel is the inner fabric which is tied around the waist and the Metsheka is the top. To finish the look, the head jewel called Moruka which elevates the bride to her throne.

The traditional wedding attire of a Xhosa bride is a sophisticated black and white look. This print, beautifully combined by the partners, is an identity that says a lot about the Xhosa tribe. Her attire is an ankle length dress called isishweshwe or Ijeremani. This outfit indicates that the bride is no longer a girl. The Umatoki (bride) is then protected by a tartan blanket worn over the shoulder. The cover represents the elements of protective and nurturing traits that a bride adds to the family. The scarf tied around her waist preserves her fertility.

East Africa

Married in other parts of Africa such as Rwanda, brides wear a traditional outfit called imishanana. This same outfit is applicable to brides in Burundi and Uganda. The country’s conventional nuptial celebrations are among the most stunning in East Africa.

In Kenya, the traditional clothing of Kikuyu brides in central Kenya is gold or brown lesso. The garment is decorated with pearls. However, in modern traditional Kikuyu weddings, the bridal wear may be made from kitenge or Ankara, which makes the outfit more dapper.

Within these, the culture rises in the decision to conduct the business that dictates every major step in the lives of their people. The way an African bride is presented on the day of her nuptial rites is of utmost importance, not only for the bride but for all. An African bride at her wedding, through her attire, becomes a personified representation of her culture, heritage and community.

Another traditional dress from Kenya is the traditional Maasai dress. This crop is also most prevalent in Kenya and Tanzania. Proper Maasai clothing is often brightly colored with red as the main color of traditional wear. In contemporary traditional weddings, brides usually modify the outfit and accessorize it with the culture’s colorful pearl necklace.

Regardless of the foundations laid in the past many brides work with in preparation for the big day, their cultural attire goes through alterations to fit the contemporary but having the origin of the cultural appearance takes precedence over merging with others adopted customs.

Our actions and decisions are not devoid of the traditional imprint, taking actions and movements imposed by humanity.

The 21st century wedding cultural attire of African brides is a union of cultures. Therefore, African brides like nature spring in great balance to exhibit their cultural identity through their cultural wedding attires.

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