In the past year, I have been quite taken aback by how many people told me they wanted to marry a Muganda woman. People, come on. If you want to marry me, just say it. Those round-about ways of hitting on me by saying that you like Baganda girls because we kneel, are submissive and know how to make money are just vague and ineffective. Eh.. Okay, let me get over myself. You really do want to marry a Muganda girl? Here is a quick guide as sourced from various relatives and personal experience.
Step 1: Make a declaration
In some cultures, this initial ritual is referred to as proposing marriage to the girl. In those cultures, a man is expected to debase himself by falling on one knee to present a sinfully expensive ring with a shaky hand and tears in his eyes. Once, my sister and I were watching the Queen of that culture, Miss Oprah Winfrey. Right there in her televised sitting room, men were falling to their knees, feigning doubt about their partners’ willingness to marry them (as if the whole world doesn’t know that every woman over 20 is just waiting for a man to ask for her hand). Anyway, at that point in time, we were impressionable teenagers so we were ooh-ing and aah-ing in tandem with the studio audience. That is where our father stepped in to implore us to not dream our youth away. “He’ll just say; in January we go and see your parents.”
Anha. So now you know. No need to debase yourself. Just say, “In April, we go and see your parents.” It is quite enough.
Step 2: Prepare to meet the Ssenga
I am assuming that when you made your declaration, she pretended she hadn’t even heard you speak, but then went ahead to make you breakfast katogo for the first time since the second month of your relationship. That’s all you need in answer. Your proposal was accepted. Now give her ‘transport’ to go and tell her Ssenga that she’d like to visit ‘with a friend’ of hers. Not 50k naawe. Ssenga has to repaint her sitting room, and cook luwombo for when you visit. Facilitate like you intend to send the message that you’ll be a properly provident muko.
Step 3: Apply in writing
This was a surprise to me too. But apparently you actually have to apply (in writing) to join her father’s family. I don’t think you are allowed to type the letter even. So, sit down with pen and paper and in cursive compose an epistle to her father explaining how you met his daughter, blah, blah, blah (because I don’t even know what such letter would contain). Just don’t forget to say that your father begs to visit the recipient’s home to explain your bad manners properly.
Step 4: Meet the Ssenga
With above letter burning a hole in your breast pocket, hit the road for Ssenga’s home. , Two or three friends (plus the girl and her chosen brother) can accompany you to this luwombo feast. The objective of your visit is to beg Ssenga to deliver the letter to her brother, in whose presence you are not yet fit to appear. (Yiii… I wish I was the father of a Muganda girl. I’d thoroughly enjoy these power trips). So anyway, once you’ve polished off Ssenga’s luwombo and complimented her on the new paint in her sitting room, give her the letter. Eh! Brother, you have to give her transport for the mail delivery trip. Once again, roll like a properly provident muko,my friend. Haha. Kampala was not built on smiles and handshakes!
Step 5: A Power Trip Interlude
In his own time, you prospective father-in-law will tell your prospective aunt-in-law who will tell your prospective wife when your father can be received at court. If you’d like your prospective father-in-law to make this decision speedily, don’t make that first declaration to his daughter until she is well over 30, has had two of your kids and her younger sister has already been married off. Those circumstances make for an eager father of the bride. Nonetheless, we can’t give you any guarantees on time here. Just sit, fret and be irritated while you wait.
Step 6: An exercise in diplomacy
When you do get your appointment, you’ll carry 3 or 4 of the biggest men (figuratively but also size matters) of your immediate clan and go to lunch with your prospective in-laws. This lunch my friend is a boot camp in diplomacy. You know, we the Baganda are not one of those backward tribes that still ask for and negotiate bride price. We don’t sell our girls. Nedda bambi. That is why, over this long leisurely lunch, we will go over our daughter’s life story in minute detail, making sure to mention everybody who has been instrumental in her life and our own. Memorise (or discreetly enter each into a memo on that smartphone of yours) and be sure to buy a gomesi or kanzu for each one of them come kwanjula. And prepare varyingly weighty envelopes to accompany each item, of course.
Step 7: Kwanjula
Now this is an easy one. You have all seen it, in its glam and pomp. There are YouTube videos of it even. Basically, go and buy out all the vegetable stalls in Kalerwe market and heap their contents into handwoven baskets. Oh, throw in a rocking chair for the man who will forever hate your guts. Now borrow every available car in the clan to ferry the same. Some people have been known to hire trucks to deliver these. We don’t think very highly of those people. What kind of bako don’t have enough private cars at their disposal to go to a kwanjula? So, if you do hire a truck, pack it very far away from our compound and prepare your sisters to carry baskets on their heads that whole distance. Women really shouldn’t wear high heels to kwanjula. The logistics don’t work in heels.
A few dos and don’t for kwanjula
· Don’t take your father or anybody from your parents’ generation. Just your siblings and friends. We’ll be bullying you. Don’t make the exercise awkward for us by bringing the elders.
· Practice not speaking for a whole day. You really will be spending an entire day on display before our clan and you aren’t allowed to speak or laugh loudly.
· Hire a spokesperson. Speaking at a kwanjula is a legitimate performing art. No, the Muganda friend who sits next to you at the office is not qualified to do it. Hire a real professional.
· Buy your bride away from the Kabaka first. You know how the Baganda call the Kabaka “Baffe.” Yee, they mean it. So your prospective bride is actually currently part of the Kabaka’s harem. Luckily for you, he is cheap. For about Shs50,000 you can obtain a certificate from his people allowing you to go ahead and marry one of his women.
· For other things, just have your hired spokesperson check them against his checklist of must-haves. He’ll also give your party a set of codes and cues to walk you through the whole ceremony as it happens.
I wish I could tell you to look forward to kwanjula. But it is a drawn out monstrosity. It won’t be fun and it will be long. Sorry.
But, at some point during that battle for words and quips, that woman will become your wife. Somebody somewhere will ask her if her family should accept your ‘gifts’ and she’ll say, “mubilye.” ‘Eat them.’ That’s it. From that point on, you may take her home and beat her, right after she kneels before you --- like you’ve always dreamed.
Step 8: Watch the power tide turn
Actually, I was kidding, you can’t take her home right away. We have to first check if those tomatoes you’ve brought are not rotten. Not that we can reverse our acceptance thereafter but, oh well, we gotta milk at least one more power trip out of this. I’ll admit that at that point, we are merely exercising vanity. Power has decidedly turned to your side. That’s why, at the end of kwanjula, Ssenga will crawl her way towards you and ask, “Sir, when will you take your wife?” Your call. You can name any day. Just give us a night or two to talk to her about how to treat you properly.
Step 9: Kasiki
This should interest you so very much. The night before you are due to pick up your wife, the more notorious version of ssenga-ring happens. The boldest women in the clan will lock her up in a room and tell her things that will make you go gaga. Happy endings for you only. So you want me to give you examples? Excuse me! My parents occasionally Google my name. Let’s keep this within the publicly consumable realm.
Step 10: Kasuuze Katya
I have no idea why, but you have to pick your wife before day break. You also carry random items like a tiny kerosene lamp (tadooba) and a matchbox and hand them to whoever meets you at the gate with your wife. No further ceremony, no nothing. Just hand over your sachet of curiosities and get a wife in return.
Step 11: The real wedding
As you make your way out of our gates with our daughter, you might hear her mother whisper, “I hope we’ll now get a real ceremony for which we can wear proper busuutis not these working clothes.” It’s a hint. Even if she’s now your wife to beat, a wedding with proper western pomp would be nice. You know; the one with priests in the morning, photos in the afternoon and a real feast in the evening? Fully at your expense of course.
Step 12: Wedding Night
This may be the night after step 10 if you are that kind of miserly muko who won’t give us a real wedding or the one after step 11. Either way, we will not be there. Those things people say about Ssengas sleeping under the bed to supervise nocturnal self-expressions are false, baseless lies spread by our haters. It has even never happened. Ever, ever.
Step 13: She Cooks for You for the 'Very First Time'
Now, I know she did that breakfast katogo following your declaration. You might even be that kind of dishonest bugger who's been making our daughter cook for you for years already. But, let's all turn over a new leaf. After honeymoon, which we strongly encourage, even if you only just lock yourselves up in the bedroom at home...
Anyway, after honeymoon, Ssenga will come by with an aide or two and supervise your wife cook her first meal for you. Proper matooke wrapped in an entire plantation of leaves and completely rid of any nutrients from overcooking. Proper chicken luwombo too. Ssenga, will see to it that she kneels down when she serves you and sits by waiting on you as you eat. That's our promise to you. That, this is your life now. You did us the favour and grace of marrying our daughter. She'll now spend the rest of her life serving you like that.
By’ebyo. Now don't ever come back to our home unless someone has died. You are a muko bugger. We won' be cooking chicken luwombo on random Sunday afternoons just because you got bored at your house. But this is a good thing. It makes us the lowest maintenance in-laws in the history of mankind. We won't contact you unless there is a real crisis. Isn't that just dandy?