African Traditional Wedding Attire

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The marriage between a man and a woman is a special celebration of the natural continuity of life in every part of Africa. African weddings are unique and joyful; a huge family affair, and an undertaking everyone participates in. It also brings families together as well as enables people to reconnect with friends. Having said that, African wedding attires are magnificent outfits that make a wedding ceremony standout. The outfits are made of fabrics that are usually unique to a society or group, and have some traditional meanings attached to them. They are distinctive, with rich amazing colours; and contain every traditional African element that makes them vibrant and elegant.

In Africa, some ethnic groups /tribe have similar attires, and they often feature matching headpieces. Let’s see these few tribes of Africa and their traditional wedding attires:

  1. Igbo:

The Igbo tribe is located in South – eastern Nigeria.   The bride wears a wrapper as a dress, with coral beads, ankle bracelets, waist beads and a beaded crown to cover her hair; for her first outing (to greet and welcome her in-laws). Then for her second outing, she wears a blouse and a skirt or George wrappers; a head gear, this can be head tie which matches the colour of her blouse or the wrapper. Or a beaded cap, which is always in a coral colour and as well as accessories such as coral beads, silver, gold, or ivory bracelets and of course, a stylish brooch. While the groom wears a traditional Ibo kaftan.

  • Zulu:

The Zulu people are majorly based in the KwaZulu Natal province in South Africa. Their traditional wedding attire is called Umabo. The bride wears a veil which is made of beads to cover her head (isicholo). Her knees and elbow are tied with fringes of ox tail, and more also, she wears a goat – haired necklace and isidwaba, which is a leather skirt, isicwaya, which covers her breasts. All through the ceremony, the bride will have a small knife with her, which symbolises that she is a virgin. The groom wears material that covers his hair, shoulders, buttocks, ankles, chest, & wrists.

  • Ashanti:                

Interestingly, the traditional wedding attire for the Ashanti Ghanaian bride and groom is kente cloth. It is made of a hand woven fabric with geometric patterns and bright vibrant colours. Ashanti tribe is located in central Ghana.

  • Yoruba:

The Yoruba tribe is located in the western part of Nigeria. The groom wears Agbada or Buba decorated with different beads or embroidery, and a head cover. The bride wears iro (wrapper) or lace materials; gele (head tie) and accessories such as beads, rings, earrings, bracelets; and also a bridal veil.

  • Habesha:

Their outfits are made from hand spin and hand woven pure cotton fabrics. The hasheba kermis is the traditional attire of habesha women and the bride wears a beautiful corn row design called the Albaso hairstyle. More so, they have another traditional wedding attire called the kaba. They come in the form of black gowns capes or jackets which have gold embroidery detailing on the lapels and down the front on each side of the garment and are worn by the bride & groom. Habesha is located in the highlands of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

  • Shona:

The Shona people are located in the high plateau of Zimbabwe. The bride and groom use the Shona Ankara to make uniform.

Definitely, your wedding outfits solidify your identity as African. They make a powerful cultural statement about one’s identity. It’s encouraging to note that many Africans are gradually beginning to embrace the traditional attire as an important part of their identity.

More about this and other African – related articles, visit: https://www.magzter.com/magazines/listAllIssues/12051

By Uju Okocha