Kanuri wedding: Rituals on day of final solemnisation by Abdulhamid Al-Gazali



First published in 2016

It is on the day that such events as Kla Tulta, Kla Kerta and Kalawa take place. With the hangover of wushe-wushe the previous night, women, with euphoria, open the solemnization day with Kla Tulta, washing the bride’s hair, while men receive the groom’s family who come in a convoy to solemnise the wedding.

Kla Tulta

Basically, kla tulta means the washing of the bride’s hair by one of her aunties, in preparatory for plaiting it, kla k3rta. In the morning, when men assemble in the compound of the house to conduct the wedding fatiha, the bride will be brought to her mother’s veranda or sitting room, kafiya yai, and sat on b3ji bul, white mat.

For the big aunty who washes the hair, a sitting mat and pillow on which she will sit will be secured by the bride’s mother. Once the washing of the hair is through, she will be given the mat and pillow.

As she washed the hair, the foam will be collected by the bride’s friends in a container. They add sweets and chewing gums to it and sell it off to the groom’s friends base on some negotiations when kususuram is brought. Perhaps, unless this is bought by the groom’s friends, the kususu will not be allowed access to the bride.

Kla Kerta

When the hair is finally washed, duramma, a professional hairdresser, will be invited to plait it to the traditional Kanuri kla yask3 hairstyle. As this is being done, date palm and honey will be put into her mouth throughout the course of the exercise. Until it is done, she is not to expected to pour out or swallow it. This is a test of her patience.

It is important to note that all these will be paid for by the groom. They form part of the kususuram, a collection of different items gifted to the bride and her family by the groom’s sisters and cousins. Along with these, they also bring a ram, oil, sacks of food items and etcetera for Kalawa.

In the course of the plaiting, balama, a local musician will be invited to once again admonish the bride in a poetic way. ‘Ya plai she’ will be eventually chanted by the musician and his crew. Simply, this means ‘mother of the bride, fill our bowl with money’ and in solidarity, all relatives will drop little token into the bowl. Kalawa

Kalawa is perhaps among the major activities taking place on the wedding day. Once kususuram is brought across by the groom’s contingent, which includes food items for the kalawa meal, the bride’s aunties will start cooking. They cook brabisco with a soup made of the digestive organs of the ram provided by the groom.

When the food is ready, it will be collected in a bowl, (kan. buwur) and mixed. One of the bride’s aunties will hence fill her (the bride’s) hands with the relatively hot food for three times as she pours it back to the bowl after each round.

As it is being done, people will be making some chants, wande kuttu yind3mi, loosely meaning ‘do not keep pain to yourself’, from your husband. The logic here is difficult to understand base on available information. The reason for filling the bride’s hands with the food is not very clear but it is indeed one of the oldest traditions that has survived to this day.


Following kalawa, another important ritual to follow is kaulu. Here, as the bride sat on a white mat, after the Kalawa, she will be surrounded by her friends and relatives. The kaulu, is any slippery substance like okro or moringa which would be continuously rubbed on her palms by different persons at, yes, random.

As people do so, they give some token will be dropped in a bowl. At the end of the event, the money will all be given to the bride. The same thing goes for the groom in their residence. In the past, the monies are decorated or placed on a hut like object and taken with to the bride to her new home.

The objective of this, among other things, is to gather some money for the new couple to use as a capital to start something with which to sustain themselves. Because of this, everyone is willing to contribute voluntarily. The reason is that when it is the turn of one’s child to get married, one would get the same or similar communal support. After Kaulu, the next thing on the day is to decorate the bride to prepare her for the groom whose friends will come in the evening to pick her—to her new, and matrimonial home.

The details of the decoration, paparai and kususuram will be continued in subsequent editions…

To be continued…

Abdulhamid Al-Gazali

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