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Photo Essay: The Dowry Presentation

The following are a few photos from the dowry presentation of a good friend’s older “sister” (we would say cousin, with our all-American distinction between nuclear and extended family).

This traditional ceremony makes up only one piece of the marriage festivities for modern Rwandan couples – there’s also a civil wedding, a religious wedding, and a reception.

The dowry ceremony begins with the arrival of the groom and his family, who ask for the bride by name.  The bride remains hidden, and her family informs the groom that “Laeticia Mutoni” was married last week… no, she moved to Butare… no, here she is!  Yes, this 70 year old woman is named Laeticia Mutoni!  Oh wait, no, here she is – this 5 year old girl!  The jokes continue.

Eventually the bride and her wedding party process in and take their seats.  In between the MC’s chatter, the head of the groom‘s family presents the dowry to the bride‘s family as a thank you for the gift of their daughter.  More speeches, traditional dance and song, and the requisite round of Fanta or Coca follow.

The beautiful ceremony you see here took place in the yard of a Kigali home, decorated with tents and grass mats.  Caitlin and I felt so grateful for the opportunity to attend, despite the internet-order bride jokes the MC made at our expense…

The wedding party. The bride is reaching for her ceremonial drink, which she and the groom share.
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Traditional dancing and clothing. Male dancers sometimes wear huge manes of yellow hair on their heads, too.
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Speeches!
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More dancing. The singers and drummers are just out of sight to the left. I wish our connection were fast enough to upload any video. Rwandan dance has this gentle, bird-like strength and energy.
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And, time for soda. Can you spot the Fanta bottles between the beautifully woven banana leaves and the women in their mishananas?

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