The festival of Tihar in Nepal

This week marks the celebration of Tihar in Nepal. The festival takes five days and everyday is marked differently.

Worship/blessing is marked by placing Tikka on the forehead.

Day one –  the day of the Crow

Day two – today- is the day of the Dog

Day three – the day to worship the goddess of wealth. Lots of gambling takes place on this day

Day four – You can worship anything you want including yourself depending on your cultral belief. Some communities worship the ox because it is valued.

Day five – The sisters bless the brothers. One person told me that  ” Dashain is all about getting blessings from an elder person while in Tihar brothers get a blessing from the sisters bless eachc other.

Tihar aso happens to fall with Deewali ) The festival of Lights.

You can read more about this festival HERE

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ugali is to Kenyans what Daal Bhat is to Nepalese

About a mouth ago I posted this question to my friends under the FK programme –“What unique lessons have you learnt from you host countries in the last six months? “

The truth is I expected some deep and philosophical answers..but to my surorise the most interesting responses I received were related to food!

The first responses I received was from a Nepali – Nageena Jha wh is in service in Tanzania  – “I have learnt how to cook Mandazi!!! “

Mandazi also called mahamri  (when made with coconut milk)[s a form of fried bread that is popular in the coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania.

Most people haveit as a snack or as an accompaniment with tea. You can find the recipe at Kenyascooking.com who have copyrights to this image

The second about food was from a Tanzania posted to Kenya – ” I can prepare githeri, ndoma, terere and managu.. Ugali !!!

Though Kenya has many different  foods, in conversations with my friends from Kenya who leave abroad, the one food they say they miss is UGALI.  Even I couldn’t resist mentioning Ugali as being a Staple food whne talking about my experience in Nepal. Simply put Ugali si ti Kenyans what Dal Bhat is to Nepalese.

So how is Ugali prepared? Well all you need is water and cornmeal! The amount of water and cornmeal(Flour) depends on how many people you are preparing the meal for.  Enough talking from me…let this two Kenyans leaving abroad who obviosuly missed Ugali show you how it is prepared…It takes about 25 to 30 minutes to be ready.

If you prefer recipes….CLICK HERE

And indeed when  leaving away from home country among the many things you miss about your country is food!

My reaction to the mention of this staple foods from Kenay got me homesick! It also reminded me how food is closely connected to different cultures and celebrations.Juts happy that at-least in Nepal we can get all varieties of food and can also make Ugali using SUJI.

Simple put Ugali is to Kenyans what Dal Bhat is to Nepalese. I wonder, what is the staple food in your country? Or Community? How is it prepared? You are welcome to share the same in the comments.

 

Posted in African Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Weddings in Nigeria

This is a second article in a series of articles about Africa. The article has been written following numerous  requests on more about African culture  from my blog followersin Nepal. This article was written by Udoka a law student from Nigeria. The first article was on  Uganda Weddings. This article focuses on Wedding ceremonies by the Igbo community of Nigeria

The average Nigerian experiences 2 to 3 ceremonies before they can be accepted as man and wife in the eyes of their communities, their religion and even the law; or as we like to put it – the traditional wedding, the Christian (white) or Muslim wedding and the court wedding. Every ethnic group and tribe has their own unique traditional wedding ceremonies; some even differ from one community to the other.

The Igbos, or Ibos for better pronunciation, are the indigenous people located in the South East geopolitical zone of Nigeria. I hail from this community.We celebrate when one of our own gets married, and we celebrate even more when one of our own passes away and one must bear in mind that a traditional Igbo celebration, especially our weddings, does not just involve only the potential bride and groom, but their immediate and extended families, friends and the entire village.

No Igbo marriage truly begins without what we call “Ikwu Aka” or, the “knocking”, but popularly referred to as The Introduction. This is where the families of the potential bride and groom are officially “introduced” to each other; where the family of the bride are made aware of the intentions of the groom.  Depending on traditions observed, this might either take one to several visits by the groom and his family to that of the bride’s. When my sister was getting married, my brother in law  and his family paid a visit our home to meet  with my sisters male relatives ( father, unlces ,brothers and male cousins) to ask her hand in marriage.

Gifts were  are not required at this point, but that did not stop my soon to be brother in law’s family from giving them. Such gifts may include but do not exclude kolanuts, wines (alcoholic/non-alcoholic) and wrappers (Nigerian/Holland prints).

My brother in law to be and his family were  asked questions about their background, livelihood, lifestyle, habits and other issues that  our  families ( brides family)  might feel affect their daughter if and when she would be married to the seeking groom. This is usually done by the male members of the bride’s family and has a tendency to be gruelling and time consuming.

After he had married my sister , my brother in law told me that during the introduction,  he felt like he was being investigated for a murder.

After this, assuming both parties are satisfied with the other, they would happily congratulate each family on the intending nuptials and progress into eating and drinking as a pre-celebration of the main event: the Igba Nkwu.

After the familes come into agreement during the Ikwu Aka preparations for the main event commence. The “Igba Nkwu” or traditional wedding is usually held at the paternal family home of the bride to be. In my sisters case, because we were born in Lagos and lived in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria for most of our lives, this meant that we had to journey to the South eastern part of the country to our ancestral home.

The Igba Nkwu is done primarily for the acknowledgement of one’s indigenous community that their daughter or son is married. The whole village is invited, or more aptly, the entire village may invite themselves for the event, depending on the communal standing of family. And depending on this, your wedding may either become a family get together or a community event. In addition to being a very prestigious officer in the Nigerian Army, my father was a Chief in our community and was a much respected man in our state. It is safe to say that my sister’s wedding went beyond a community event.

An Igbo traditional wedding has the reputation of being quite expensive. Several reasons give it this bad reputation which oftentimes may be why some shrink from the thought of marrying from the south east. After the introduction, the intending groom would have been handed a list of items to present at the traditional wedding. The list usually is an obligatory part of completing the Igba Nkwu and failure to meet the requirements might mean disaster for both parties. Like most aspects of an Igba Nkwu, the list is symbolic and addresses different aspects and groups present at the wedding.

UMUADA (ALL KINDRED DAUGHTERS)

Wrappers and Blouses– (George/Hollandis/Nigerian Wax)

  • Jewellery
  • Head ties and Shoes (Different types and colours)
  • Hand bags and wrist watches (Different types and colours)
  • Toiletries (Body creams, bathing soaps, washing detergents, etc.)
  • Beverages and food items
  • Cash gift (lump sum) –Ogwe ego
  • Drinks (Malt & Minerals)

The Umuada (All Kindred Daughters) comprise of the female members of the community. The list above depends from village to village. In our town, Nando, the women were given money instead of gifts; while in some communities, the list above may not even be enough for them to let the bride to be come out of father’s house. This also applies for the Umunna (All Kindred Brothers).

NMANYA UKWU (BIG WINE) – KINSMEN (UMUNNA) To be shared amongst the heads of the extended family of the bride to be

  • Bottles of Seaman’s Schnapps (millennium brand)
  • Kolanuts
  • Gallons of Palmwine
  • Cartons of Beer, Malt and Mineral drinks
  • Heads of Tobacco with potash
  • Rolls of cigarettes
  • 1 goat
  • Cash gift (Lump sum) – Ego Umu’Nna

N’MEPE UZO (OPENING OF GATE) – GENERAL

  • 30 tubers of Yam
  • 2 bags of Rice
  • 2 bags of Salt
  • 15 cartons of drinks (alcoholic and non alcoholic)
  • 30 bulbs of onions
  • 1 gallon of red Palm oil (10 -25 litres)
  • 1 gallon of Groundnut oil (25 litres)
  • A basin of Okporoko (Stockfish)
  • 2 pieces of Goat leg (Ukwu Anu ewu)
  • 1 carton of Tin Tomatoes
  • 1 carton of Tin Milk
  • 1 carton of Tablet soap
  • 1 gallon of Kerosene
  • 5 pieces of George/Hollandis/Nigerian Wax
  • 1 Big Box (Apati)
  • 2 Big Basins
  • 2 pieces of Igbo Blouse
  • 2 pieces of Headties (Nchafu)
  • Ikpo Onu Aku Nwayi” (Bride price) – Negotiable

The list above may vary and in some cases, the bride’s family may waive them and only insist on meeting the requirements of the first two lists.

There are several stages to an Igba Nkwu. One of which is the groom’s party arrival. They arrive in fanfare: drummers beating vigorously at traditional drums to the tune of the oja (small wooden flutes), in turn to the beat of the ogene (small metal gongs) to the quick but sure rhythm of the dancers steps and, announcing their arrival to “pluck the beautiful flower from the grounds”. The dancers are there to entertain the crowd for the groom’s benefit and attempt to outdo each other.

The groom wore a pullover shirt called ‘Isiagu’ or ‘Ishi Agu’, patterned with Lions heads and could be short or long sleeved, over a plain coloured trouser (preferably black). In recent times, especially where the groom is not Igbo, the intending groom may choose to wear any other embroidered material including Brocade, Jacquard or Lace over a plain coloured trouser. You can accessorise your attire with the traditional Igbo men’s hat ‘Okpu Agu’ (a red or black hat), coral beads and a fashionable walking stick.

The Bride with her bride maid in contemporary dresses

After the groom’s arrival, the bride and other female members of her family come out into the compound to greet the guests and the groom and his party. She would either be dressed in the more contemporary style of sewn or tied African wax (Ankara), Hollandis (Holland Wax) or George worn as a strapless dress above her knee or in the more traditional maiden style, tied as a skirt with another piece of material covering her bosom, revealing only a glimpse of her stomach. For her accessories, she would be adorned with ‘Jigida’ (waist beads), ‘Ihe Olu’ (coral beads), ‘Ihe Nti, Ihe Aka’ (wrist chains, rings and earrings – could be made of beads). And armed with this attire, the bride makes an entrance to greet her future husband and family.

After the groom and his party takes a good look at the future bride, male members of the bride’s family and the groom’s family go into the house to discuss privately the urgent matter of the “Ikpo Onu Aku Nwanyi” (Bride price).

The bride price used to have the dubious reputation for being the most expensive thing about an Igbo wedding, especially for the groom in question. But in modern times, most families only recognise the Bride Price as a symbolic and ceremonial aspect of the Igbo culture. In fact, my sister’s bride price was a total of One Thousand, Eight Hundred and Eighty Five Naira (1885) only, using one of all the Nigerian denominations. This of course depends on the bride’s family and from one community to the other.

The bride gives the groom some palm wine

After this very important aspect of the Igba Nkwu has been decided upon, next is where the playing begins: The Palm Wine Chase. Here the bride to be is given a cup of Palm Wine, a local drink tapped from Palm Trees, to go and search for her husband. Her mission is to go amongst the crowd accompanied by her handmaidens and identify her husband from the guests present. In theory, if she picked a man who was not her intended, then technically she would be married to him. To make it more difficult, the groom would be hidden within the crowd and whenever the bride to be came closer to him, he would move to another location amongst the guest, until somehow he would be trapped, tracked and given the cup of palm wine. If he accepts and drinks all the wine in the cup, he declares that he is willing and ready to become her husband.

And finally, when all has been said and done, the real celebrations begin!

As evening approaches, the new bride must gather her things to accompany her husband and his family to his village or house, for she is no longer her father’s daughter and therefore cannot stay in his house any longer. She now, in a sense, belongs to her husband and is a member of his family.

The list above may vary and in some cases, the bride’s family may waive them and only insist on meeting the requirements of the first two lists.

There are several stages to an Igba Nkwu. One of which is the groom’s party arrival. They arrive in fanfare: drummers beating vigorously at traditional drums to the tune of the oja (small wooden flutes), in turn to the beat of the ogene (small metal gongs) to the quick but sure rhythm of the dancers steps and, announcing their arrival to “pluck the beautiful flower from the grounds”. The dancers are there to entertain the crowd for the groom’s benefit and attempt to outdo each other.

The groom wore a pullover shirt called ‘Isiagu’ or ‘Ishi Agu’, patterned with Lions heads and could be short or long sleeved, over a plain coloured trouser (preferably black). In recent times, especially where the groom is not Igbo, the intending groom may choose to wear any other embroidered material including Brocade, Jacquard or Lace over a plain coloured trouser. You can accessorise your attire with the traditional Igbo men’s hat ‘Okpu Agu’ (a red or black hat), coral beads and a fashionable walking stick.

After the groom’s arrival, the bride and other female members of her family come out into the compound to greet the guests and the groom and his party. She would either be dressed in the more contemporary style of sewn or tied African wax (Ankara), Hollandis (Holland Wax) or George worn as a strapless dress above her knee or in the more traditional maiden style, tied as a skirt with another piece of material covering her bosom, revealing only a glimpse of her stomach. For her accessories, she would be adorned with ‘Jigida’ (waist beads), ‘Ihe Olu’ (coral beads), ‘Ihe Nti, Ihe Aka’ (wrist chains, rings and earrings – could be made of beads). And armed with this attire, the bride makes an entrance to greet her future husband and family.

Learnn more about the author and her thoughts on Women Empowerment on her World Pulse Journal

Posted in African Culture | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A NOMA weekend in Nepal….

How was your weekend? Well mine was a Noma weekend. In Kenya , that means my weekend was great ! The word Noma is slang for good or great depending on the context. However in this case it literally means NOMA – which stands for Norad Programme for Masters studies – (NOMA) – A project fianced by the Norwegian Development Coooperation.

Yesterday Sunday was the oipenning ceremony of a  NOMA workshop at the Mt. Hotel in Nepal that saw students, faculty memebers and partners meet for a seminar.

Nepal Vice President (left), Ambassador of Norway (centre)and Ambassador of Egyt (right) during the openning of NOMA seminar in Nepal.

The openning ceremony was officicated by the Hon Vice President of Nepal while other Cheif guests inclcuded the Norwegian Ambassador to Nepal, The ambassador of the Arab republic of Egypt , Ambasador of Bangladesg among other Professor;s key among them Prof Thore Roksvold of Oslo University College who played a key part in setting up the partnership with CJMC, the hosts to the seminars.

 

Here is trhe event in pictures

First the area was secured thanks to the sniffer dogs

 

 

The refreshments table was set and ready for guests

 

Participants  listening to the welcome speech

Hod Dr. Moustafa Gidi Ambassador of Egypy giving a speech during the ceremony

 

Ambassador of Norway to Nepal said he was deeply moved by the moment of silent observed for the victimd of the Terrosrims act observed at the beginning of the ceremony. He emphasized the eimportance of communication in promoting tolerance stating the though the media is important in education we ( everyone) are all responsible for creating awareness on education and public interest issues.

A journalist records the Vice presidents speech during the occassion/

During the coffee break we took a photo with the ambassador of Egypt. He has been like a father to us during our stay in Nepal. Egyot is the ony Africann Embassy in Nepal.

We also met our long time friend Nirnaya Da’Nask , Nepal’s  leading hiphop artist who uses his status as an artist to promote education in Nepal through hos foundations Nirnya Tour for education.  He also hosts  a radio show every Friday and Saturday, To this day, he is the mosts down to earth celebrity I have met despite the many awards he has won.Look out for his feature article soon!  You gonna love him!!!

Posted in Beauty of Nepal | Leave a comment

Bhakthapur the most elegant of all squares…

UNESCO  has included seven monument sites of Kathmandu valley in the World Cultural heritage list. Of the the seven sites three are centred around the ancient medieval palaces of the valley namely Hanuman Dhoka Dhoka Durbar (apalace in Kathmandu, Patan Durbar in Patan (Lalitpur)  and Bakthapue Durbar inBhaktapur. These palace complexes were the residences of Maalla kings.

Yesterday I  had achnce to visit Bhakthapur ans sthese are some of the photos I took from the visit.

Lion carving to left of the entrance of Bhaktapur square

Among the three Durbar squares , Bhaktapur Durbar square is by far the most elegant with large open spaces facing south.

The large open spaces

Seated on far end (the right side of the sqaure)  are tourist taking a break as they take photos of the square .

An art museum

To the left of the square is an art museum filled with interesting artifacts and stories of the square.

Siddhi Laxmi temple (centre) also known as Lohan Kega because it is made entirely of stone.

This is right at the centre of the square just after walking into the gate.

The Golden gate leading to the palace pool. The gate dates to 1754 A.D and was built by King Rana Jit Malla

To the left of the golden gate is the 55 curved window palace

To the left is a section of the golden gate and to the right is the palace of 55 curved windows.

The palaceof 55 curved windows have added splendor to this palace square which consists of buildings dating from the 13th to the 18th century.

Me - ready to venture into the golden gate!!!

From the other side of the golden gate. I could see the differently curved windows than those at the front.

Some of the curvings

More windows

Finally we get to the pool. Right after the golden gate is a path leading to the pool while on  the left side is a Hindu temple and no photoraphy is allowed here. Only Hindus are allwoed into the temple. Inside the gate is a  pool with an attire compartment and a terrace on top for sunbathing…

The pool. On the left side is the attire closet. I took a pick in and there was hay inside..:-)

One of the golden spouts

These two spouts are found at the far end of the pool side

After the poolside to return to the pool gate to see the rest of the temples in the square. One thing to note is that Bhaktapur city has suffered much from earthquakes especially those of 1808,1833 and 1934. The earthquakes caused intensive damage to its ancient buildings. Yet despite the destruction ,the external appearance of the city does not seem to have changed much.  Temples and monuments have been restored and preserved. here are some of the temples we saw.

Siddhi Laxmi temple (centre) also known as Lohan Kega because it is made entirely of stone

Siddhi laxmi temple also known as Lohan Dega because it is made entirely of stone. The Shikhara style temple is guarded by creatures like lions, camels, rhinoceruos and horses all of which are extremely rare in the valley

More temples

And Finally – the main attraction of the square – The five story temple – Nyatapola temple.

 

The five stories of Nyatapola temple gives it a towering height making it the tallest in the country. This grand temple is a masterpiece of Nepali architecture and was built by King Bhupatinndra in Mallla in 1702.

My friend Cathy and I at the steps of Nyatapola temple

A big thanks to my friend Gita for taking us on a tout to Bhaktapur

There are many other attractions in Kathmandu including the four  other heritage sites namely are Swayambu Maha Chaitya ,Boudhanath Stupa , the temple complex of Lord Pashupatinath in Kathmandu amd the Changa Narayan Temple in Bakthapur.  Right after Bhakthapur we set of to Swayambunath. Stay tuned for pictures of this visit!!!

Posted in Beauty of Nepal | Tagged | 5 Comments

A visit to Bakthapur and Swayambunath

Today was an exceptionaly good day,  Gita Chaudrey FK exchange participant from Nepal to Zambia is in Kathmandu for her home visit. So early this morning we got a call from her asking whether we would be willing to take a tour of Kathmandu in the afternoon. ofcourse we said yes!

ME @ Durbar Square, Bhaktapur

So at three o’clock we( Cathy from Uganda and I) met Gita. Our fisrt stop was Bakthapur a UNESCO world heritage site. Here we spent an hour taking photos and marveling and the wonderful handicrafts  of ages past

A view of the main stupa at Syayambunath at around 5.45pm on 13th October 2011

The second stop was to Swayambunath better know as Monkey temple. ….We had such a great time chatting, taking photos ….and keeping away from the many monkeys ! Unfortunately with  winter  approaching it gets drak early and so though we got there at 5.00pm we couldnt stay long so we took just a few photos with an intent to visit earlier. This place also offers a perfect view of the Kathmandu valley…..More photos coming soon!!!

I appreciate Gita for showing us this two beautiful places and for her hospitality!

UPDATE on 15 -10 -2011  you can now see the picture story from Bhaktapur tour  HERE

Posted in Beauty of Nepal | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Kwanjula marked by gifts and food

This is part three of the article – Kwanjua, a Baganda the wedding ceremony.  A guest post by Cathy from Uganda.

In Part one we learnt  was all about the Okukyala. Before the “kwanjula” ceremony, the bride has to first take her husband to be to her parents for their approval in a mini ceremony known as “Okukyala”-home visitation and the role of Ssenga (the Auntie to the bride) in preparing the bride to be ready for Marriage,. Part two  highlighted the role of the spokesman during the Kwanjula and the  in idebtifying the bride.  This part explainpnes after the bride is identified

The same applies to the other lot of sisters until the bride is identified.  It is a norm and tradition in Buganda for the females to kneel before a male and the elderly despite the sex. It is also seen as a sign of respect.

Finally when the bride is identified among the women who have assembled, the groom’s sister gives the bride a flower. This moment is followed by ululations and jubilation. The bride at this moment is very happy. She dances for her day and for fortune.

After identifying the bride, the Groom also has to be identified among the visitors. He has to first sit behind until he is identified by the Ssenga. The Groom also does not talk much during the ceremony. The Ssenga dances to the rhythm of the music being played as she looks for the Groom. When she identifies him, she escorts him to his special seat before announcing to everyone that he the groom is the man who had gathered people here. Everybody at this moment is happy and everybody is clapping, while others are ululating.

The rest of the ceremony is as interesting as the gifts which have to be presented to the girl’s parents and relatives. The gifts are brought and allocated to the different beneficiaries and the hosts lay their demands and wishes on the new family. However before the gifts are handed over, the hosts spokesman has to ask the bride and ssenga- whether they should accept the gifts. If they accept, the audience claps and ululates.

“Bibos” which are papyrus made baskets are a must in any Buganda marriage. The medium size baskets usually contain all kinds of fruits and vegetables which the groom has to bring to the ceremony. However there are specific vegetables like egg plants (Ntula and Biringanya) which are considered as cultural taboo and shouldn’t be brought on that day. If the vegetables are taken, it may lead to the man being fined or denied the bride altogether.
The gifts

Apart from the vegetables, the baskets should also contain a good number of loaves of bread, sugar, salt, soap, paraffin n, cooking oil, curry powder, sugar, meat and it is usually the thigh and a host of related items.

As a sign of appreciation to the girl’s parents and relatives, the groom has to bring “Kanzus” for the father in-Laws and brother in-laws, “Gomesis” (boarding) for mother in-laws and for the aunties (Ssengas).  The “Kanzu” and “Gomesi” are cultural dresses for males and females respectively. These are a must. The bride also has to get a special gift of a suitcase containing clothing and other basic things that she will need.

Besides the food and clothing, the groom has to prepare money which is put in different envelopes for the father in-law, mother in-law, aunties (ssengas), and brother in-laws. He also has to bring a cock specifically for the brother in Law. Depending on the agreement made the groom has to bring either a she goat or a cow for that matter.

The groom is also required to buy a marriage certificate from Buganda kingdom to show that His respect and support for the cultural monarchy.

Money and wealth have become a dictating factor in most Kwanjula ceremonies. Too much attachment is put into what one has brought as gifts. And also both the bride and groom face a lot of pressure from the relatives who want to outshine any “kwanjula” ceremony they have attended.  The Kwanjula ceremony is complete with exchange of rings and cutting the cake to crown the ceremony.

Kwanjula ceremony gives pride to both parents and the new couple. The community treats and looks at both families with high respect and dignity. The whole process takes almost the whole day ending with jubilation, dancing, and feasting.

                                              The In-Laws enjoying luwombo

The In-laws are served a special meal known as the “Luwombo”. Luwombo is basically stew that is wrapped and steamed in banana leaves for a few hours without getting it to touch the water or oil. There are many varieties of luwombo and the most common is chicken and beef with peanut sauce.

The glamour and entourage from both families including the exciting speech from the spokesperson makes kwanjula a ceremony one has to attend to understand how interesting and engaging it is.

Posted in African Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment