BOOK REVIEW: Behind the scenes in Wollof marriage

Friday, December 08, 2017

Wollof Marriage: narratives and interpretation of motives by Tijaan Kamara, Daaraji Publishers, 2017, 62 pages

This monograph of 63 pages deals with an essential aspect of the life cycle of the Wollof people who live in Senegambia: marriage rites and rituals. It is short by pagination but is a power dynamo by ideas, precepts and explanation given as regards this very essential aspect of the life of a community, namely marriages. The author about whom I shall talk about later, has assiduously and meticulously excised through the very complex rituals, ceremonies, and rites which envelop the alpha and omega of marriage amongst the Wollof.

Reading the book gives the right impression that among the Wollof marriage is the beginning of a very long series of protocols, processes and procedures. These include courtship or nobaan; tying of the marriage and its proclamation at the mosque or taka; the marriage protocols or ngoro; the bachekor’s eve or ngomarr; the wedding day and the consummation of the marriage and its aftermath.

At the same time, the author reflects on the pre-courtship issues such as caste of the bride or groom; the need to resort to a fortune teller before any move is made towards the marriage. One  page 6 the author explains that even though most Wollof marriages today are done in Muslim style, the fortune teller’s help and advice is always followed or keenly kept in mind through offer of sacrifice and charity, which have an animist element. He ascribes this tendency to be with the hare and the hounds to our triple heritage of Islamic, Western and African influences, p.7-8.

The role of Islam in Wollof marriage is underscored in this book. On page 15 for example, the author relates how a marriage is sealed upon recitation of relevant Suras from the Holy Koran; and in page 17, he  describes how marriage should be proclaimed  in Islam. But in his conclusion, he says that the ‘discourse on Wollof marriage cannot be exhausted….’ But was able to bring out the contrast between Islamic and the Wollof cultural practices in the entire marriage process. Certain rites in the Wollof marriage process are adapted from Islam; others remain strictly cultural while some are a mélange of the Islamic and the cultural.

We historians have for so long depended on the pioneer work of Western scholars like Prof. David Gamble on our secondary information on the Wollof. Now we have our own scholars writing about our own people. This is a development worthy of celebration.

To end, allow me to commend the author for bringing together this very useful and informative book. It is another addition to the growing corpus of works by Gambians on various subject. This book is recommended for each and every Gambian pupil, and for every book shelf.

Available at Timbooktoo tel 4494345