The people called “Bwatiye” popularly known as “Bachama” just like any other ethnic group have their customs and traditions which serve as norms in their day to day activities.
Custom is said to be a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted rules, norms, standards or criteria, often taking the form of a custom according to Wikipedia Dictionary.
Having understood what custom is, we can now see that the people called Bwatiye have their set of rules or standards by which they live their lives. The word Bwatiye actually was coined from the word ‘Bwara’ or ‘Bwata’ singular, meaning human, while Bwatiye plural means humans or people. A Bwata man regard himself as ‘human’ due to his way of behavior which means there are certain behaviours that you exhibit and he will look at you and say, you are not human. While a Bwata man calls himself Bwara; he sees and call otherh people ‘Nzo kwasome’ singular or ‘Ji Kwasomye’ plural meaning person or people with different dialect or language. Bwatiye people bear another name which had come to become popular which is “Bachama”, meaning to glean, gather or adopt, hence the adoption of cluster ethnic groups into the Bwatiye. For more on this, please refer to An Overview of Bachama History from https://adigaproductions.wordpress.com.
The main occupation of the Bwatiye people are fishing, farming and hunting and later civil service and military service.
Just like any ethnic group, the Bwatiyes have their way of conducting marriages, the do’s and don’ts. Even though with the globalization and influence of civilization, all this have changed. In this discussion, we will not go deep into the traditional marriage but we will just touch some aspects for the purpose of our study. However, in our subsequent publications, we will bring the full details of the Bwatiye traditional marriage; just follow us as we move on.
In Africa generally, marriage is preceded by so many rituals without which the marriage would not be seen as legal or valid: the defaulters may even be threatened just because they fail to meet some traditional obligations ranging from barrenness to failure of the marriage. In order to run away from such, you are forced in one way or the other to do the ritual despite your new belief and the so called civilization. As a young man of marriageable age, when you see a girl that you would like to marry, tradition demands that you first talk to your parents about her; your parents in turn will conduct an investigation on her and her people. This investigation is important for the following reasons:
- Whether she is from a good family.
- Whether they are witches and wizards in their family.
- Whether they have thieves in their family.
- Whether they are wayward and so on.
This is done in order not to corrupt the lineage and also that their son marries from a very good home that they can be proud of. Having done that and satisfied, they will immediately notify their son and give their approval of which they will take a step and inform the parents of the girl in question. They too will conduct their investigation, and when satisfied, they will inform their daughter to know whether she will consent. Upon acceptance, they will begin what is known as courtship. During this period, they are not to be seen alone. She doesn’t visit him but rather he does the visiting in her parents’ house and they can only sit meters away from her father and have their discussion while he keeps an eye on them: When it is time for him to leave, she only sees him off to the gate and cannot go further than that. This is done to ensure transparency.
Engagement: This is a period where a suitor takes a step further to show his level of commitment by bringing items that will be required of him by the parents of the bride to be which of course is three mats and some token and also some wrappers. One mat is for the father, one for the mother and the bigger mat goes to the girl in question. Same thing goes with the token the man brings; the lion share goes to the girl, part of which she will use to buy what she will use to serve the suitor whenever he come visiting. It is important to note here that the mat that goes to the girl, no one else in that family is permitted to sit on that mat except the girl. This is what the man sits on whenever he come visiting. The next step is to arrange on the bride price; meanwhile, the suitor is expected to be helping his would be father in-law in his farm and to also build a hut for his father in-law. Once the bride price is settled, they immediately begin preparation towards their traditional marriage. This was the only marriage rites known to Bachama people then before the advent of Christianity. The girl is not expected to be seen with any other man other than her suitor and the payment of the bride price will give her the right to visit her suitor’s home, this is called “Na hwodiye”, literally to see the house. After which they can go ahead and marry.
Before the woman finally go to her husband’s house, she will get all the necessary items like cooking utensils, foodstuffs, items with which to decorate the house and others depending on the capability of her parents and relations: Relations and neighbors also contribute in one way or the other to ensure she doesn’t starve in her husband’s house. Haven prepared all these, then the bride and her friends and other relations will help her convey these items with the view to escort her to her husband’s house, while on their way, they would have to branch to see some elders who will give her wise counsel on how she should live her life with her husband and neighbors before finally going to the husband’s house; this is called “Lamato.” One of the important things which the women mostly consider is to part of walking round the village with all the items with the bride and her friends well dressed. This is done to show how much she has and is going to her husband’s house with. During this period, a cow that the father of the bride gave her will be slaughtered and the blood will be collected and cooked, which will be eaten by those present. It is important to state here that, after the lokai (wedding), the bride is not supposed to be seen in the market for a very long time because of the foodstuff she had taken to her husband’s house.
Please note that, I took the pains to write some of these details in order for you to see how greatly Christianity affected the Bwatiye people in respect to some of these practices.
The Influence of Christianity
Christianity came to Numan, Adamawa State in the year 1913 by a Danish Missionary of Sudan United Mission (SUM) called Neils Bronnum. Before this time, the Bwatiye were pagans who devoted their time in idol worship, they so much believe in demi gods until the coming of Christianity, all those faded with time.
The Bwatiye people’s acceptance of Christianity had greatly affected the way they do things. Christians among the Bwatiye people kicked against some of the traditions as they claimed is against their beliefs. Though at first, they met stiff resistance but eventually they prevailed and almost everybody is going that way now. For instance, beer was one of the items or refreshment you must provide at a wedding, but because the believers kicked against it, it has become an easy sail for even those that couldn’t have stood against the tradition or even the non believers. Thus, Christianity changed the way most of the things were done. Another typical example is “Poshi Lokai”, a situation where they would have to walk round the village with the bride’s belongings to proudly make a show of it, Christians believed it was pride and was therefore not necessary. As a matter of fact, in some churches, if you do that, the church washes her hands from your wedding! Some churches now especially where they wield a lot of influence over their members are even determining bride price so as not to over burden the young men and discourage them from getting married. The eating of blood of a slaughtered cow also is seen as a taboo by the Christians. It is important to state here that couples are not considered married until the pastor blesses their marriage and makes pronouncement; that is why the Christians while agreeing with some aspects of the tradition, rejected some and marry the good aspect together with Christian wedding (Church wedding). Even after the lokai, the lady either stays in the pastor’s house or in a relative’s house until when joined together in the church before she can move into her husband’s house even though in the eye of the tradition, they are already married.
In the area of names also, we can see that those that converted to Christianity adopted Christian names, and this has influenced even the pagans among the Bwatiyes to also adopt the Christian or western names. The Bwatiyes did not only embrace Christianity but they love it and that is why they stick to it all along.
At a later time, we shall bring you the full details of Bwatiye traditional marriage: We only pick some points and skip others because it was not the main subject of discussion. Hope you enjoyed it! You can comment, phone or email or join us in our social media. www.facebook.com/AdigaProductions, Twitter: @adiga productions, Google+ @Adigaproductions.