On Saturday August 09, Hamadi Munyankore gave out his daughter, Bianca Munyankore Scott in holy matrimony at the Ahava River Wedding and Conference Hall, in Kicukiro.
The pride and confidence with which he did this was simply enviable. His short, tight, precise and well-articulated speech as he took to the microphone was punctuated by lengthy and rousing hand-claps from the 600-strong wedding guests that filled the spacious wedding hall.
Just minutes to the wedding, Munyankore had personally ushered in his daughter to the venue, arriving in style as the only occupants of a chauffeured cream Toyota Land Cruiser.
“As I look at this beautiful woman before me, and the lovely wedding gown, I can’t help but reflect on the girl she once was, and the woman she has become,” he opened to a resounding bout of clapping, continuing:
“She became daddy’s girl the day she was born, and she has always been precious to me. She has brought Joy to her mother, my beautiful wife, and me. While not everyday has been perfect, the love I have for her has always been. Today, she has joined hands with this wonderful young man, Jacques. In addition to the sparkle I have always seen in her eyes, I can see today a love and joy beyond anything I have seen so far.
Today, Bianca and Jacques have completed each other, and they are now a family unit. Please join me in wishing my daughter Bianca and my son-in-law Jacques every happiness possible, and a long, joyful life as husband and wife. Thank you.”
The couple was declared husband and wife by Sheikh Ndabishoboye Ali, the resident Imam at the Al-Fat’hu Mosque in Nyamirambo.
The Munyankores are a Rwandan family that has lived in Europe since the early 1990s. In 1996, the family relocated to England, where they still live to this day.
At the time the family relocated, Bianca recalls that she was “just months old, according to what my mum tells me”.
According to her, Rwanda has always been her country, but only in name:
“All these years, I had only managed to visit Rwanda twice, on short family visits. Since I was born, I have only lived in the country for a total of about 2-3 months.”
Still, Bianca considers herself Rwandan enough: “Back in England where my family lives, my parents had always taught me to know the importance of my culture and roots,” she says. Indeed, today, she speaks Kinyarwanda just as fluently and easily as she does English.
How Bianca and Jacques met:
Here, the bride offers to go first:
“He (Jacques Scott) is in the US military service. At the time we met, in 2011, he had been stationed in England for three years, and his military base was nearby the university I was attending in Oxford (Oxford Brookes University).”
How the two actually hooked up is that one day, Bianca and her friends went out to eat, in Oxford.
“I remember we were in a long queue to go and get our food; we had been waiting for such a long time, and then suddenly, all I remember is (him) and his friends came and jumped the queue ahead of us,” says Bianca.
“We were just hanging out,” Jacques interjects playfully, before pausing for his bride to continue:
She says: “He went in front of us, and I was like … who is this guy? I don’t know who these boys think they are. How dare they come in front of us after we had been waiting for so long? So he turns around and kind of signals for me to go in front of him. I was like no …you should have told me that before. There is no use of offering to come in front of you now.”
Irked by the aggressive behavior, she was now interested in knowing who these ‘boys’ were, and where they hailed from:
Bianca says she was interested in hearing Jacques’s accent because; “I wanted to know where he was coming from. When I asked, he told me he was from the US. We kept talking and he told me he was in the military service, which was really funny because before, I never went in for the military types.”
Somehow, the two became friends, and soon, started dating.
About four months into the relationship, the two encountered their first test, as Jacques was posted to Afghanistan, where he would spend six months.
“When he was about to return to England, I travelled to Rwanda to visit. Before I left for Rwanda, he told me, ‘Let’s get married in the future’. He was always interested in Rwanda in general, and how it is.
One year into the relationship, Bianca returned to Rwanda for a Rwandese wedding and this time, Jacques asked her how the weddings in Rwanda fared with those in the US.
“I told him it’s a very elaborate process that takes days and involves many people. When I told him this, he said; ‘Wow! That would be worth the long wait.’
He eventually returned to her from Afghanistan, and the two have remained a couple since.
“We spent a lot of time apart, but our relationship just grew stronger instead,” observes Jacques in retrospect.
Rwandan vs American weddings:
Here, Jacques goes first:
“In American culture when you get married to a girl you have to call up her dad, ask him for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and wish that he says ‘yes’. It’s not the whole community getting involved like is the case here.”
For her part Bianca says: “When he asked me to marry him I was like …yes, of course, but you have to call my dad first. I kept telling him that. It was really funny because my dad had just learnt we were in a relationship because you know in African culture, you don’t really get to open up straight away when you go into a relationship. You keep it to yourself until they marry you.”
On the concept of dowry
Here, the groom confesses that he did not know much about it from back in the US, so his bride had to break it down for him.
Asked about his opinion on dowry, Jacques said: “I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard in my life. I understood there were some cultures where you had to pay something in exchange for the bride, but I was like …why should I have to pay?”
“In the end, I paid $ 10,000, but she is worth it, don’t you think”, he asks rhetorically. “I realised how important it all was to me. I had to give in, and pay the dowry because I knew I couldn’t live without her.
For the dowry, he had a choice between offering cows, or hard cash, and he chose the second option: “I mean, 2014…what’s the purpose of cows?” he asks with a chuckle.
Inevitably, issues of nationality and identity were at play, as Bianca explains:
“We chose here for our wedding because I had never really lived in my own country, yet now that I’m married, I would be relocating to the US soon.”
She had similar concerns about Jacque’s own identity: “What I know of most black Americans is that they don’t really know their background and what culture they originate from. What we wanted to do was basically hold a traditional wedding here so that in the future, generations of our children and grand children would have a place to call home.”