Gufata Irembo; The traditional engagement

When Racheal met Didier (not real names), they automatically fell deeply in love. Their one dream was making it official. Didier says it was an uphill challenge to both, especially in regard with the culture.
The hosts are supposed to be smart and descent in Imishanana-Rwanda traditional wear
The hosts are supposed to be smart and descent in Imishanana-Rwanda traditional wear

When Racheal met Didier (not real names), they automatically fell deeply in love. Their one dream was making it official. Didier says it was an uphill challenge to both, especially in regard with the culture.

“As a young couple, we were totally green about what is done traditionally before going to church,” says Didier.
The couple had sound information about Gufata Irembo but they merely knew what it involves and why it’s done.

“I thought of it as indirect denial by her family. Didn’t they trust their daughter’s choice,” explains Didier.

Since the two had found themselves compatible for each other, they only realized how important it was during the whole process.

According to Straton Nsanzabaganwa, Gufata Irembo is very important since time immemorial, no marriage preparations can go on before this step.

“This is a primary stage where the boy’s family officially books the girl for their son’s marriage,” says Nsanzabaganwa.

Nsanzabaganwa works with Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture.

He says that throughout the history of Rwanda, marriage has been regarded a grade of maturity and respect. Marriage was also only meant for procreation so that families can have inheritors.

And because of this, it was the parents’ responsibility to get for their children spouses when the right age reached.
“Unlike today where boys and girls meet with their lovers first and later inform the parents, in the past it was the parents’ role,” he affirms.

The search was done by aunties and uncles from the boy’s side. The relative who brought the good news about a beautiful girl somewhere fit for their son would be known as “Umuranga”.

The crucial part after discovering a suitable soulmate for the boy would do ‘Gufata Irembo’ .This was meant to put off other would be potential competitors. It was more of engagement.

“It was organized that the boy’s family would visit the girl’s family to show interest in marrying their daughter,” says Beatrice Kantengwa.

She emphasizes that marriage was basically meant between families. The boy and girl in question would never meet until the introduction ceremony {Gusaba}.
Martha Kayirebwa refers to ‘Gufata Irembo as giving the meant to be in-law authority over the girl, unless something changes.

“Irembo means the main entrance to a home. On the contrary ‘icyanzu’ means the minor entrance.

If a family was bold enough to visit with intentions of getting a wife from a specific home, then it meant they had passed though the main entrance,”Kairebwa explains.

How I booked Her

As he narrates, Didier describes ‘Gufata Irembo’as something that requires less material but discipline.
After battling with his uncles whether he should or shouldn’t go, they finally allowed him but warned him about seeing the fiancée.

“I was told that it’s a taboo for the husband to be and his father to go for the booking ceremony.

In the past it would make the girl’s parents have second thoughts about the give away since they considered other family antisocial and without friends to send,” explains.

Getting hold of their parcel which consisted of local brew {Urwagwa}, a few crates of beers and soft drinks and a hoe, they set off.

Formerly “Traditionally it was only local brew [Urwagwa] that was used for the ceremony but today the generation has changed,” says Nsanzabaganwa.

Didier’s delegation finally arrived. It was comprised of ten elderly men, him being the Eleventh. One of them was named the chief in-law {Umukwe Mukuru} since he was to be the talk on behalf of the boy’s side.

“We were warmly received though we kept a low profile for we had been warned that any indiscipline noticed would cost us dearly,” said Didier.

On the girl’s side, their role was to ensure total neatness at home. And as they waited for the guests, they prepared food and some local brew for it’s what the culture recommends.

“Food was ready before our guests arrived but we couldn’t serve without them,” says Rachel.

According to Nsanzabaganwa, Sharing alcohol between both families is a sign that they have united upon the same goal.

Following that, the guests’ chief speaker mentions the reason they have visited and in name clarifies the girl they’re interested in.

When both parties agree, they set the date for a formal introduction, when to bring gifts of appreciation to the girl’s parents so that she can be taken for good.

“Gifts are a sign of appreciation to the girl’s family. It was a taboo to mention the number of cattle, money or materials since it was seen as selling off your daughter for wealth,” says Nsanzabaganwa.

Though there was no agreed upon amount to be paid, the boy’s family was also challenged to think of gifts that would suite the beauty of bride to b.

Though Gufata Irembo confirmed engagement, it never guaranteed that nothing would change.

After this ceremony, the girl’s family would dig into details about the boy’s family and character. “If he came from an ill mannered family, he would be rejected at once.

Ill manners involved theft, unfaithfulness or laziness,” explains Kayirebwa. Kairebwa attributes rejection to economic differences between the two families.

“It was known as [Kwisumbukuruza], when a very poor family wanted a bride from a wealthy family,” she says.
However, depending on his sociability and good behavior, a poor boy would successfully get a bride from a wealthy family.

In the summerising speech when Didier was officially engaged to Racheal, he finally understood the significance of Gufata Irembo.

“It’s a must ceremony for everyone who intends to walk down the aisle of marriage, its useful in strengthening the bond between the two families,”comfirmed Didier