Every culture has its own unique stamp of identity characterized by traditions, values and norms that make it distinctive.
Over the centuries we have seen that the old African traditions are gradually fading away as we adopt western traditions and slowly conform to western influence, this continues to happen right before our eyes.
Marriage is a significant part of life in all African traditions as it bestows respect and is the context within which family lines are extended. This is one area where we see a substantial increase of western influence.
Weddings in Africa have always involved ceremonies and traditional engagements where a lot of importance is placed on family and culture. However these days most African families conduct two weddings; the traditional wedding and a modern western church wedding.
How did this all begin? One popular notion follows that the missionaries who came to Africa not only brought religion but also their own traditions, such as wedding in a church.
They influenced natives with Christianity and their other traditions some of which include wearing western attire and wedding in a church. This influence has grown through the years.
Polygamous marriages have been a long-standing practice in many parts of Africa and are even acceptable in some religions found on the continent. These marriages still exist and are legal in Nigeria, Gambia and South Africa.
Even though polygamy is legal in various countries, other African nations have made them illegal, and more continue to do so. Could this also be a result of the Western influence?
Polygamous marriages are condemned by the west and the Christian religion discourages it. It is true that these marriages have become less common today; this may be due to Western influence.
After all Christianity, which was brought to our forefathers has become a widespread religion that is practiced by many Africans who live by the bible’s instructions which don’t support polygamy.
The economic cost of sustaining polygamous families, yet alone monogamous marriages, has increased with the higher cost of living. This is a contributing factor to the increase of monogamous marriages as a practiced norm.
Formal education is another form of western influence that was introduced by missionaries and colonialists. Nowadays more and more Africans, both men and women are getting married at a later age as compared to those one or two generations ago.
It could be due to the fact that less arranged marriages are being enforced because parents have realized that education is the hope of our future.
As a result parents, with the support of governments are placing more importance on education for sons and daughters rather than continuing the tradition of arranged marriages, and rightfully so! As a result several women today are highly ambitious and do not hurry to get married because of the desire to pursue a career wholeheartedly or to provide themselves with a platform on which they will be able to contribute to the needs of their family whether nuclear or extended.
Although African weddings and traditions have been influenced in countless ways, do not despair as there are various aspects of African tradition that are still standing strong. Unfortunately the scope of this article does not allow me to explore them.