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Fulani Marriage: The Fulani Tribal Marriage ceremony

Updated on October 22, 2014

Geographical distribution of Fulani


The Fulani people are wide spread and can be found d in many countries in subgroups such as the Fulbe Bagirmi, Fulbe Sokoto, Fulbe Gombe, Fulbe Mbororo, Fulbe Adamawa and many others. Listed bellow is some of the countries you can find the Fulani people.

1 Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Togo, Benin

2 Central republic, Sudan, Democratic republic of Congo

3 Niger, Burkina Faso

4 Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania

5 Gambia, Guinea Bissau

The Fulani People

The Fulani people can be found in many countries which include Cameroon, Senegal, and Burkina Faso, other countries are Nigeria, Guinea and Mali. They number an estimated forty five million (45million) across 30 countries and a large number of them are nomadic and others highly placed individuals.

Because of their wide spread and diversity they speak several languages determined by the regions they inhabit, the major language spoken is Hausa and Arabic. But many Fulani tribes speak French, Wolof, English and a local dialect called Fula with subgroups like Fulani, Fulfulde, and Pand pular.

Fulani tribes are generally concentrated in West Africa and their main religion is Islam, and the Fulani people have a strong ethic group linked to the Tuareg, Tukulor and Hausa. The widely dispersed people have common beliefs, customs, religious practices, culture and traditions with slight variations.

One third of Fulani’s is pastoral or nomadic and is highly centralized in the northern regions of Africa especially close to the Sahara. Fulani practice Endogamy which is marrying a relation or cousin; they seldom marry outside their tribe keeping the wealth within the family unit.

Although they are endogamous they practice a cast system that seldom intermarries with clear distinctions between the upper class and lower cast.

Fulani entertainers

Fulani entertainers
Fulani entertainers

images of Fulani tribes people and native music

The Fulani traditional marriage

The Fulani traditional marriage is done in either three or two stages depending on the tribe’s requirement and preferences. The Fulani are divided along class lines and are allowed according to Islamic injunction to marry up to four wives if they so wish.

They practice endogamy marrying distant cousins as first choices before other wives and go through the three stages which is the flogging called Sharo, Koowgal a dowry payment and Kabbal. The Kabbal is an Islamic ceremony akin to marriage ceremony but without the attendance of bride or groom.

The Sharo isn’t compulsory or recognized in certain tribes while the Koowgal is the most important part of the union. The Koowgal is the handing over of a herd of cattle as dowry prior to the maiden moving in as a wife.

Fulani brde

A Fulani girl in preparation for marriage
A Fulani girl in preparation for marriage | Source

A Fulani maiden

A Fulani maiden
A Fulani maiden | Source

Traditional Islamic wedding ceremony

The traditional Islamic wedding ceremony might vary according to subgroup but have Islamic laws as a core element. Polygamy is allowed in Islamic settings so long as the man can provide adequately for the wives upkeep, majority of Fulani marriages are arranged marriages. But they also have the freedom to choose their partners especially in special occasions like the young maidens dance.

Modern Muslim weddings after the dowry has been paid and the traditional Islamic ceremony concluded in a mosque or hall they might opt for a reception if they so wish.

The Fulani maiden dance

One of the Fulani maiden dances is called theTumbudi; the young girls carry a calabash bowl on their head wearing native fabric made out of cotton. They dance to local trumpets, and talking drum like gungun and Kalangu drums.

The young Fulani girls in certain regions perform a high energy jump like dance in rhythmic sequence showing their virility and youthfulness. Marring young is encouraged in the Fulani and Hausa communities sometimes taking brides as young as fourteen years of age.

Flogging ceremony

Sharo traditional flogging
Sharo traditional flogging | Source

Ceremonial meals

Ceremonial meals include lots of diary products, yogurt, sorghum and wheat, they also favor heavy portage and most meals consist of millet, corn, and rice. Because they are also prolific farmers they have lots of tomatoes, peppers, vegetables and meat, they eat together in large groups during festivals and special occasions.

Native food being transported

Fulani women carry taking food to their husbands
Fulani women carry taking food to their husbands | Source

Fulani Sharo tradition

The Sharo tradition is widely observed by the Fulani people but is not mandatory to some subgroups while others don’t necessarily observe this ancient practice. The upper cast Fulani nobles are excluded from the interesting test of manhood.

Sharo tradition is a public flogging of a potential groom before his nuptial; it is also practiced during important occasion like chieftaincy coronations, sport, and rite of manhood ceremonies. Nomadic Fulani like other tribe members are proud warriors instilled with discipline, courage and hard work.

The Sharo tradition is a highly revered tradition they hold dear going through the flogging to show courage and strength. A Jafun Fulani tribe’s man most endures brutal flogging on his back or ribs as part of a marriage ceremony to show courage and readiness for marriage.

The rule is simple show no fear or pain while he publicly endures brutal flogging with arms akimbo holding a stick and dancing to drum beats with chants and incantations. The Sharo tradition is attended by several tribes and might be a week long festivities with songs and dances.

Special renditions by local bards, dance troupes, young maiden dances, horse riding, pulsating drum beats, trade and revelry are common on such occasions making the ceremony colorful and interesting. The Sharo tradition is sometimes observed when his wife delivers his first male child or sport.

A Fulani hersman

 A Fulani herdsman cattle is exchanged as dowry
A Fulani herdsman cattle is exchanged as dowry | Source

Fulani wedding and occupation

Dowry
Marriage ceremony
Occupation
herd of cattle
Islamic law
farmers
goat
traditional practices
cattle breeders
sheep
Sharo(flogging ceremony)
rgular jobs

A taste of Fulani dance

The groom

The groom undergoing Sharo is usually accompanied by his relatives who encourage him during this public flogging. He also has a wing man that might volountire to take some of the flogging in his stead if the occasion arises.

Most public flogging is carried out in a prominent location like a market place, town hall or open field. The groom holds a staff in both hands above his head, his back devoid of clothing while another youth strikes the individual with measured blows.

To outsiders the spectacle can be frightening but despite the brutality there is a core reason and test of defiance that proclaims the groom worthy of marriage.

The Fulani people because of their nomadic nature and their livestock which predominantly is cattle need courage to defend the herd from cattle thieves and wild animals. The show of courage determines their readiness to defend his herd of cattle, work hard and provide for his family.

Occasions when Sharo is observed

1 Coronation of a highly placed traditional rules

2 Sharo might be done for sports

3 As a means of entertainment

4 Before the groom gets married

5 During important ceremonies and occasion

Conclusion

The Fulani people are predominantly located in West Africa having a large population in Northern Nigeria, Niger, and Chad. They speak French, English, Arabic, Hausa and Fulfulde in several Fula dialects. The diversity and spread encompasses over twenty five countries and they are both nomadic and pastoral farmers growing millet and corn.

Fulani people are predominantly Muslims and follow rigorously Islamic teachings and life style, but some still combine this with ancient traditional practices and folklore. There rites of passage is strongly linked with coming of age and manhood which is similar to married rites of Sharo.

In the Fulani community young girls are married early and contractual marriages are common place especially between cousins and close tribe members. The contractual marriages are done under strict Islamic laws and practices and the spouses are usually chosen by the male heads of a family.

Fulani herd’s men are brave, noble and courageous living their lives by strict rules of conduct, many are farmers and the others live and work in the cities. Many due to an ancestry of nobility are highly placed in the economic and political workings of many countries making them an important people in Africa.

They have a rich culture of music dance, art and crafts, education is usually Islamic based but the privileged few embrace western education. Fulani marriage is a very serious occasion but once the dowry is paid in herds of cattle and the Islamic ceremony has been performed they are deemed married in the eyes of the law.

Contemporary African Deva-Fulani Music

Watch the Fun video

Something fun and entertaining Watch a Contemporary Fulani Musician singing, with Senegal, Fulani ladies modeling

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