40 Abisi Work Marriage and Father’s Choice

This first betrothal, the Riner, is an “arrange marriage” organized by the father of a young man of about fourteen years old.
The Riner marriage rests on two principles : obligation and reciprocity
Obligation is :

When a young girl is asked for riner, her father must assent and the girl must consent.

This constraint plays a vital role in Abisi since their survival and wealth depends on manual labor. There should be enough women in a house or patriline to have needed children.
To attain a certain parity between patrilines, exchanges of women must be balanced between those who give and those who receive.
In Abisi, this parity is reached when fathers try to find a bride for their son where they have already given a woman in another marriage.
This procedure is based on the principle of reciprocity which stated by Abisi as:

We give and take back where we gave.

To do this, the father asks women of his section to contact their married daughters to help him find a suitable unmarried girl in the patriline or section where they live.
These women know which girls are already engaged or not and they are witness to their character.
This is not a direct exchange of sisters between two houses. The number of households available is large enough (married women may be living in one or another of their husband’s hamlet) so that new marriages doe does not take place between the same houses generation after generation.
This marriage is a delayed exchange, the girl returned being of another generation, younger than the women who were married in the same house.
But of all the possibilities, Abisi preferred for Riner and Kiso, a marriage between a boy and a girl from his grandmother’s house on his father’s side. This marriage is called /Upan kimat banaŋ/, the stick of father’s mother.
This preference is not unusual in Cultural History. It is called a cross-cousin marriage who are the children of brothers and sisters distinguished from the children of two brothers or two sisters who are named parallel cousins.
In Abisi, this relation with the mother’s brother is called /Umat or Kimat/.
It is a relation of trust and warmth often tinted by joking relations.
The uncle often “abusing” his nephew by joking about him but also by providing him with help and gifts.
Being from his mother’s side, he acts like if he was a male-mother to him.
Finding a wife in the Kimat house is well seen because “there is no shyness”.
These marriages also reach outside from one’s own patriline and recognize the maternal lines as a good marital exchange solution.
To make sure they go far enough to open their marital chances they even choose not their own uncle’s house but their father’s one.

Choosing Riner

When many 12-13-year-old girls are available, the father looks for one that will please his son and puts aside those with apparent congenital or accidental physical deficiency. They deny looking for a rich man or a personal friend’s daughter.
Once chosen, the boy’s mothers get in touch with the girl’s mother to discuss their choice.
She brings an iron bracelet /rikat uwok/ (arm bracelet) or a head cushion /rikat/ with a calabash of cooked beans /ipurgum/.
Later the boy’s father meets the girl’s father to make arrangements by giving him a gift of two guinea-corn bundles. He can also, if hunters from his house killed an antelope or a wild pig, ask one of his daughters to bring him the head.
This is the beginning of a long cycle of exchanges from the man’s family to the women’s family that will last for four years until the girl is about sixteen or seventeen years old and the boy around twenty years old.

Changes in Marriage Ages

In 1973, it seems that Riner marriage age had been considerably lowered in some families , young girls barely pubescent boys of 16 were married .
In some cases, girl’s parents try to convince the suitors that their daughter is too young even if the marriage is obligatory.
Some say that these changes are caused by the need for money, the girl’s fathers wanting to get the girl’s bride service the earliest possible. The first gift exchanges can even now start when the girl is only 8 years old  and marry after her puberty. Theses cases took place in families following  the Kaduna laws on early marriage ages of girls.
Formerly, a young man would not marry until he had finished his Berdje grade in work groups. He had to wait for his father to recognize his autonomy by giving him a large hoe and a horse as a sign of becoming an adult.

Riner Duties

Riner marriages having a special status , the wife and the husbands also have special obligations.
For example, the riner wife has to “tame” the new acha crop (fonio:digitaria exilis).
This responsibility is very important but very hard to accomplish because threshing and husking of acha are very strenuous.
This is a time-consuming task because the grains are extremely small, 1-1.5 mm long and difficult to manipulate.
She is also closely associated with the most prestigious of men’s possession, namely horses and closely linked to her husband should he become a celebrated hero in hunting or war.
Riner men’s main duty toward the riner wife is doing their utmost possible to cure their riner wife if she ever gets sick.
The Riner wives are prone, if seriously ill, to return to their first husband if they do not reside with him, assured that they will get the best possible care.

Riner Bride Services

For riner, for four successive years, a man must give bundles of sorghum and summons about ten of his mates either to get grass and thatch a house or hoe a field for in-laws.
In addition, he must provide one goat, a bar of salt and a sum of money (three to five 1973 Nairas)
A man must, every year, hoe a plot for the mother and also give her bundles of sorghum and millet.
He also has to give three goats, two hoes and a big basket of acha and beans, and the equivalent of twelve to fifteen Nairas.
On the following day of her first marriage, the husband must undertake the most important collective work for his father-in-law. He has to bring a group of about sixty young men of his patriline to hoe his farm and transplant his millet.
This work is called ipↄnu and is characterized by a special drumming style called aganga tima reserved for this work only.
This labor is followed by a series of smaller labor during the following month.
At the end of this period, the women have the right to move to the home of her Kiso husband. However, few women do so.
They prefer to remain with their first husbands throughout the following dry season since, if they do so, they will be rewarded by their riner husband parents with a large dowry.
The dowry consists of thirty pots, assorted baskets and winnowing trays, calabashes, firewood and so on.
Women who do not stay so long with their first husbands are denied this dowry; thus about 75% of women do remain and stay until the next rainy season.
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