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Dem live a foreign vol.7 - a union of two becomes a union of tribes

Inspiration can come from some of the most unusual places. Newton had to have an apple fall on his head to knock the theory of gravity into him. While for me to understand the deeper reasoning behind marriage I had to have Hoda, Fifi, Kauser and Raisa from Nomad radio tell me that at a traditional Somali wedding a man is expected to bring 100 camels and gold as a gift to his bride to be.

Now as I'm sure you can imagine when I heard 100 camels, (a £1000 a pop) my head started swimming around all confused like the Mr Krab meme. Now still in a shell shocked state, I had to ask so what's expected of a groom to bring for his potential bride in the UK. All four of the lovely ladies without hesitation unanimously said at least £50,000!


They watched me scratch my head and take a long sip of the traditional Somali cinnamon and spice flavoured tea. I needed it.

Seeing my mouth still open in a shocked expression, Hoda looked over at me and said if the man thinks you're worth it, they'll find it! They were strong in their convictions. I couldn't even argue, I just said a silent prayer in hopes that these thoughts wouldn't infiltrate the mind of my wife, or I'd really be in trouble!


Though funny enough like how Newton getting hit by the apple had him spending many moons wondering why the apple fell. I too couldn't shake the words of these intelligent ladies as they expressed to me the traditions of the Somali culture.

As the conversation flowed more, they explained more about the idea of a man paying £50,000. They explained it wasn't expected for the man to find the full amount himself, but he would receive help from his family. As it's the family who helps arrange the marriage between the bride and groom. In their culture, the wedding is more than just a union of the man and woman, it's a union of families.


The tradition in Somalia for marriage was originally the man would bring many camels to the family of the bride. What the ladies told me after, which played a key part in my beginning to understand their marriage culture was that these camels would be given to the bride's family and then be added to the existing rank of camels.

This meant that if a famine ever struck then the family as a whole including the bride and groom would be more able to survive testing times.

After the discussion, I took a long walk, deep in thought around the streets of Leytonstone. I all bumped into a bredrin (friend) and told him to get married (True story!)


But an epiphany hit as I walked the streets late at night. Listening to laughter, hearing the honks and sirens of Leytonstone's after dark crowd. It was in those moments of urban bliss that I realised that marriage is the tying of families, to create an even stronger unit and the bride and groom are just playing their part in making the family unit stronger so that their offspring can survive and thrive.


I thought long over this and then to the culture of Somalis where to this day they practice traditions that keep their community strong and intact. Throughout the conversation with the ladies what consistently came through was how proud the Somali community was of their culture, and after the conversation with them, I too could see why.

Dem live a foreign vol.7 - a union of two becomes a union of tribes


This is a small segment of what we talked about with the ladies from Nomad radio, more of this conversation will be featured in our Dem Live A Foreign exhibition where we will be showing the Somali home during a time of preparation for a bride's wedding.


If this has intrigued your curiosity then sign up for free tickets to the Somali section of our Dem Live A Foreign exhibition by following the link


For our Caribbean exhibition we will be recreating the look of a front room during J’ouvert please follow the link for free tickets


Warm Regards


David Anglin

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