A great Tuesday to all. Glad tidings as we bring you a brief discussion on the wedding rite of the Itsekiri clan from Nigeria.
The Itsekiri (also called the Isekiri, iJekri, Itsekri, Ishekiri, or Itsekhiri) is a community of people from the Niger Delta area, Delta State of Nigeria. They live primarily in Warri South, Warri North, and Warri southwest local government districts of Delta State on the Atlantic coast of Nigeria.
This group of people also hail from some parts of Edo and Ondo states. The Itsekiris are closely related to the Yoruba of South Western Nigeria and more widely to the Urhobo (especially the Okpe) and Edo.
The Itsekiris traditionally refer to their land as the Kingdom of Warri or ‘Iwerre‘ as its proper name – which is geographically contiguous to the area covered by the three Warri local government districts. The area is a key center of Nigeria’s crude oil and natural gas production and petroleum refining and the main town Warri (a multi-ethnic metropolis) forms the industrial and commercial nucleus of the Delta State region.
Marriage is a very sacred union for the itsekiri people. It valued by both males and females. Therefore, a proper introduction must take place before the wedding day proper. The itsekiri traditional marriage is known as temotsi. This is a vital rite that every daughter is expected to perform. For the bride’s mother, it is an opportunity for her to pull all stops to ensure that her daughter is given out in the most glamorous fashion. This room allows the bride to dress up in the most precious jewels and wears made of silver, gold, and corals.
The groom and his family will be attending the wedding with the gift items required such as Clothes, Jewelleries of high qualities, Drinks, assorted wines, Food items for the Occasion, Kola nuts.
It is worthy of note that the bride price paid is a meager N24.00. Though another school of thought says it N120.00 which would not even flinch the pocket of the groom. Some elders explained that this, perhaps, is the reason why when an Itsekiri woman dies; she is taken back to her family for burial unlike in some cultures where she is interred in her husband’s community. Besides the simple bride price, the groom is also required to present other items as gifts for both parents of the bride. The other requirements vary from family to family.
The marriage proper starts with the dressing and redressing by the bride which would consist of the Gold, Silver, and Coral fabrics and ornaments as stated earlier.
The first course is the silver dress, where she goes unveiled to greet the elders and to confirm that the special man in their midst has come to marry her.
In the second course, the bride is adorned in gold accessories covering her bare shoulders, to make her second appearance. It is at this stage that the bride price is paid while the representative of their ancestors known as the Okparan prays for them and formally pronounces them husband and wife. Each family head takes turns to pray for the couple while the head of the family on the bride’s side formally hands over the bride to the head of the groom’s delegation.
The bride makes a quick third change, swapping the gold ornaments for corals. With this final outfit, she embellishes her head with the Gele or headscarf. It is in this last attire that she makes her way to be presented to the entire family and guests followed by the formal dance of the twosome.
It is important to note that amongst the Itsekiris, two wrappers (George of different types) are the compulsory outfit for brides while the men dress in a wrapper and a top known as ikemeje. The look is finished with a hat, either a fedora or sexton hat.
The marriage rites are usually performed with hot drinks, chests of beads, and kola nuts. The groom’s family later reciprocates the kind gesture by also making a presentation of kola nuts and drinks in larger quantities than that offered by the bride’s family. This is shared amongst all.
At this point, the spokesperson for the groom’s party presents another bottle of gin and two big native kola nuts and then, states the purpose of their coming.
Another custom that the bride’s family performs on the groom is to check him through if he has any missing parts, usually his toes and fingers, and make sure that they are 10-10 each. The Itsekiri people have a lot in common with the Ijaw people. History has it that Ijaws are the descendants of Itsekiri from a disowned son of Oba Olua of Benin.
After much deliberation and inspection of the groom, the bride makes her first appearance decked in silver ornaments on her hair, neck, and hands over a matching wrapper.
And there we have a short breakdown of how the itsekiri traditional ceremony plays out.
Information sourced from, Nigerianfoodtv.com, writeup by Mayumi OlubowaleTosan Nwafor and Kelly Davies.