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Angola: “Alambamento” and Marriage Practices

In Angola, there is a quite strong cultural tradition of the asking of the hand of bride in marriage, called alambamento. Considered by some more important that the civil or religious [christian] marriage, the alambamento consists of a series of rituals, like the delivery of a letter with the request for the hand of the bride, which sometimes comes with money.

Bride, photo from blog Teto de Estrelas

Bride, photo from blog Teto de Estrelas

On the blog Muxima N´gola [pt] reads a detailed description of this event

Quando o jovem casal de namorados decide casar, é necessário ter o aval da família da noiva e isso só é possível se, durante o pedido, toda a gente estiver de acordo em que o casamento se concretize. O jovem casal marca o dia do pedido. Esse dia é marcado pelos tios da noiva, pois é necessário reunir toda a família e é entregue uma lista contendo o que o noivo tem de conseguir reunir até ao dia do pedido.

When the young couple decides to marry, it is necessary to have the approval of the bride’s family and this is only possible if, during the request, everybody is in agreement that the marriage should happen. The young couple sets the date of the request. This date is agreed upon by the aunt and uncle of the bride, as it is necessary to bring together the whole family and a list is delivered to the groom of all of the things he must get before the day of the request.

On the list are various consumer goods and in spite of normally being the same for everybody, they can vary depending on the family in question, as the same blog explains

O dia do pedido está marcado e o noivo parte em busca de todo o material para que no dia não falte nada. E o que está nessa lista? Primeiro é um envelope com dinheiro. 300, 400, 500 USD, depende do que o tio estipular. A altura da noiva em grades de cerveja, a altura da noiva em paletes de sumo ou coca-cola, um cabrito, um fato para o tio e uns sapatos para a mãe.

The day of the request is set and the groom goes out in search of all the materials so that nothing is lacking on the day. And what is on this list? First is an envelope with money. 300, 400, 500 USD, depending on what the Uncle stipulates. The height of the bride in cases of beer, the height of the bride in cases of coca-cola or juice, a goat, a suit for the Uncle and some shoes for the Mother.

The blog of Tre Angolando [pt] also describes alambamento with reference to the importance of the list delivered to the groom

Trata-se de uma lista elaborada pelos tios, onde consta uma relação de coisas que o noivo tem de “comprar” para oferecer à família da noiva, como indemnização pelos gastos feitos com ela desde o seu nascimento até ao dia do casamento. Basicamente é um dote que representa um bem valioso porque quanto maior o pagamento, maior prestigio terá a noiva.

It is a list drawn up by the uncles, where follows a reporting of the things the groom has to “buy” to offer to the family of the bride, as compensation for all that has been spent on her since birth through her wedding day. Basically it is a dowry that represents a valuable asset because the greater the payment, the higher the prestige of the bride.
Ofertas, foto do blog Teto de Estrelas

Material gifts, photo from blog Teto de Estrelas

In the case that the bride is pregnant, the values referred to above grow significantly, according to Tre Angolando [pt]

Este valor pode ainda ser superior, caso o noivo tenha saltado a janela. Saltar a janela significa que a noiva engravidou antes do casamento e claro, é justo que o pedido seja reforçado. Quando chega o dia do pedido, os familiares do noivo juntam-se à família da noiva, fazem-se as apresentações e procede-se ao pedido de casamento.

This value can even be greater, in the case that the groom has “jumped through the window.” Jumping through the window means that the bride is pregnant before the wedding and sure, it is just that the request be made stronger. When the day of the request comes, the relatives of the groom get together with the family of the bride, introducing themselves and then the request for marriage happens.

This is how the process goes, according to the blog Muxima N´gola:

Quando chega o dia, a família do noivo (pai, mãe, tio, tia, irmãos) vai a casa da noiva e o tio da mesma, como se de um juiz se tratasse, apresenta toda a gente e informa de que se vai dar início ao pedido de casamento. Os pais da noiva convidam os pais do noivo a entrar e o tio dá início à leitura do pedido apresentado pelo noivo. Se o pai da noiva concordar com o pedido, o noivo terá de ir buscar o alambamento ou seja, aquela lista de coisas que juntou. O alambamento é apresentado e se tudo for cumprido é feita uma reunião para acertar a data do casamento e outros detalhes de natureza logística. Posto isto, canta-se e dança-se (não é por acaso que aparecem as grades de cerveja e de coca-cola na lista).

When the day comes, the family of the groom (father, mother, uncle, aunt, brothers and sisters) goes to the house of the bride, and her uncle, as if he were a judge, introduces all of the people and informs that they are going to begin the request for marriage. The parents of the bride invite the parents of the groom to enter and the uncle begins the reading of the request presented by the groom. If the father of the bride agrees with this request, the groom will need to go look for the alambamento, in other words, that list of things that he got together. The alambamento is presented and if everything is completed a meeting is held to pick the date of the marriage and other logistical details. This resolved, there is singing and dancing (it is not coincidental that beer and coca-cola appear on the list.)

From this day on, if everything goes well, the couple becomes man and wife. Arriving at the wedding, some couples tie the knot wearing traditional clothes and some prefer to use the famous suit and tie with brides wearing the traditional white dress. Débora Cecília, author of the blog Teto de Estrelas [Starry Ceiling, pt] reports that she attended a wedding that she was invited to in Cabinda, in the north of the country:

No dia do casamento a mulher se veste com um fato, uma roupa típica do país, e o homem se veste com uma camisa social, terno e gravata. Antes de começar a noiva aparece debaixo de um pano, para testar se o marido a reconhece de verdade.

On the day of the wedding the woman wears an outfit, clothing traditional to the country, and the man wears a button-down shirt, suit and tie. Before it begins, the bride appears below a piece of cloth, to test if the husband really recognizes her.
Dança tradicional na festa do casamento, foto do blog Teto de Estrelas

Traditional dance at the wedding party, photo from blog Teto de Estrelas

After the union is duly official it is time for a party, or else Angolans would not be by nature such party people. Ample food and drink delight the guests, always accompanied by good Angolan music.

The tradition is no longer what it was; in spite of the alambamento still being a strong characteristic of Angolan culture, the truth is that it is becoming less practiced. Along with modernity, not just in Angola, says Sandra Flosi, who writes on alambamento in Mozambique in the blog Mosanblog, some families give up this tradition while the more conservative make a point to keep it up. At the same time, Angolan society recognizes the ritual importance of alambamento and even uses it in TV advertising.

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