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ANGOLA 360º Zeroed in:
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On: 9-May-13

Forget about sweeping your darling off her feet, what matters is the family. Back in the day, the future groom had to prove he had what it takes by taking care of the plantation of the bride’s father or perform chores for the mother. Today, it is more likely that the wannabe husband would be asked to flex his financial muscles. And, a wedding, just like any Angolan do, has to be big, loud and colorful. In fact, the bigger and louder, the better. Another particularity of the Angolan set up is that the presentation of the dowry (Alambamento) is far more important than the wedding (Casamento) itself.

First, there is the proposal/offer: The future husband’s family mandates representatives, preferably a few elders that are respected in the community to get in touch with the family of the future wife. Their job is to inquire on where the bride and her family stand with regard to the intention of their son. Once it is clear that the interest is mutual, the delegates from the groom’s family present a letter to their counterpartas hoes, which officially states the intentions of their young man. The letter comes with a sum of money as a token of appreciation for the bride’s family’s hospitality. This token is as important as the letter itself. It gives the bride’s family a hint of the extent of the generosity of their future son in law and of how well is doing. Family is one of the pillars of the Angolan society. People rely on their relative’s assistance in good and in bad times. Thus, it is important that whoever is brought in adds value and not a burden. Then, the acceptance: Having received the letter, the bride’s family compiles “the list”. The list is basically the alambamento or dowry. It is all the things the groom has to “buy” as compensation for all that has been spent on the bride up to her wedding day. Originally the list consisted of very basic items such as hoes, sewing machines, bicycles and drinks to entertain the gathering on celebration day. Nowadays, the dowry represents a valuable asset because the greater the payment, the higher the prestige.

The drinks have survived from the original dowry. But now, the groom has to prepare an envelope of cash. The amount of cash is decided by the uncles of the bride. As for the rest, it all depends on the creativity of the bride’s family. It can go from the very simple (a pair of shoes, a suit) to the most extravagant (return tickets, cars, house etc) items.The dowry can even be heavier, in the case that the groom has “jumped through the window.” This means that he impregnated the bride beforehand. On the day, the bride’s uncle reads the groom’s letter and the groom presents the dowry. As a Grand finale 2 women the same size are covered with a cloth and sent out. The groom has to guess who the bride is. Should he fail, he has to pay a fine and the pair goes back inside until he gets it right. Once he does get it right, the couple exchanges rings. Last but not least, the party: A typical Angolan weeding must be concluded with exorbitant amounts of food, drinks, and dancing. Angolans have a serious appetite for life. They take very seriously every occasion to enjoy themselves.

This comes perhaps as a consequence of how traumatic an experience the war was. When you know that tomorrow is not a given, you to tend savour each day as a gift.

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