Family starts with by two consenting adults who chose to live under one roof for the rest of their lives in marriage. In ages past marriages were not necessarily about two consenting adults but as guided by customs and traditions of a community.
Marriage is one of the most prestigious cultural events for girls in the San (!Kung) community as noted by Marjorie Shostak (147 – 150). This cultural tradition compares to the passage of ritual by boys such as the ceremonial first animal killing and initiation in this community. The decision to marry belonged to the parents and not the girls. The new couple moved into a hut prepared for them upon completion of the parents’ negotiation.
The young husband came to stay close to the girl’s parents for as long he wants, a call he must fulfill in the early years of marriage. This way, the girl’s parents can prove his treatment of their daughter and appreciate his ability to provide for and support both his young family and theirs too. Payment of dowry is not a significant factor during marriage except the exchange of gifts and other pleasantries.
When a girl marries while still young, the husband would wait long before having sex with her. An aggravated girl could show strong emotions against her marriage and raise the end of the same. The separation had to be confirmed by the community. She can marry several men in trial until she finally matures and settles with one long term partner.
Among the Gikuyu, marriages began when an aspiring husband visited his suitors homestead to have a conversation with her parents. The girl’s consent was the most critical factor for the union to take off. Bride price was a must as families sired girls for wealth creation (everyculture.com).
The families had to be large with the girl child a crucial aspect of each family because they guaranteed continuity of the community by child bearing and growth of wealth for the clan. Several families stayed together in one large compound unlike in the San community where families stayed alone. The girls made their homestead.
The main differences between the Gikuyu and San marriages included the payment of bridal price. Bridal price could be recalled back when marriage is terminated. In the San community, there was no bride price and the gifts given were not to be returned unless at will by the girl’s parents. The girl’s consent had to be sought of in the Gikuyu marriages unlike among the San clans.
There were no trial marriages among the Gikuyu and women would not end their marriages. The couple once married would move to the husband’s family compound and not live in a hut at the girl’s family compound. The girls in Gikuyu made their homesteads while in San community, the parent’s of the girl constructed the hut in which the new couple lived.
In both the Gikuyu and San communities, marriage plays the crucial role in the community propagation and forms an integral part of the community’s cultural life.
Shostak, Marjorie. Nisa: The Words and Life of a !Kung Woman. Great Britain: Biddles Ltd., 2000. Web. 14 October 2011. http://www.everyculture.com/wc/Japan-to-Mali/Gikuyu.html