Molyko, Southwest Region - Buea, Cameroon


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Research Key


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Sociology and Anthropology 
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International: $20
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Analytical tool
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1.0 Introduction

This chapter will comprise of the background to the study, the research problem, research question, significance of the study, definition of key terms, and structure of the study.

1.1 Background to the study

The universality of marriage within different societies and cultures is attributed to the many basic social and personal functions for which it provides structure, such as sexual gratification and regulationdivision of labor between the sexes, economic production and consumption, and satisfaction of personal needs for affection, status, and companionship. Perhaps its strongest function concerns procreation, the care of children and their education and socialization, and regulation of lines of descent.  By the 21st century the nature of marriage in Western countries particularly with regard to the significance of procreation and the ease of divorce had begun to change. In 2000 the Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriages; the law went into force on April 1, 2001. In the ensuing years, numerous other countries including Canada (2005), France (2013), the United States (2015), and Germany (2017) followed suit. In addition, some countries extended benefits and obligations to same-sex couples by means of a registered partnership or civil union, both of which terms meant different things in different contexts, (Aakankan G, 2018; Emily R, 2022; Gloria L, 2019; Grace Y, 2014; Melissa A, 2010; Melissa A, 2010).

Endogamy, the practice of marrying someone from within one’s own tribe or group, is the oldest social regulation of marriage. When the forms of communication with outside groups are limited, endogamous marriage is a natural consequence. Cultural pressures to marry within one’s social, economic, and ethnic group are still very strongly enforced in some societies. Exogamy, the practice of marrying outside the group, is found in societies in which kinship relations are the most complex, thus barring from marriage large groups who may trace their lineage to a common ancestor.

In societies in which the large, or extended, family remains the basic unit, marriages are usually arranged by the family. The assumption is that love between the partners comes after marriage, and much thought is given to the socioeconomic advantages accruing to the larger family from the match. By contrast, in societies in which the small, or nuclear, family predominates, young adults usually choose their own mates. It is assumed that love proceeds (and determines) marriage and less thought is normally given to the socioeconomic aspects of the match (Aakankan et al. 2018).

In societies with arranged marriages, the almost universal custom is that someone acts as an intermediary, or matchmaker. This person’s chief responsibility is to arrange a marriage that will be satisfactory to the two families represented. Some form of dowry or bride wealth is almost always exchanged in societies that favor arranged marriages.

In societies in which individuals choose their own mates, dating is the most typical way for people to meet and become acquainted with prospective partners. Successful dating may result in courtship, which then usually leads to marriage.

The rituals and ceremonies surrounding marriage in most cultures are associated primarily with fecundity and validate the importance of marriage for the continuation of a clan, people, or society. They also assert a familial or communal sanction of the mutual choice and an understanding of the difficulties and sacrifices involved in making what is considered, in most cases, to be a lifelong commitment to and responsibility for the welfare of spouse and children.

Marriage ceremonies include symbolic rites, often sanctified by a religious order, which are thought to confer good fortune on the couple. Because economic considerations play an essential role in the success of child rearing, the offering of gifts, both real and symbolic, to the married couple is a significant part of the marriage ritual. Where the exchange of goods is extensive, either from the bride’s family to the bridegroom’s or vice versa, this usually indicates that the freedom to choose one’s marital partner has been limited and determined by the families of the betrothed (Aakankan et al. 2018).

Fertility rites intended to ensure a fruitful marriage exist in some form in all ceremonies. Some of the oldest rituals still to be found in contemporary ceremonies include the prominent display of fruits or of cereal grains that may be sprinkled over the couple or on their nuptial bed, the accompaniment of a small child with the bride, and the breaking of an object or food to ensure a successful consummation of the marriage and an easy childbirth.

The most universal ritual is one that symbolizes a sacred union. This may be expressed by the joining of hands, an exchange of rings or chains, or the tying of garments. However, all the elements in marriage rituals vary greatly among different societies, and components such as time, place, and the social importance of the event are fixed by tradition and habit.

These traditions are, to a certain extent, shaped by the religious beliefs and practices found in societies throughout the world. In the Hindu tradition, for example, weddings are highly elaborate affairs, involving several prescribed rituals. Marriages are generally arranged by the parents of the couple, and the date of the ceremony is determined by careful astrological calculations. Among most Buddhists marriage remains primarily a secular affair, even though the Buddha offered guidelines for the responsibilities of lay householder (Aakankan et al. 2018).

According to Elizabeth Prine Paul’s (2008), exchange marriage is a form of marriage involving an arranged and reciprocal exchange of spouses between two groups. Exchange marriage is most common in societies that have a unilineal descent system emphasizing the male line (patrilineality) and a consistent expectation of post marital residence with or near the groom’s family (patrilocality). In such cases, the symmetry of an alliance is often maintained by a systematic exchange: whenever a marriage is arranged between a daughter from group A and a son from group B, a marriage between a daughter from group B and a son from group A is also arranged. Often, as among some Australian Aborigines and American Subarctic peoples, a traditional ideal was for a brother and sister from one family to marry a sister and brother, respectively, from another. When these processes are repeated by marriage, a legally and socially sanctioned union, usually between a man and a woman, that is regulated by laws, rules, customs, beliefs, and attitudes that prescribe the rights and duties of the partners and accords status to their offspring (if any).

According to Robert Brian (1969), in Bangwa the term ngkap means wealth and is also used in a special sense for bride wealth (ngkap atu mengwi= wealth for a woman’s head). Bride wealth is paid by a bride’s suitor to an extensive array of her kin. The most important are those of her four marriage lords: her father, her mother, her mother’s father, and her tangkap (or their living patrilineal successors). The first contrast with ngkap marriage among the Eastern Bamileke is obvious: all marriages, where bride wealth is handed over, are ngkap marriages and all Bangwa brides have a tangkap. Their children, both male and female, are automatically wards of their tang kata ngkap, although bride wealth must also be paid to the father. According to Bangwa beliefs and statements a person’s tangkap is the patrilineal successor of the man who first bought his or her matrilineal ancestress as a slave in East Cameroon. The patriline of the tangkap has retained an important bond on all the matrilineal descendants of that ancestress. Of the four marriage lords the tangkap is the only one who need not be an actual kinsman of his wards. Of the other lords the bride’s father is known as mba nze (Lord Begetter); her mother’s father or his successor as mba tetse (Lord Middle); and the mother’s father as mbenkembetü (Lord Twig). Occasionally the patrilineal successor of the ward’s mother’s father claims a share of the bride wealth and is known as “Lord Thief” (Robert brain Africa: journal of international Africa institute vol.39, no. 1, Jan 1969)

In the past period, the requirements for the Bangwa marriage exchange process goes thus, the family of the groom is expected to bring a keg of palm wine, a sack of kolanut, two bundles of fire wood, a traditional cap for the bride’s father and uncles, 10000frs to 25000frs ( depending on the family), two jugs of red oil, one for the brides maternal family and the other for the paternal family, a piece of rapper for the bride’s mother alongside tubers of yam and a bag of cocoyam (Anyiasong, 2022).

While in the contemporary period, the family of the groom and the bride will accept their children to first of all live together to know each other well and also to be sure if they can stay forever in our common language we say ( came we stay). And during this period, the time for marriage is being decided by the couples involved. As compared to the past, the marriage exchange process in the Bangwa land today consist of: a pig, the sum of 100000frs depending on the family, since family promote long stay without marriage, when the husband to be visits the bride fathers house, he is expected to buy drinks as a sign of good stay, (Atembeng, 2022).

1.2 Problem Statement

Many cultures have experienced evolution and as a result of this, many cultural beliefs, norms, values and traditions have undergone some alterations and because of this many cultural beliefs are slowly being eradicated. Cameroon being diverse with different cultures including the Bangwa culture being the main area of this study in which the researcher focuses on looking at the evolution of marriage exchange with as a result has altered the previous marriage exchange of the Bangwa clan over the years. And as a result of the political crisis within the two English speaking regions, the Bangwa clan being more affected, cultural norms and values are slowly disappearing in to thin air, thus affecting the aspect of marriage as well. Therefore in carrying out this research, the researcher will be focused on not only the changes that have occurred in the Bangwa land, but also the changes that have occurred on the marriage exchange process of marriage as a whole.

1.3 Research question

1.3.1 Main Research Question

  • How has marriage exchange evolved in the Bangwa land?

1.3.2 Specific Research Question

  • What are the aspects that have evolved?

  • What are the effects of this evolution and changes?

1.4 Research Objectives

1.4.1 Main Objectives

  • To examine the evolutions that has taking place in the Bangwa tribe in the aspect of marriage exchange.

1.4.2 Specific Objectives

  • To investigate the various aspects of marriage exchange that has evolved.
  • To know the effects of this evolution and changes of marriage exchange on the Bangwa culture.


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