Traditional Marriages in the Promotion of Cultural Tourism in Cameroon: Case of the Bakweri
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Bakweri traditional marriages are very important to the society because they preserve the rich inherited culture of the Bakweri people which helps in the promotion of cultural tourism in the Fako Division of Cameroon. Traditional marriage among the Bakweri is not viewed or understood as a tourism potential and this limits the way the marriages are been exploited. This study is aimed at examining the features of Bakweri marriages that promote cultural tourism in the Fako Division.
Data collected was gotten from two distinct questionnaires, one for the Bakweri natives and the other for guests of Bakweri marriages. Data was analysed through descriptive statistics using frequency tables and pie/bar charts and inferential and thematic analysis was also done.
The findings of objective one reveal the major activities involve in Bakweri marriages such as the declaration of intentions by the groom to the bride’s family, the payment of dowry, the marriage ceremony and cultural displays from traditional dance groups.
The findings on objective two reveal some of the importance of Bakweri marriages as it helps to conserve and promote the Bakweri culture in the form of traditional dances, food and language among others.
The findings on objective three reveal some of the challenges plaguing Bakweri marriages for cultural tourism development and some of these challenges were the impacts of globalisation and modernisation on marriages practices as well as the lack of finance on the part of some couples and families to make an elaborate marriage ceremony that will exploit the potentials of Bakweri marriage.
The features of Bakweri traditional marriages contribute to promoting cultural tourism in Fako Division. The Ministry of Tourism and Leisure and the Ministry of Arts and Culture should carry out sensitisation campaigns to educate the Bakweri people that traditional marriages are a tourism asset that has to be fully exploited to promote cultural tourism.
Traditional marriage is a marriage ceremony that has been conducted by the customs of the bride and groom’s families (Ogoma, 2014). This study further explains that traditional marriage is not just a union between a man and a woman but it is a tie between two families and characterized by the exchange of traditional gifts. Things are been done according to the historical norms of a given society, usually for the primary purpose of establishing a family. The first recorded evidence of marriage ceremonies uniting a man and a woman dates back to approximately 2,350 BC in ancient Mesopotamia and over the next several hundred years, marriage evolved into a widespread institution embraced by various cultures(Cohen (1987 cited in Ogoma 2014).
Traditional marriage is very important to our society because there’s a right to marry which is an internationally recognised human right standard as per Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of which men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry (Reva & Polat, 2019). Traditional marriages are very important because they preserve the rich inherited cultures of an ethnic group which helps to promote cultural tourism (Ogoma, 2014). According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)(2017), cultural tourism is a type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s essential motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume the tangible and intangible cultural attractions/products in a tourism destination. The organisation explains that there is a growing trend in cultural tourism and traditional marriage ceremonies are one important asset which present-day tourists want to see. Kessing and Kessing (2014) see traditional marriage as a showcase of culture and culture is one of the pull factors which influences visitors’ initial decision to travel to destinations in different parts of the world. Chao (2012) highlights the importance of cultural tourism as it helps to reinforce identities, enhance cross-cultural understanding and preserve the heritage of an area. Chao adds that the distinguishing features of traditional marriages usually vary amongst ethnic groups within and between countries and explains that the rapid increase of the global economy has led to new trends in traditional marriages and wedding ceremonies which promote cultural tourism.
The impact of traditional marriages on cultural tourism has brought about a new form of tourism which is Wedding Tourism and it is causing a lot of excitement in the tourism industry (Kanca & Unar, 2021). Wedding tourism is a growing niche market that has impacted destinations worldwide and it is a profitable and productive element of the tourism sector, making it a noteworthy market segment for destinations to target (Chao, 2012). Paramita (2008) cited in Chao (2012) reveals that wedding tourism or marriage tourism or wedding destination is a new phenomenon that refers to tourists travelling to get married or venture to a destination for the wedding of a friend, relative or acquaintance. According to this study, wedding tourism is booming and several destinations such as Hawaii, the Caribbean, Thailand, Jamaica, New Zealand and Italy are currently positioning themselves for this lucrative market. In Italy, for example, 8% of the 44 million tourist’s arrival is due to weddings, honeymoons, or anniversaries.
In Turkey, traditional marriages promote cultural tourism depending on the destination chosen for the marriage. In recent years, the growth of the wedding destination market has become more relevant, meaning that the practice of marriage away from the residence of the couple is intensified (Kanca & Unar, 2021).
The study focused on the importance of understanding the specific motivations that take people to celebrate their marriage in a particular destination and one of the most important and recognised reasons that affect the choice of destination for marriage ceremonies has to do with social motivations such as prestige and status, culture as well as economic motivations like saving money and not exceeding the budget and to make the celebration of the event in a unique way and place.
According to Ubong (2010), traditional marriages have a significant role in the growth of cultural tourism in Africa and parts of Asia unlike in the developed countries today. The African and Asian societies still hold on to their cultural heritage more than their counterparts in the developed countries.
Kim and Agrusa (2004) reveal that Thailand, for instance, offers an increasing variety of traditional marriage ceremonies which encourages cultural tourism such as themed festival weddings, traditional Thai weddings, cultural weddings and mountain-top weddings among others that can be chosen by couples according to their different lifestyles or preferences.
The study adds that the variety of traditional marriage ceremonies forms a part of event tourism and it has become one of the hottest trends in Thailand’s tourism industry because by using the slogan “Amazing Thailand”, travel operators have developed attractive traditional marriage and honeymoon packages for international tourists and cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai are promoted as top wedding destinations.
Traditional marriages in Africa have various forms and symbols of art that are displayed before, during and after the traditional marriage ceremonies, capable of pulling tourists domestically and internationally (Afful & Nantwi 2018). To these authors, the art forms may come in the form of music, dance, musical instruments, painting of the body and symbols such as beads, jewellery, sculpture, special clothing and other artefacts are some of the essentials of traditional marriage displays within several African settings. Danto (2003) reveals that traditional marriage ceremonies in Ghana involve a lot of display of both visual and performing art forms which attract so many tourists thereby promoting the tangible and intangible cultural aspects of the Ghanaian people. The study reiterates that it is during the celebration stage that various elements of art in the forms of clothing, gifts, consumables, regalia, as well as ornaments used in celebrating the traditional marriage, are showcased and each of these symbols is said to have a specific relevance depending on the ethnic group or community.
Cameroon is branded as ‘Africa in miniature with over 250 ethnic groups and it is endowed with an abundance of natural, cultural and historical touristic attractions and potentials (Nyamnjoh, 1999). Ngayap (2016) reveal that the Bamileke from the West Region, of Cameroon for example, have rich tangible and intangible cultural aspects that they showcase during traditional marriages. These marriages promote promoting cultural tourism because, during such events, language, marriage rites or marriage rituals, food, dressing, music and traditional dances are brought to the limelight. The Bakweri ethnic group, in the South West Region of the country, are found in their native land, the Fako Division where they are settled in towns and villages of Buea, Limbe, Tiko and Muyuka Sub-Divisions (Buea Council, 2016).
The Bakweri ethnic group, part of the Sawa cultural groups, take pride in celebrating their culture during events such as traditional marriage ceremonies traditional marriage rites are been conducted and there is a showcase of traditional dances such as the Cha-Cha Dance, Elephant Dance and the Lingombi Dance which are very entertaining to tourists. There is also the use of the Mokpwe Language during traditional marriage rites and the display of traditional dishes such as Kwacoco and Banga Soup (Timbernabuzra) reputed to be a husband ensnaring dish due to its delicacy. The traditional outfit of the Bakweri which is very captivating in the eyes of tourists, the women put on the ‘Kaba’ and for the men a long waist cloth with two overlapping edges by the sides topped by a long sleeve shirt, preferably white with a head scarf around the neck, usually, a hat may be worn if the man so desires are displayed during such events (Monono, 2016). Traditional marriage ceremonies are therefore symbolic in displaying the Bakweri culture for cultural tourism development in Fako Division.
Traditional marriages had been the form of marriage in human societies known from ancient times and their importance has over time been acknowledged despite trends like globalization, cross-culturalism and religion. Traditional marriages are important to societies because they preserve inherited cultures, and promote social unity, understanding and peace between families and societies. Traditional marriage is a tourism potential that when fully recognised by an ethnic group or a community it will be made known to the outside world and it will entice tourist influx from within and outside the country (UNWTO, 2017). This potential is however marginally exploited by the Bakweri ethnic group and tour operators in the country leaving much to be desired vis-à-vis the cultural endowments of the people.
Traditional marriage among the Bakweri is not well understood or viewed as a tourism attraction, hence its tourism potentials remain unexploited by the domestic and international tourist markets. In addition, local and international tour operators as well as wedding planners neglect the potential of traditional marriages in promoting cultural tourism as they do not include marriage ceremonies in their itineraries. By implication, Fako Division is yet to be known as a veritable and competitive marriage destination for wedding tourism in Cameroon and abroad.
Financial constraints of some couples and families limit the full exploitation of Bakweri traditional marriages for the promotion of cultural tourism in the Fako Division. This limitation is obvious because just a small number of guests or tourists are currently being invited to traditional marriage ceremonies. Inadequate financial resources also imply that couples can exhibit limited cultural displays in the form of traditional music and dance performances. Furthermore, limited or no incentives from government institutions to conserve traditional marriage elements are also not helping to promote the cultural event tourism sub-sector.
Another issue of concern is the process of multiculturalism and globalization which encourage movement and interaction of persons from different cultural backgrounds and thereby intensify inter-marriages of the Bakweri and other ethnic groups. This, unfortunately, threatens the authenticity of Bakweri culture as well as religious practices like Christianity and church doctrines which contribute to undermining some cultural practices that are being carried out during Bakweri traditional marriages. In addition to this, westernization and modernization enhanced by Cable TV and social media have affected the Bakweri culture and many people are fast forgetting the traditional values of marriage. The current study is therefore motivated against this background to address the issues and to seek ways of fully exploiting the Bakweri traditional marriages for cultural tourism promotion in the Fako Division. a challenge that hinders the way Bakweri traditional marriages promote cultural tourism in the Fako Division.
What role do Bakweri traditional marriages play in the promotion of cultural tourism in the Fako Division?
- What are the distinguishing features of Bakweri traditional marriage in the Fako Division?
- How have Bakweri traditional marriages promoted cultural tourism in Fako Division?
- What are the challenges plaguing the use of Bakweri traditional marriage for cultural tourism promotion in the Fako Division?
- How can propose recommendations improve cultural tourism through the Bakweri traditional marriages in Fako Division?