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Opinions Sat, 7 May 2011

William, Kate & African kaleidoscopes

A snap vox populi aired by Ghana Television on the night of Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton provided both some hilarious moments and points of reflection for patrons in Ghana and elsewhere.

In the one that comes readily to mind, a man had occasion to comment thus: “What I like most was the cake. The cake was very very good. It was beautiful!”

Now if you see the rugged looks of the man proffering expert opinion on royal cake, you will have no option than to offer praise to the global media’s efforts to bring royal marital bliss to the doorsteps of the man on the street. Look at you! How can you praise cake you have not even sampled with such superlatives on the streets of Accra?

What is this I hear about an hour-long service? Surely, these British royals are clueless about where their bread is buttered not to mention being bereft of Pentecostal anointing. This one hour in which the entire service was executed would not have sufficed for the praise and worship session that should precede the bride’s triumphant arrival. And these, accompanied of course by stylish gyrations of the upper torso in sheer gratitude for answered prayer and fulfilled prophesy. Does Kate Middleton know the number of all night prayer sessions, the volume of Holy Ghost tongues and the intense moments of anguished prayers and fasting it takes to elevate Yahoo’s “first commoner in line to be queen in modern times?” Surely not! If she did, the service would have lasted a minimum of six hours.

As it turns out, it was in Kenya that William finally found courage to propose after almost nine years of going steady. And this under the inspiration of the caressing warmth of the African sun and melodious serenades of our birds. The more tanned Katie got, the more convinced William became till at tipping point and on bended knee, he proposed thus:

“Medofo Kate, you know how long we’ve been together and all we’ve been through. You know what a rich comfort you were from your deepest bosom when l lost my beloved mother. You know what a wreck I would have been without your succor and constant affection.”

“Ao Ohemaa Kate! Alas! I have reached the point of no return. Tuntum broni (contextually relevant), I am drowning in your love. Save me, save me, save me …”

But who told Prince William that he could come to Africa and dodge the well-documented three step process – namely knocking, so-called engagement and wedding ceremonies? Who told him you can just catch somebody’s daughter under a mango tree and plant an eighteen carat sapphire and diamond ring on her finger?

In true tradition, he ought to have sent a small delegation on an exploratory mission to the Middleton’s well armed with flowery language, proverbs and schnapps. To Family Middleton, they would say “We have found a beautiful flower in your garden we want to pluck …” whereupon Papa Middleton would turn to a summoned Katie and ask in a matter of fact manner, “My daughter Kate, these people (more like aliens) want your hand in marriage. Should we accept their drinks?” “Yes Papa!” followed by a resounding chorus of approval and appreciative laughter from the womenfolk. Not even at this point do you get to donate the ring!

There is no doubt that securing invitation to this wedding was akin to kokofu football – unless your brother was on the team, you never got passed the ball. As it turns out, Blair, Brown, Obama and their better halves are all lacking in correct family connections in Buckingham Palace. Just like me.

And then there was the not so small matter of the sartorial obligations placed on the couple and invited guests alike. The Financial Times’s Julie Earle-Levine will explore Kate’s fashion sense, specifically asking if “hers is a sustainable commercial influence, a la Michelle Obama, whose every sartorial move is still breathlessly chronicled by no fewer than 10 blogs, or will it fade with time?”

In this wedding, one got to be told what to wear; for women, “elegant afternoon dresses with or without a coat, or an elegant matching ensemble with a hat” and for men, “uniforms, morning suits or just a nice formal suit.” I posit however that the non inclusion of traditional African wear is more the loss of British royalty. What! Had they bothered to invite West Africa’s best, they would have been festooned in real colour, in rich trendy kente and the Nigerian women would have churned out some gele that would have made mince hat of any pretentious British hats. After all, what is a mere British hat before an African woman’s gele?

After many weddings, my discovery and subsequent fascination with colours has not waned. Limiting my experiences to the primary colours has proved woefully inadequate. To worsen matters further, common folkore has it that there are certain sophisticated discriminations in colours that simply don’t even exist in our language. Not content with this state of affairs, many Ghanaian ladies in the name of sophisticated elitism have thrown caution to the wind, sparing no effort to choose some fancy wedding colours.!

“What are your colours?” is a question commonly asked of aspiring couples. What do you mean “what are my colours?” Get the black suit and the next available tie and oya! Wedding is on! Not so my brother, not so which is why Mrs. Finegirl came up with “hot pink and lemon green” after extensive research while Mrs. Wumbe took an uncompromising stance on “burnt orange” not to mention Yaa’s insistence on “fuscia and turquoise!”

Who told you all colours are colours? This deep red red thing will not take you far! As it turns out, the future Duchess of Cambridge came adorned in “an ivory and white satin dress” while the groom “donned a bright red tunic, with a crimson and gold sash.”

No kiss in church. No ring for the groom. No, “I promise to obey you” by the bride. Meanwhile some people are in Ghana pretending to be more British than the queen and foisting foreign traditions on us when the originators of said traditions have long freed themselves. Have I not heard some over zealous and misguided church leaders imply that our forbears who married traditionally without white weddings were taflatse, living in sin? The lawyers maintain that a wife from a traditional marriage is also due the coveted “Missus” title. And yet we, who apparently value appearances and dogma above function, have vastly elevated the status of marriage by ordinance and insisted it is the only sort that qualifies the woman to be called “Missus.” Meanwhile, Cherie Blair, married in the whitest of weddings is quite content to be addressed professionally by her maiden name Cherie Booth. Sadly, while the originators free themselves, we hammer each other with meaningless restrictions shorn of logic and requirements with huge cost implications.

Kate combined ivory with white. What she doesn’t know is that in some churches in Ghana, far from being a fashion statement, this non white apparel would have passed for a moral judgment on unsanctioned pre marital goings on between her good self and the Prince! You don’t qualify to wear white, the holier than thou—s would have reprimanded her, thereby ruining her day of glory and turning it to her day of shame! Many brides have become scarred for life with painful and bitter memories of what was meant to be their happiest days.

The fundamental lack of respect for our own culture and traditions plus an overt desire to appear sophisticated through rigidly applied Western standards etc have all played no small part in creating duplicity, unnecessary cost, burdensome multiple marriage ceremonies etc. And in this regard, many of our churches have not been helpful in rescuing us from this backward mind set. In some instances, even though a couple has invited a Reverend Minister to bless their traditional ceremony, some other church leaders have refused to recognize the sanctity of the same union and proceeded to label same “sinful” unless a white wedding was performed in a church building.

Free yourself, o Africa, free yourself and allow your own rich traditions to be good in your own eyes.

To William and Kate, it is your marriage. Have fun. Add to that my favorite blessing – twins!

Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey

Visit the writer’s blog on www.sodzisodzi.com

Columnist: Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi