(This story was an entry for Clue #7 in the 2013 Treasure Hunt -- see the collection for related stories and images! )
Nonoli, along with other women of her tribe, plucked the feathers of the recently caught grouse. They would cook it in savory spices later in the day. For now, there was plenty to do in preparation for the wedding and its feast.
A new marriage was always something to celebrate, but this wedding held special meaning for Nonoli, the chief's wife. Their almost-son, Bomo, had been chosen for marriage by Panni, Nonoli's niece. The chief and his wife had taken her into their balaka the previous spring when the girl's parents had died. Panni's mother had died first, in childbirth and her her father had died during a hunt not long after. Panni had been their only daughter, and had felt most comfortable with her aunt, uncle, and cousins.
They had loved Panni as a daughter. When the young woman had her first course, it had been Nonoli who had called for the evening celebration — she and the other women had gathered around Panni and, after stripping off all their clothes, had hoisted the new woman to their shoulders and run around the camp naked while the men cowered in their tents.
Nonoli had taught her niece-daughter to prepare meals, to bead and to sew. Most importantly, she had been privileged to discuss with her how to choose a good husband. Panni had quietly shared her secret with her aunt — that she had loved Bomo, Tamyon's heir, for as long as she could remember. It had been the aunt's duty to try and encourage her niece to choose a man more likely to give her children — his first marriage had failed in that respect — but Panni had been determined. She was adamant that he and his first wife had not been right for one another, and that she and Bomo would be able to have children.
Tamyon had been consulted. He had surprisingly agreed to the match, but had later confided to his wife that it was his belief that Bomo must have a wife in order to be more widely respected by the others. His failure to produce children in the first marriage was something that would quietly be held against the chief's heir; in fact, Tamyon had already had pressure from some of his hunters to choose a new, more fertile heir.
Nonoli gritted her teeth remembering that. Though currently she could not really imagine the tribe being led by anyone but her husband, she also couldn't imagine a better heir for him. Bomo had been integral to their tribe in settling in this area, and in making friends with the dark-skinned ones from across the sea. It was Bomo who had dedicated time and energy to learning the others' language, and to sharing it with the tribe. She believed he deserved happiness.
And so she worked on the grouse. It was part of his favorite dish, which would be served that night alongside a myriad of other foods. The initial feast would occur in separate parts of the village — the men separated from the women, as bride and groom received last-minute advice from well-meaning tribemates. Then would come the ceremony itself. Teyu, the shaman, would communicate with Bo, seeking his blessing on the couple.
Teyu would be dressed all in white — symbolizing the god's boy-form. He would first appeal to Yoro-Bo, the Thunderer, to appease his wrath at any unintentional slight that might happen during the celebration. Then, Teyu would pass berries around, and everyone would eat them, inviting Oyaba to the celebration. Poyep would be in attendance as well — his representatives the hunters of the tribe, who would be dressed in full hunting dress. Mamumo would also be welcomed, but after the ceremony concluded. The women would all eat an egg, and the bride would eat two, and then the women would all scream with the bride, joining in Mamumo's song of birth, seeking her blessing on Panni's womb.
Then, the feasting would really begin. Bride and groom would sit in the center of the village, surrounded by the rest of the tribe. The food would be shared, and then there would be dancing. It was up to the newlyweds to find their way out of the center and into the wedding saba — which was no small feat, because it was the job of the tribe to keep the couple out and dancing. It was the couple's determination to consummate their union that would get them away from the festivities.
Nonoli remembered her own wedding night and smiled. Then, she got back to work. There were more grouse to pluck, and other foods to prepare. The night would be here soon enough.