A group of girls, barely in their teens led the procession. Their faces were dyed yellow, their chests and thighs, a shade of red. They had dark carved wooden bangles hanging on their arms, wore short skirts made from dried banana leaves and had black beads decorating their waistlines. Their heads were clean shaven, their cheeks bore the incisions that indicated they were ready for marriage, their ears were pierced and decorated with thin strips of copper.
They wore leather sandals which were strapped to their feet by small leather threads. Behind them came two drummers, middle aged men who had slim athletic bodies. They both carried long drums on their shoulders and when they neared the compound, they stopped, pulled the drums down and started playing a tune. The young girls started dancing to the tune, at a slow pace in the beginning and then a bit faster as the tempo of the beat increased. The area was soon filled with villagers who came to watch and welcome the procession. Some joined in the dance from the sides and older women swayed their hips without moving their feet. As the dance went on, the second group comprising of six young men arrived carrying various gifts for the bride mother-to-be.
They were followed by several middle aged women who carried pots of banana wine on their heads. This group walked slowly and most of them smiled at the villagers having recognized some of them. Immediately the banana wine was put on the ground, the men who had been left behind entered the compound. They were the last to arrive. Everyone knew that the men had led the procession from their village but as customs demanded, they had to be the last ones to arrive at Muntu’s compound.
They arrived looking fierce in the war attire, with face marks and carrying spears, shields, bows and arrows. Gola stood at the entrance of Muntu’s compound holding his spear. Gone was his goofy face. He seemed angry. He was frowning and had his spear lifted up as if he was ready to fight. Bellowing, he asked the visitors who they were. “We are your humble guests.” a short and stout man replied, his voice as loud if not louder than Gola’s. Someone blew a cow horn and they stood facing each other amidst the cheer of the villagers before a second horn sounded and Gola gave way.
The customary greeting completed, the men came into the compound and were led to the shed by Gola. The women and young girls picked up their pots and headed to the direction of the kitchen while the young men followed their elders. Villagers outside the compound continued to surround the drummers who were drumming at a slower pace and a little less loudly. It was clear that they enjoyed their work after all, only the few songs they had played had earned them two cocks. By the time they would be leaving, each was assured of leaving with at least one goat. And that was if the negotiations were not successful. But if things went well, which they hoped they would, they would be dancing all night long. That mean more people would be happy and more gifts would come their way.
Inside the compound, Gola welcomed the men to sit and introduced the members of his clan to them, starting with the oldest to the youngest as custom demanded. The villagers from Tande were represented by the short, stout man who introduced them in the same order, oldest to youngest with the groom being the fourth eldest in the group. After the introductions, they all sat down, took a sip of banana wine from a calabash that was passed around which they immediately spit out, giving their gods their portion and in so doing, thanking them for the food. Having done this, they started talking about the recent rains.
It was customary for the men to make small talk before going into the main agenda because it served to pass information along about what was going on in other villages and as well, served to easy any tension between them.
And so began the small talk.