Wedding ceremonies and cultural exchange in an Indian Ocean port city: the case of Zanzibar Town
This paper investigates the historical processes in which wedding rituals were formed and transformed in urban Zanzibar. From the early nineteenth century, Zanzibar Town became a meeting point of local and several foreign cultures that originated from other western Indian Ocean port cities. 1 The island offered, received and shared its culture with these migrant communities. One cultural aspect where this can be seen is in the relatedness and interrelatedness of wedding rituals including songs, customs, norms and rites. Through the narrations of urban women in Zanzibar, this paper offers insights into this cultural intermingling when it comes to weddings and gives voice to the self-understandings of women, reflecting on their own lives, circumstances, and culture. The article concentrates on the singo (scrubbing) ritual and henna application (kuchora na kupaka hina), two important customs observed a few days before the actual wedding. The intent is to show the cosmopolitanism of these wedding rituals. I argue that the rituals have changed according to the economic and political circumstances and needs of the people.