Wish for Africa Foundation

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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

May 1st 2011 - The Wedding day

The day that this whole trip was based upon was finally here, the wedding of Femi and Aderemi. The night had been restless with noise from outside, I got up and sorted myself breakfast, cornflakes with powered milk, as you just don’t really get fresh milk in Lagos (many people haven’t got fridges or reliable electricity to run them).

The house at this point was fairly quiet, Remi was at the venue and Femi was just going to head out to see if all was OK. They came back and the house then had a steady flow of helpers/visitors.

As Remi had started getting ready (African time O! everything was running late), I thought I’d start getting ready. I had just commenced putting my make-up on when my room was commandeered by photographers laying out all the items Remi was going to wear on my bed to photograph (good job I wasn’t half naked!).

I went to the venue ‘Balmoral’ with Waheed (the driver). On arrival we couldn’t get in as we didn’t have ID and we had to insist that we were meant to be there and had loads of items to off load. They reluctantly let us in! Well only into the grounds, the security on the door wouldn’t let us in as they were tidying up after a church service that morning. So we sat and waited, eventually they let us in and I was told where to sit by Waheed, then a member of Femi’s family came over and directed me to the front row next to the them.

Another hour went by and guests kept arriving and the African tribal band began beating their various drums and shaking the shekeres, the sound was contagious and really made you feel the moving to its beat. Some of the women got up and were dancing around the band (I so wanted to join them). The room was now full of women wearing beautiful traditional attire (Aso-Ebi) with some stunning Geles (head wear), the groom’s side wearing pink and silver and the bride’s side wearing orange and gold. The men also looked amazing in their clothes too.

Shortly after the traditional wedding commenced, the Alago Ijoko (the female ‘master of ceremonies’) takes control and leads and talks through the whole event. This started with Femi’s entrance with the ‘boys’ all dancing he looked marvellous in his clothes (agbaba I believe). He then has to go through an act basically asking the bride’s parents for their permission for their daughter, this is an elaborate show and amusing in many parts. The groom has to lay prostrate bowing to the bride’s family to show how much he respects them and wants their daughter.

The bride, Aderemi, then enters with the ‘girls’ again singing and dancing and looking stunning. She then goes through a similar act with the groom’s parents and is presented to them by the Alago Ijoko and ends with her putting the hat (Kufi) on the groom. Again this all takes time and in the midst of this there are three bowls placed on the floor and guests are encouraged to place money in them at different time. What generally happens is that people come with large amounts of small dominations of money so they can keep putting lots of notes in without the value being so great. People gather outside wedding events with wads of small notes ready to change with guests.

There was a table full of gifts for the brides family, and this is a long list of traditional gifts that are expected to be given. These gifts range from bottles of honey, suitcase, many large yams, fruit, salt, bottles of wine to (Derek) the ram (who didn’t make the ceremony). The whole thing is so elaborate and over the top but such fun and so different from UK weddings.

Once the ceremony was completed we all made our way to the other side of the hall for the meal and party. Remi had worked so hard on making this look fabulous paying attention to every detail, it looked spectacular. The venue that had looked so huge when we visited it earlier in the week suddenly didn’t feel so big with the 500 or so guests. The food just kept coming dish after dish was offered of every Nigerian dish, and cakes and later more food! Drinks were all served and waiters just walked around giving what ever you required.

The band was great and played between speeches from different guests. Then all the bride and grooms friends had to go outside (all girls apart from Gyles who decided to join in for this too). We danced in down the aisle then lined it, singing & dancing as Femi & Remi danced down it.

The bride and groom then had their first dance and people sprayed them with money (this is their wedding gift money). The music was great and much dancing was done as we danced in that fun African way around them. I enjoyed the dancing as those that know me would expect and as the only white person there drew quite a bit of attention and amusement.

The party started to die down around 7 (it had been going on a fair while) and by 8 I had to leave to catch my plane. As almost everyone had left by this time Femi came to the airport with me and helped me carry my bags, we said our goodbyes. I am so grateful to him and Remi for hosting me for my trip in a week that has been busy and stressful for them. I enjoyed my time with them and as always Femi has been a wonderful friend and host. I feel he is a true friend and am honoured to feel so loved by him and I love him dearly and wish him and Remi every happiness and blessing for their future together.

As I left Lagos looking out of the plane window as always I wonder if I will return. I struggle at times in my trips when I feel restricted with no transport and reliant on Femi and others for my every move. I enjoy the food but also struggle with it, that amount of carbs/starch I find difficult and end up not being able to eat. I miss my family and friends. But saying all this there are many times that I just do the simple things like walking out, visiting markets, just mixing with the people or flying over looking at the mass of houses and just feel that I am meant to be part of this and love it.


In conclusion I hope I return, Lagos has changed even in the three years I have been there. Things are slowly starting to improve in some areas, and hopefully this will continue and our vision at Wish For Africa is that we can help improve the health care system for everyone, it often feels that we are swimming against the tide and for every effort we make we are then knocked back. It would be so easy to think why bother, it’s not worth it. On these occasions I just have to think of any of the individuals we have helped and I know it is worth it. One day WFA will get the breakthrough it needs and deserves, someone will pay attention and we will change things for the better. Until that day I thank everyone for their support and ask you to continue encouraging us, telling others about us and these tiny efforts will eventually impact on the health care system of Nigeria.

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