Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/16/2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Arabic
Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major. He is a junior at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. His family is from Sudan and they are Muslim. Both he and his twin brother were educated in international schools. He speaks Arabic and English.
Context: I was talking with the informant about traditions and rituals his family has.
Item: “Before the actual wedding, there’s this thing where everyone goes to the mosque and watch the Imam (who is kind of like a Muslim priest) bless the couple so the marriage is Islamically legitimate. Everybody watches that happen so, you’re kind of obligated to go to that. Then there’s the actual wedding celebration, and the thing is by the wedding celebration you’re already married. So the wedding celebration is just a big party, and Sudanese weddings are really odd. They take place in these large tents with lots of fans. Like, they’re huge; I’ve never been to a Sudanese wedding that had less than 400 people. The point of it is that you don’t just invite your close friends and family, that’s not gonna fly with Sudanese people. You gotta invite your friends and family and then their friends and family. I’ve gone to these weddings where it’s like a third degree connection to the couple. Which is hella weird, you’ll get people who invite you and say just bring whoever you want. My mom goes to a lot of these. You know, females always engage in this kind of stuff so yeah she goes to a lot; my dad really doesn’t give a crap.
I usually don’t like to go, cuz they’re so loud. There’s just really loud music playing the whole time and there’s really not a whole lot of interaction either. You sit at a table with like six other people and there’s like 50 tables and you get a plate like halfway through the wedding so you’re already starving, and it’s just like a sandwich with some meat in it, like a beef sandwich, falafel or two and dry chips with Pepsi. It’s never good food, honestly I feel like there’s one company in Sudan who caters all these weddings because it’s way too similar every time. Um, so the food I’ve never really been a fan of, personally. And you can’t really talk to people cuz the music is really loud. The bride and groom sit in the middle of the whole party, most of the time just sitting down while people go up to them throughout the night to give their congratulations. These are three-four hour events that usually start at 10 and go until 2AM. So they’re really late. At some point during the wedding, the bride and groom are expected to dance and that’s always a fun time.
Now there’s this thing, and I’m not sure how many cultures do this, but the makeup that the bride has, like, it makes her a lot more lighter than she actually is. Her face will be so much whiter than normal.
Analysis: My analysis of the makeup aspect is that there’s some kind of inferiority complex or self-hate related to having darker skin; whiter skin is seen as more beautiful. This is why brides will be a lot more whiter skinned during weddings. I doubt that anyone would ever acknowledge this if you asked them the reason, but this sort of thing has been seen across cultures and throughout history. It is especially prevalent in many South Asian weddings.
It is interesting that the weddings are so open and that it is open to pretty much the whole town. I imagine this means that weddings largely dominate the social scene as you could probably be invited to at least one or two per week. I think the informant’s experience, being a children at most of these, probably tainted his viewpoint and led to his dismissal of weddings in general. More than likely he was placed at the table with other children or random people and he therefore does not appreciate many of the more rewarding aspects of this type of ceremony.
Like many cultures, religion is a dominant and even defining aspect of life for the Sudanese people. Nothing happens without first making sure that Islamic conditions are met. Government statistics say that 100% of Sudan is Muslim, which, although it may not be completely true, does highlight the homogeneous nature of the country. This homogeneity may also contribute to the relative openness of the weddings, as many people have congruent viewpoints, values and expectations as opposed to the massive diversity we find here in the U.S.