Kayan Lefe is a Hausa marriage tradition where the groom buys expensive gift items for his bride. These gifts, when formally presented to her by the groom’s family, form a pivotal part of the marriage rites. The presentation is usually witnessed by the bride’s entire family.
Kayan Lefe—originally a Hausa practice, has become a common tradition in Northern Nigeria and nearly all ethnic groups in the region practice it as it adds colour and excitement to marriage proposals.
The items usually included in the Kayan Lefe for an average suitor include a minimum of 15 wrappers, five pieces each of lace, guinea brocade and other materials, sets of head veils, jewellery, underwear, nightgowns, cosmetics, shoes and bags.
Before now, Kayan Lefe are usually put inside a set of suitcases ranging from three to five, and the number depends on the groom’s income or family background. But nowadays, Kayan Lefe instead of being loaded in suitcases are now put and conveyed in a refrigerator.
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Zahrau Yahaya, a bride-to-be, whose family just received her Kayan Lefe in a refrigerator, told Daily Trust Saturday that she was the one who sold the idea to her fiancé.
“Initially, when I told him about the idea, he kept mute and later said he will think about it. It took me some time to convince him to accept the idea. Later he agreed and bought the refrigerator and eventually the kayan lefe were put inside it and brought to our family house,” she said with a glowing smile on her face.
Speaking on why the brides-to-be now prefer refrigerators to suitcases for the storage and conveyance of their Kayan Lefe, Zahrau said that the refrigerator is more useful to her than the suitcases.
“I chose this new trend because I am an orphan, and I know my guardians cannot afford to buy a fridge for me. As you know, the bride’s family spend a lot of money during the wedding and due to the high cost of living in the country, most average-class families provide the basic items like furniture and kitchen utensils for their daughters, so any other thing is given less priority,” she said.
Zahrau added that “Most times, when these suitcases are given to the bride as kayan lefe, they would be kept in the couple’s house and in some cases, they will remain there without being used. So, when the couple decides to get rid of them, they sell them off and definitely the price will go down beyond imagination. That’s part of the reason I decided to go for the refrigerator which I can start using immediately.”
Zahrau added that her family did not oppose the idea.
“Before he brought the kayan lefe, when I told some of my family members, they welcomed the idea. Our house became like a tourist centre as people trooped in to see for themselves, taking pictures and making videos. You know this is a new trend,” she added.
Ahmad Ali, Zahrau’s spouse, told Daily Trust Saturday that he did not accept the idea at the beginning because he thought his family would go against it.
“When she first brought up the idea, I did not buy it, but with time I came to realise the essence of the idea and I later accepted it because as she said, we can use the fridge in our home,” he said.
Abba Dangayu, who is also considering marriage later in the year, said though the idea is trending among the lower-class families, most rich families don’t consider it because they think it’s beneath them.
“My wedding ceremony will take place by the end of July, and I’ve been saving money for over a year to buy the traditional set of suitcases to load the lefe. I had wished my soon-to-be in-laws would accept this new trend when I suggested it, but unfortunately, they did not. My mother-in-law told me that they have already bought two refrigerators for their daughter, so I should just do the usual lefe as I know it.
“I have two friends who did it. They were lucky their in-laws found the idea appealing. So, we went to Sabongari and bought medium-sized fridges of not more than N90,000, and because all the three of us had been buying the contents of the Lefe for a long time, what they spent altogether on the refrigerators was not more than N200,000 as against what they would have spent on suitcases,” he said.
He added that the idea has been well received by low-class family and will eventually spread to the medium class considering how inflation and poverty are on the rise in the country.
“People are embracing new ideas that will save costs and responsibilities. You know how our parents spend a lot of money when marrying off their daughters; they buy all the furniture to furnish the son-in-law’s house, buy kitchen utensils, electrical appliances including the fridge, and even food tokens known as ‘gara’ after the marriage. All these sometimes cost as much as N500,000, but if the fridge is now part of the son-in-law’s responsibility, the hassle has been reduced. And with time, the other burdens culture impose on us will become history as well,” he said.
Hafsa Iliyasu Musa is a three-month-old bride whose lefe was delivered the same way (inside a refrigerator), and she told Daily Trust Saturday that initially she was not happy with the arrangement.
“When he (the groom) told my parents that he was going to bring his lefe in a fridge instead of suitcases, I cried because I knew my friends would mock me. I told him I was not in support of the idea, but in the end, there was nothing I could do about it as my parents were in support of the idea. I brooded for a very long time while he consoled me. It was after we got married that I realized that the fridge was an excellent idea. You know how during Ramadan we were faced with unusual heat and the craving for cold water and beverages became heightened, that was when I saw the usefulness of the idea.
“With the little electricity KEDCO gave us during that period, it (the fridge) saved us from buying cold water or ice block. He laughed at me when I told him so. When I also told my mother, she told me that I should be grateful to him because they did not plan to buy one for me because the burden on them was too much,” Hafsa narrated.
Hajiya Hasina Gambo is also a mother whose daughter was married off using the same method of lefe inside a fridge and she said that it was her husband who advised their son-in-law to adopt the idea, and he happily accepted it.
“It started like a joke when my husband told me about his friend whose son used a fridge to assemble his lefe instead of a suitcase because that is the new trend. He jokingly asked me whether our son-in-law should do the same, and I instantly agreed,” Hajiya Hasina said with a smile.
She said “I hope this is the beginning of the end of those old traditions that do more harm than good in marriage celebrations because the way this generation, especially the ladies, holds those traditions dearly, one will think it is written in the Holy Scripture. My daughter is not an exception as she vehemently opposed the idea but the fear of her father did not allow her say anything against it openly.
“You know how they (brides) always think that their Kayan Lefe must surpass that of their friends because they don’t want to be looked down on. As is common with new ideas, many people are welcoming the idea while others are against it.
“I think this new trend has come to stay because it is cheaper. The demands made by the bride and her family, coupled with the high cost of living in the country is now a hindrance to marriage.”
Also speaking on the new practice, Umar Ahmad, a teacher, said with the cost-benefit attached to the trend, it would soon be accepted by more young people.
“You know lefe is highly demanding, in terms of money and it has become a challenge to youths in the north because of the state of the economy. Apart from the cost of shelter and other marriage expenditures, a young man still has lefe to bear, filling many bags with clothes, shoes and cosmetics but with this trend (a fridge cannot contain many clothes) many youths would be able to marry easily,” he said.
But opposing the new trend, Zainab Sani, a young lady in Kano, said she won’t accept the idea because a fridge cannot contain so much clothing like suitcases.
“I don’t buy the idea at all because a fridge can only contain small Kayan lefe no matter how big it is, unlike the usual suitcases where sometimes with just two sets of suitcases (a set is five pieces), the bride is guaranteed of receiving lots of expensive clothes,” she said.
But she said she may consider the trend in the case where the Kayan Lefe is brought inside more than one refrigerator.
Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar, an elderly woman in her 70s, however, advised young men to marry from families within their own social and economic status to avoid the frustration of Kayan Lefe regardless of the acceptability or otherwise of the new trend.
“If you know your status and that of your in-laws, you don’t need to be told what and what to present as Kayan Lefe. There are some people who look at what others have done during their weddings and think they too will have to do it. If they don’t consider their economic background, then they will get into trouble,” she advised.
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