Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kitchen Party Induction

No reference to tupperware parties here. Yesterday I attended my first “kitchen party”. A Tanzanian tradition, its closest Western equivalent is the bridal shower but, this comparison is nowhere near adequate.

The name, I deduced, derives from the fact that it is at this occasion that the bride is presented with gifts that predominantly consist of kitchen utensils and appliances. An entire corner of the garden in which the party took place was dedicated to showcasing these, complete with refridgerator, stove, and table set to mimick a dining scene. I found particularly interesting the interpretation of the wedding gift registry concept. Guests were not presented with the details of things they could go off and buy and then gift-wrap – no pretense of intrigue and surprise here. Instead, weeks before the event, guests contributed what money they desired and the wedding committee then bought items the bride requested. So in fact, the kitchen party is an opportunity to show the guests how their money has been spent.

To me, all this is superfluous (although great for brides; give me a blender rather than a thong any day!) – the real draw of the kitchen party is the ‘teachings’. To my disappointment, I was pre-warned that this particular party would be tame, “modern” (aka conservative). It would not illustrate what I’d heard about kitchen parties where s
“specialists” in the area of how to treat/keep/satisfy your husband, in full uncensored glory, would share their wisdom with the crowd. Instead, each table was asked to write advice to the bride and/or ask questions to the designated experts. Thankfully, there were some interesting, non-conservative questions including ones about sex and “small houses” (i.e. mistresses). What really impressed me was our “teachers” progressive, feminist attitude (and note that they belong to my parent’s generation in a culture where several women accept a subservient role). Answers to questions about what to do if your man wants sex a certain way were refreshingly about sexual liberation and assertiveness. The answer to the question “should you wash his underwear?”, was an opportunity to plead to the older generations to encourage their sons to participate in “matters of the home”, sharing those duties equally and; to the younger generations to accept no less.

And we danced, from beginning to end, in the light and in the dark. To religious songs, to old school and new music, and to naughty taarab songs – showing off how well we could wine our waists. With 150 women, covering at least 3 generations, it was a true “girl power” session!