Courtship is the period in a couple’s relationship which precedes their engagement and marriage. In courtship, a couple get to know each other.
The Meru tribe is one of the forty two tribes found in Kenya, a country in East Africa. It is a Bantu ethnic group which resides on Mount Kenya’s agriculturally rich northeastern slopes, in Kenya’s Eastern Province. The Meru are primarily agrarian, raising a few domestic animals. Courtship in Meru community was and still is a family or communal affair.
In this community, a young man became legible for marriage after serving as a warrior. Warriors were mainly involved in defending the community. During the war they would capture and come back with livestock, women and girls. These women and girls would be married to older men within the community. It was a taboo for a warrior to touch a girl who had been taken as a captive of war. This way, heterogeneity within the community was maintained.
The task of identifying a girl to marry was usually left to the man. Once he had identified a suitable girl he initiated the first contact with her. The girl was not supposed to be a relative either close or distant. So, the issue of lineage was considered. In determining this the older men were consulted to verify the suitability of the girl for marriage.
Normally the young man would introduce himself and request the girl whether he could pay her a visit at home. If the girl was also interested in him she would agree. But if not, she would give some excuses. In case of an invitation, you are supposed to take a friend preferably an age mate who will speak on your behalf. At this stage the man is supposed to be very courteous and display good manners before the girl and her relatives. Thus the friend who accompanies him during these visits is supposed to cushion the young man against any weaknesses which may terminate the relationship. The friend also acts as a witness.
Any time the young man visited the girl he would always plant a spear in front of her hut and cough to call for attention. The girl would then come out to receive him. During these visits, the young man carried gifts for the girl which were in form of beads and other ornaments to adorn her as a sign of engagement. He also brought gifts for her sisters and brothers to allow him to court her. When the brothers and sisters started referring to you as one of them it was an indicator that you had been accepted in that homestead. From there the young man could now propose for marriage.