‘Monique, you don’t find true love in Mali’, both Amadou and Ibrahim have stated more than once. ‘A man may love his woman, but the chances of the woman marrying a man out of love are quite low’, was added to that.
Mali still being a developing country there is no such thing as a social system. No work, no money. No money, no medical care, no food, no clothes etcetera. With all of this in mind, most people do choose their husband or wife with the mind rather than with the heart.
A husband needs to be capable of financially taking care of his wife and children, reliable, loyal and good for his family. He won’t share his worries with his wife and with a bit of luck he will treat her well and buy her presents.
A wife on the other hand needs to be a good wife in terms of housekeeping and cooking, she’ll have to be a good mother for the children and respectful to her husband.
If on top of that (s)he is good looking that’s of course a bonus.
A man might actually love his wife. Whether or not his wife loves him, he can just hope for it. Her reasons for having accepted his proposal might first of all have been the above mentioned. Also her father will have checked out if he is a ‘good person’. The husband has to officially ask for the hand of the lady with her father. After the investigation and when the father (and the girl) have accepted his request for marriage, he will be handed a list of gifts that he needs to come up with. This list may include a sum of money, clothes and/or fabrics for his wife to be, gifts for the family as well as gifts for the girl. Most of the time there’ll be quite a sum of money involved. And it might take some time before the actual marriage will take place.
As soon as all the gifts are gathered, the parents of the man can hand the kola nuts to the parents of the girl. Once the girl’s parents have accepted the kola nuts and the gifts, the agreement is official and the wedding date can be set. Quite often the religious marriage will be the first to take place. It might take years before it’s followed by the lawful marriage or that might never take place at all, the couple choosing the traditional marriage instead or not at all going any further than the religious marriage.
Even after the marriage the girl may still stay with her own family for several years before joining her husband and his family.
A Malian wanting to marry a woman who really loves him, will most certainly marry a white woman. As Ibrahim stated: ‘Monique, if a white woman wants to marry you, it’ll never be for the money, since we don’t have that. She will really marry the man because she loves him.’ He pauses for a moment, before continuing with a sigh: ‘But our families will most probably not accept us marrying white women. And the cultures and backgrounds are very different; there are not a lot of intermarriages that last, it just being too difficult…’
Keeping all of that in mind, not a lot of Malian men (and women) – unless they are true rebels – will find true love in their life. The family’s influence is still high, it being a matter of respect also, and sooner or later most of them will surrender to their fate and marry a woman of their own culture and religion; making the best out of it, sustaining the cultural strings.
Maybe one day they’ll be the ones accepting that their children make a different choice…