A bridal shower, Paama style

The oldest of the Avock family is my sister Lenneth age 24 who lives on another island with her daughter and husband to be. It’s not uncommon for couples to bear children before the official marriage ceremony. There are several parts to custom marriages that lead up to the actual religious union. Similar to our engagement parties and bridal/groom showers, one of them is when Aunties of the bride who had given the bride a name when she was born*, dress the bride. (*Most Ni-Vanuatu have several names…my little sister Lisa is also a Joyce and Kenny given to her by aunties.)

So the “dress the bride” shower for my sister, Lenneth is the reason for the 2 cows being killed. Large bags of rice, yam, manioc and other root crops are brought by family and friends as gifts. They also bring mats, calico, bed sheets and blankets. During the dressing of the bride, all the aunties start to dress my sister with island dresses…removing one and putting on another. Baby powder is doused over her or properly called here “swim long powda”. Her sisters, Mar, Lisa and myself and mama Eva are also dressed in new island dresses.

I wasn’t prepared for this and didn’t wear a bra (love that I don’t have to wear them here!). An Auntie strips my dress off and I practically flash all the Mamas! Then got drenched with baby powder as well. More dresses and calico peeled off and on, whiffs of snowy powder float all around us…

After the powder shower (a new name, I’m giving it), we returned back to the nakamal where papas are eating the freshly butchered, organic beef with rice and island cabbage. Kids are running around the rows of “party favors” that are set out for each family…yam and beef. We then gather around for the presenting of all the gifts. First mats, then blankets, sheets, calico, more island dresses and a bucket, some dishes and money.

Music plays while I bounce around and storian with family and friends who are visiting. It was an amazing day, surreal and beautiful.



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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.