A Fulani engagement party is the ultimate exercise in playing hard to get.
It starts with the man and his friends/uncles turning up at the mother-in-law’s compound and being served a cornflour drink with lots and lots of salt in it. The man and his comrades have to demonstrate their good intentions by drinking the calabash dry.
Then a series of women are brought out, covered by a big piece of cloth. The man has to say whether each one is his girl, or not! For each wrong guess, he has to pay 5000 Francs.
The sun is getting hot, and the man has still not found his loved one. He remonstrates with one of the girl’s aunts, who says ‘Not my problem!’
Finally, the girl is guessed correctly and revealed for who she is. Now the real negotiations can begin.
The friends of the man go to the formidable aunts on bended knee to beg on the man’s behalf for the girl’s hand in marriage.
An accord is struck, and the dancing begins.
Finally, the happy couple can be said to be engaged. The wedding will follow in a few months, and this time the cornflour drink will be sweet, not salty.