The Bethrothal – a sketch
The theme of Black History Month 2023 is ‘Saluting our Sisters’, highlighting the crucial role that Black women have played in shaping history, inspiring change and building communities. On that note, we are pleased to present “The Bethrothal”, a sketch celebrating Black women written by SurvivorsUK counselling client, Cyril Johnson.
When Cyril presented SurvivorsUK with The Bethrothal we were not only impressed by his witty script, but also his own incredible story of the uproar that the first version of his script caused as an 18 year-old Sierra Leonean student attending the United World College of The American West. His tongue-in-cheek sketch celebrating womanhood which portrayed a family negotiating a bride-price – an engagement ritual practised across many African countries – was met with rebellion by other African students for misogynistic reasons, a meltdown at this “mini-United Nations” as Cyril puts it.
So, what better way to introduce The Bethrothal than to hear Cyril tell this sometimes comical story in his own words? Listen to him explaining the origin of this sketch in this interview here.
LIST OF MAIN CHARACTERS
Femi: Father of the bridegroom-to-be
Sade: Mother of the bridegroom-to-be
Tunde: Uncle of the bridegroom-to-be
Ronke: Aunt of the bridegroom-to-be
Ola: Father of the bride-to-be
Dele: Mother of the bride-to-be
Duro: Uncle of the bride-to-be
Yinka: Aunt of the bride-to-be
The scene is set in the home of the bride-to-be’s family. The bridegroom-to-be’s family enter the room to the sound of drums. They are followed into the room by the bride-to-be’s family.
Femi: Greetings to your family. We have come with great humility to your house to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage on behalf of our son.
Ola: My future in-laws I salute you. I will present our daughter to your family today but we must firstly clinch the matter of the bride-price.
Ronke: We are here to reach an amicable settlement and hope that our negotiations will be fruitful.
Sade: We offer you 5 herds of cattle to commence the negotiations.
Dele: The daughter of this house is worth more than 5 herds of cattle. I request a higher price for her hand and 40 herds of cattle is a worthy amount.
Tunde: We offer you 10 herds of cattle if this amount is acceptable to you.
Duro: That offer is a far cry from the 40 herds of cattle we initially suggested. We are however prepared to negotiate further. As the saying goes, ‘Let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too. If one says no to the other let its wing break ’. A bride-price of 30 herds of cattle is more appropriate.
Femi: We can increase the bride-price to 15 herds of cattle and hope this amount meets your approval.
Yinka: We are at last making progress. We did not intend to go below 30 herds of cattle. But as the dog said, ‘If I fall down for you and you fall down for me, it is play ’. Marriage should be a play and not a fight; so we are falling down again.We set the bride-price at 20 herds of cattle.
Sade: We agree to this amount as a full and final satisfaction of the bride-price. We remain indebted to you for this great privilege. We know that a man’s debt to his in-laws can never be fully discharged. When our son marries your daughter he must continue paying until death.
Dele: We are assured that our daughter will be in capable hands and that your family will treat her well.
Ola: We would now like to present the daughter of this house to you.
An iron gong sounds and after a brief interval a young woman enters the room.
Femi: This is not the person we have come to ask for. She is the Violet.
The young woman exits the room and after a brief interval another young woman enters the room.
Sade: This is not our son’s intended. She is the Daisy.
The young woman exits the room and thereafter another young woman enters the room.
Tunde: This does not represent the person for which we have agreed a bride-price. She is the Tulip.
The young woman exits the room and shortly afterwards another young woman enters the room.
Ronke: We have yet to see the right person the suitor wishes to marry. She is the Lily.
The sound of drums fills the air which then reaches a crescendo. A young woman dressed in an embroidered full length gown and adorned with jewellery enters the room and the parties give a loud cheer.
Femi: This is the Rose for whose hand in marriage we have come to ask on behalf of our son.
Ola: I give my blessing to this union and hope that the twain will be happy and prosperous.
Sade: And may the Rose bring peace to the world !