Marriage/ Family Life


Family in the Mvele society has occupied and continues to occupy a very important place. The Mvele respect and value the family, which is the basic component or structure of their society. In this society, the family pattern which is widely found is the extended family. The family is composed of parents (father and mother), children, uncles, aunts, and any others relatives. It should be noted that all the members of the family, either from the father or the mother side of the family are descendants of different ancestors. This means that the respectively the mother has his or her own phratry. We insist on it because all members of the tribe who get married need absolutely before to have a different ancestor than the one of his wife/husband.

In addition, the brothers of the mother are the people who have authority in the family. This means that the uncles of the mother side have the last words in the family matters as a whole, mainly when the children are involved. It is particularly seen during the marriage process, where the mother-brothers are the one who give the daughter of the family in marriage or go to find a wife to a son of the family. It should be noted that the elders (usually called NTOL) of the family are the one who have power under the other members and particularly the eldest mother-brother.

However, with the modernization of the population, a sort of nuclear family inside this extended family is progressively showing up. In big cities or capitals, the nuclear family pattern is the pattern used by those people. In fact, it is partly due to the economic constraints and the modern lifestyle which has been adopted by each couple. But in rural places or villages, the extended family pattern is the pattern which is mostly used.

Moreover, since the Mvele people have a high sense of respect of the tradition, women (mothers, daughters, daughters-in-law) are much respected. They are the ones who take care of the family, who look at the children, who bring up children, who heal the family and more importantly who cook for the family.

Concerning the child rearing pattern, the one which is used by the tribe, is the combined dependence/independence training pattern. The population here educates children in a sense that they will be able to live outside the tribe without having some problem of adaptation and that they will participate actually in the evolution of the tribe.

Furthermore, the family residence pattern which is used by this population is the patrilocal one meaning all married couples live in the locality of the husbands. It is the case because it has been the case since immemorial time. And also, the women are married to permit the evolution of their husbands’ families and normally the best way is to go to that families and live there with them in other to increase the members of the families by giving birth to children.

The Mvele tribe has been since century a modernize tribe in the area of lineage patterns. In this tribe, there is no distinction about the gender of the heir of the family, in which is not the same thing with many African’s tribes. Here, a girl or a boy can inherit from the father or the mother. So, in this tribe, it is the double unilineal pattern of lineage which is used. However, since the society and the country are more fathers oriented, so, the lineal pattern is more patrilineal than matrilineal even though the two are practiced in the tribe. It should be noted that, a person can be heir of another person through gift. That is, a member of a specific family can be rich but does not have any children to whom he or she can pass on his or her wealth. In this situation, that person can decide to gift all his wealth to one of the child of his family, and generally is to the child bearing the same name as he. Sometimes, that person can decide to give it to one of his brothers or sisters if he or she has any.

As additional information, it should be noted that the Mvele people have had slaves in ancient time like almost all the tribe in that period. The people enslaved here were the Belo and they were living outside the village. But nowadays, there is no slave even though the people from the Belo group are sometimes still stigmatized because their name was that of a slave tribe.

To sum up, we can say that in this community, family is an organized entity with its own properties.


Marriage is very important in the Mvele tribe. It is seen as a way of continuing the lineage of the ancestor and it also represents the link between two families.  Since family is an important entity, the marriage of one of its members is a concern which is shared by every member. The girl here is given in marriage by his uncle (brother of her mother) to the uncle of her husband, not to the husband because in this tribe, they say: “we give our daughter to a family not to a child”. That means, a marriage is really a matter of joining two families.

Although marriage is good, it is important to talk first about the ways in which people get up to that point, that means the dating rituals before the marriage. At the beginning, the woman was chosen at birth by her husband. But nowadays, the practice changed. Now, the boy or the girl dates each other. The dating rituals are almost similar to what are practiced by almost every person in this world. It should be noted that the Mvele tribe does not tolerate incest that is; sex or marriage within two related people is prohibited. But, it is possible that two cousins get married if and only if they are part of at least the fifth generation of the family and it is only in this tribe that such a thing exist because it doesn’t in the other Beti tribes.

Marriage Patterns

The marriage pattern which is widely spread is polygamy and precisely polygyny. The Mvele people practice polygamy, and each wife lives in an independent hut with her sons under the strict rule of the husband, his male relatives, the members of his clan and her mother in law. The women farm the fields of the husband (by having more wives, the men has more labour force), and beside this, they gather wild fruits and fish in the rivers. The Mvele also practiced serial monogamy. Both men and women are free to get married again after the death of their spouses. Women in this tribe are free to get married after their husband death. In addition, people have already had sex before marriage although there are few people who stay virgin up to marriage. One of the main reason why those people have sex before marriage is to test the fecundity of the woman and to see if both man and woman are really men and women. These people practice both exogamy and endogamy that is, marriage can be outside or within the group. We can say that there are extreme cases of incest since two cousins can get married when there are parts of the fifth generation.


Stages of Mariage

The first step is: NSILI ALUG which means the hand asked or simply the first presentation. Here, the boy’s family goes to the first time to the house of the girl to first present themselves and to apologize for all the trouble brought by their son, because by dating their girl, he has perturbed the habits of the girl and her role inside her family. It should be noted that the maximum number of the family of the boy must not exceed ten. But because you cannot go to the house of a person without a gift, the boy’s family delegation brings on  that day some wines, beers, foods, dresses, and other stuff that they will see useful to buy. On that day, the person that will talk is not the real parent of the boy but his uncle.

The second step is NSILI KALARA MEVEG which means the “demand of the list”. This list contains all the things that he will need to pay in order to have his wife. In fact, this list is a set of many other lists. We have the list of the sisters of the girl (cousins, sisters), the list of her aunts on the father side, the list of her aunts on the mother side. It is true that some items will come may be many time, so, the girl can try to help her lover by asking to the family to remove some elements. She can also use her position to limit the list if her lover is not wealthy.

The third step is the delivery of the list to the boy. On that day, as habitually, the boy needs to come with some items. He will receive on that day the list prepared by the girl’s family. Note that he is the one who fix the due date of deposit of every item on the list.

The fourth one is the money reserve for the father of the girl. The amount is never known before. Generally, it is the boy who determines what he wants to give. But, if the boy somehow rich, he can decide to buy a land or construct a house to his father in law.

The last one is the bride price, which represent all the items which were given on the list. It happens on day set by the boy. He comes with all the items and put them in a particular place where almost every member of the communities is able to see what he has brought as bride price. After the sun comes down, the ceremony starts and the girl and the boy are now wife and husband.  It should be noted that, after the uncle of the girl has given her hand to the boy, the new couple start running without looking behind until they cross a river. During this ceremony of bride price, there is something that we call “airplane”. It is a small group constitutes of the girl and her cousins which will bring the new wife to the place where her husband is. What happen first is that, a cousin comes to see the husband and say may be” your wife and I went to Paris(which is not true) and because of some money problem, I left her there and in other to see her, you need to give me money such I can go there and take her back home. ” After that, the husband gives some money to that woman and then that group comes to give back the new wife to her husband while making a lot of noise. But, on that day, the husband goes home alone. And his wife will come another day with a delegation of her sisters and with a small amount of soil of her native land that she will put around her husband’ house. After she had thrown that ground, the house of her husband becomes her naturally because her native ground is there with her.

Today, all what we said happen and then may be the next day or after some days, the couple goes to the mayor house and gets married. Sometimes, other couples also go to the church to finalize their marriage in front of God and the people which is known as the religious marriage.


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