Marriage, poetry, and other Socotri traditions

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Marriage, poetry, and other Socotri traditions

Post by RAZOR on Tue Apr 10, 2007 1:21 am

Marriage, poetry, and other Socotri traditions

Digging the Socotri dancing.Many people living in Yemen long to go to the island of Socotra, renowned for its spectacular beauty and the warmth of its people. But many of these people have not had the opportunity to travel to this far-off island. Armchair travelers were given the chance to vicariously experience Socotri culture, without paying the price of a plane ticket, at the French Culture Center this Tuesday.

Several Socotri visitors were in attendance, and they spoke about the traditions of their island. The main sources of livelihood for the local people of Socotra are the date palms, livestock, medicinal plants and fishing, said Socotra native Ismail Mohammed, to the assembled group of foreign and Yemeni people. “Our program to introduce our life to the people is not exactly arranged, but we will try to introduce it suitably,” Mohammed said. “We will begin to introduce the culture and traditional ways of Socotri people.”

Marriage customs on Socotra are unique, Mohammed said. “When the boy reaches the age of 16 or 17, his father begins to thinking about marrying him off. He goes immediately to his friend who has a daughter in the same village, without consulting his son. The father goes at night, in secret, because he wants to avoid the people of the village in case his friend refuses him,” he said. “The father speaks to his friend, saying that my son wants your daughter. If he accepts, they determine the day of marriage and the girl does not know anything about it,” he said. “When the day of marriage arrives, the girls of the village go to the bride’s home.

There are events on that day that traditionally take place, such as the slaughter of some animals for the people who come.” At the end of the marriage day, the girls return to their homes, and the family of the bride tells her that she will marry that man, who maybe the girl does not know or love. “When the bride begins shouting, the drums begin beating and they take her to an isolated room that does not allow anyone to enter except for her mother. While she crying in her isolated room, the men dance all the night,” Mohammed said.

“In the night, they have the dinner and the mother of the bride takes her to her husband’s room. It is without a door. If she refuses the groom when he enters the room and escapes to the mountain, he must divorce her. Therefore, the rate of divorce in Socotra reaches 60 percent,” Ismail said. “I married my uncle’s daughter in the same way. In the first night, I was with her in our room; I had a cigarette that time and did not have a lighter. I told her to look for a lighter; she went and did not come back,” Ismail said.

Ismail Mohammed (R) and interpreter share some island customs.“I was in an embarrassing position.” Mohammed also told the assembled crowd about the poetry of Socotra, much of which is often recited at weddings. “There are many kinds of Socotri poetry, such as satire and spinning. When a poet creates a poem, he uses descriptions from nature. Zamhar is one kind of Socotri poetry. There must be three groups, each of which has a poet. The first poet is called Gerfaf, and the second named Gargoti, and the third is Demenrth,” said Mohammed.

In the past, the Socotri sent messages from tribe to tribe through poetry. “The number of poets was more than now, because they were speaking Socotri language and most of them died,” he said. “Fifteen poets are still alive and we cannot do poetry because we lost many Socotri words.” The culture of the coastal inhabitants of Socotra differs from the traditions of the mountain people, because the coastal people have many traditions that originated from Africa.

“Some Socotris brought people from Africa to work, so they took on the traditions of these people who came from Africa,” he said. There are differences between the dance of coastal people and those who live in the mountains. “When the people who live in the mountains dance, they stand in four rows and sing when they are dancing in calm movements,” Mohammed said. “The coastal people are dancing and jumping as if they were practicing sorcery.”

Many Socotris live in caves, and thus also have traditions different from other Socotri people. “The people like nature, so they like living in caves and in the areas that have water,” he said. “We tried to give you a glimpse of the life on Socotra island. The Socotri people are simple, peaceful and quick,” said Mohammed. “Thank you for your coming to learn about Socotra life.”


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