Faces of Africa 01/22/2017 Polygamous love

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The family of Isaiah preparing for the wedding of Eunice and Isaiah

 

The Maasai are traditionally polygamous with old and young men taking up to three, four or

more wives in their lifetime. The need for a second or third wife is not always for the man’s

satisfaction but for the good of the homestead and other women.

“Having just one wife is bad. I would not have as many children and cows. If you want to

have such a homestead, with plenty of food and Maasai, one wife is not enough,” told Mzee

Kodonyo.

 Eunice Mitao an 11 year old Maasai girl about to be married as a second wife.
Eunice Mitao an 11 year old Maasai girl about to be married as a second wife.

Isaiah Kodonyo is no exception as he comes from a long line of polygamous families.

Tomorrow morning he takes home a second wife, the only difference being this is not an

arranged marriage.

Unlike his grandfather and father, Isaiah chose his second wife and unlike most Maasai

women, Eunice is happy to marry a man that she knows and loves.

“You cannot marry a woman you don’t love. You should marry a woman you love,” said

Isaiah.

Among all the wives in a Maasai home, there is always the matriarch of the homestead, the

first wife, from whom the home flourished. Leah Kodonyo fondly called Gogo by her

grandchildren is Mzee’s first wife. Leah recalls when she was married off to Mzee Kodonyo.

“When I came from my father’s home, I was 15 years old. Since then, it has been many

years. It is not the girl who chooses the husband. It is the father who chooses for her. That is

what happened to me. I did not choose.”

Isaiah Kodonyo - a young Maasai man awaiting to marrying his second wife, Eunice Mitao.
Isaiah Kodonyo – a young Maasai man awaiting to marrying his second wife, Eunice Mitao.

Contrary to popular belief, the polygamous nature of the Maasai is mainly perpetuated by

the women. In most families, the reason for a second or third wife is due to the insistence of

the first wife or the mother-in- law. The reasons are far and wide, the main one being that

the wife needs more hands to handle the daily chores or is barren and would like a surrogate

mother.

Isaiah’s first wife is just as young as he is. Elizabeth Kodonyo is twenty three years old and

like any first wife in the Maasai community, her status in the home is now of higher standing

with the coming of a second wife.

“I am happy that I am getting a companion. We will be staying together like sisters do,” said

Elizabeth Kodonyo – Isaiah first wife.

Eunice Mitao is only eleven years old but she’s exhilarated to be married to Isaiah and be the

second wife.

The family of Isaiah preparing for the wedding of Eunice and Isaiah
The family of Isaiah preparing for the wedding of Eunice and Isaiah

“Isaiah and I met at a shop in Embolei. Then we got to know each other better. I wanted to

be the first wife, but I was late and now it is my turn to be the second wife,” she told.

“As a Maasai woman, it is important that you are married. According to Maasai culture, a

woman cannot remain unmarried. You need to get married and have children. A woman

cannot stay without a husband and vice versa,” told Leah Kodonyo.

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