Back to future with the Barbadian family
YOUR CORRESPONDENT, Rev. Buddy Larrier, in his fascinating letter captioned Church Must Lead In Restoring The Family (October 30), exactly identifies the issue for the Anglican Church in its national consultation on Restoring ourBarbadian Family.
That’s to say, was there ever a “period when the Barbadian family was not fractured?” Rev. Larrier must also be right to suggest that, if there was such a period, we must investigate it to discover what the authentic African Barbadian family really is.
Now the problem is that Rev. Larrier fails to say what it once was. Was it, for example, a nuclear family? What he does say, however, is that whatever it was, the fracture was caused by slavery, that the Church is partly responsible, and that the “damage” done to “our families” must be recognised and, presumably, compensated for.
Unfortunately, he does not say how slavery fractured what once was, nor what the present, and direct, consequences of that fracture are. I wonder how long we’ll blame slavery for all our ills.
Very well. Let’s take a step back. I don’t think that Rev. Larrier is suggesting that, pre-slavery marriage was unknown and that successful heterosexual relationships were a free-for-all. So let’s suppose that in Nigeria, let’s say in Yoruba- or Itsekiri-land, and apart from those who were themselves slaves to black slave masters, there was a form of marriage. Well, yes, there was. It was marriage by native law and custom.
That permitted a man, as it still does, to marry as many wives as he wished. Doubtless they once all lived together in the same compound, though now in separate houses often continents apart, and, of course, the commercial nature of each marriage was recognised through payment of the “bride price”.
As you might imagine, and as I’ve witnessed, it’s a construct nowadays which causes all sorts of problems for first, second and subsequent wives and their children in relation to issues of priority and property. And then there’s the added irritation of allegations of bigamy under the various marriage acts.
But still, if that’s what Rev. Larrier wants, or if he thinks reference to it will help, I do hope he’ll propose it to the Anglican Church. Perhaps, for better or for worse, it will explain something of what we now witness – but then again, maybe it won’t.
– (FR) CLIFFORD HALL