Gnau - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The agnatically constituted descent groups of the Gnau are exogamous, but villages, consisting as they most frequently do of members of a number of descent groups, are not necessarily so. Marriages are arranged between the Families of the prospective spouses, and the new wife takes up residence with her husband. The rights associated with her that were previously held by her father and brothers pass to her husband upon payment of bride-wealth. The marriage remains provisional until the birth of the first child, however, so bride-wealth is not distributed until that time. Although this payment confers rights in and authority over the child on its father, the mother's brother retains some rights and obligations as well. A husband must be compensated for his wife's adultery by her lover or the latter is subject to attack by the offended husband. Neither widows nor widowers are socially required to remarry, but it is important for a widower to find himself a new wife to cook for him and care for his children. Widows may often seek to avoid remarriage in order not to obscure or confuse the rights of her children from her earlier marriage.

Domestic Unit. The conjugal unit of husband and wife plus their children does not correspond to a residential unit. The wife lives in her dwelling house with her small sons and her daughters until they marry, while the husband sleeps in a men's house that is shared with his brothers and older sons. Lacking coresidential markers of relationship, the smallest family unit can be defined in terms of those individuals for whom a woman cooks on a daily basis: these will be her husband and her unmarried offspring. The larger sense of family, constituting the range of individuals cooperatively involved in provisioning the household through pursuits other than gardening, will also include the husband's brothers. A widowed female with young children, if she chooses to remain unmarried, will attach herself to her brother's household, while a widowed man with no daughter old enough to cook for him may join the household of a married older brother.

Inheritance. Land and ritual lore are the most important heritable items in Gnau society, and they belong to the lineage. Access to both passes from fathers to sons. Although elder and younger brothers are distinguished terminologically and have different obligations, this distinction is not mirrored in inheritance patterns: older males do not inherit differently than their younger male siblings do. "Temporary" property, such as trees and produce, are inherited individually by a man's sons at the discretion of the owner. Women do not inherit.

Socialization. Very young children stay with their mothers, but as they become old enough to wander about they enjoy a great deal of freedom. As a boy grows up he moves from his mother's house to the men's house of his father's lineage and plays in groups with other boys of the village. Both boys and girls pick up necessary practical knowledge through observation and mimicking in play the behavior of their elders. The day-to-day care of young children falls largely to the mother, but certain points in the child's development call for ritual performances involving both paternal and maternal kin. During these times traditional knowledge and ritual lore are passed along. The mother's brother is expected to hold a Ceremony that removes dietary taboos when a child reaches about 3 years of age, and he is also intimately involved in the puberty ceremonies of both boys and girls. The father and the father's lineage are obligated to compensate the mother's brother for this ritual involvement and to provide food for the accompanying feasts.

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