Thanks to DOLPHIN for the link to this allafrica.com article.
The Monitor (Kampala)
2 December 2007
Posted to the web 3 December 2007
My advice to potential viewers of Big Brother Africa II (BBA II) was to “get a life” and turn off the TV.
However, the fallout between winner Richard of Tanzania and his Canadian wife Ricki provides an interesting case study for those interested in monogamy and polygamy in Africa, and in cross-cultural human relationships in general.
According to The Red Pepper (November 24 2007, Page 25) Richard’s father and siblings have criticised Ricki for “betraying and not supporting” Richard during his 98 days on BBA II.
From a monogamous angle, these comments are bizarre. Richard fell in love with Tatiana, slept with her, and also had sexual contact with Nigerian Ofunneka. So what was Ricki supposed to do – jump up and down with joy and celebrate? Monogamy would say that it was Richard who “betrayed” Ricki, not vice versa.
From the polygamous cultural standpoint, however, things look very different. Tatiana can be viewed as a potential “co-wife”, whose contribution to Richard’s happiness Ricki should recognise and appreciate.
When (not at all beautiful) Ricki married (extremely handsome) Richard – and what were looks being traded for in this marriage contract? – I wonder how much Ricki knew, if anything, about polygamy in Africa.
Ricki’s situation reminds me of the observations, a few years ago, of Mary, a 29-year Ugandan professional, who holds a senior job in a health NGO. Her father is polygamous. She told me: “I do worry about some of my bazungu girlfriends. They fall in love with Ugandan men without knowing what they may be letting themselves in for; and without understanding the culture that has shaped these men and may eventually shape a husband’s future behaviour.”
And certainly, when I meet a Ugandan woman in love with a muzungu man, I have more confidence in the longevity of their relationship, than when it is muzungu woman in love with a Ugandan man.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the monogamous culture of my country of birth is superior. With a divorce rate of around 40 percent and extramarital affairs aplenty, it is hardly a success story. But what I would say is that when the missionaries arrived in Uganda and overlaid African polygamy with Christian monogamy, the result was deception in human relations of disastrous proportions. What was previously done openly was now done secretly in a lodge or wherever.
And often the first “the official wife” knows about it is when the “co’s” turn up with their children at the husband’s funeral. At least Ricki had the advantage of openly watching her husband’s behaviour unfold on television!
They say “travel is an education.” We can certainly agree that Ricki’s travels to Tanzania have been an education for her.