There has been much debate about how much an average kayan lefe should cost on Social media recently. This was sparked by a tweet recently which mentioned that 8 Million is the average for kayan lefe in Northern Nigeria.
The least you’re going to spend when getting married as an average groom in the north is 8 million Naira and thats if you’re not even building a house but taking rent.— Ham $. (@its_hammadrabiu) January 4, 2021
To calculate how the average lefe cost, one needs to understand the origin and history of life itself.
For most Hausa men, the most terrifying part of getting married is the lefe. The literal meaning of the word ‘lefe’ is “basket”. However, it is now referred to as the clothing and accessories a fiancé sends to his fiancée a couple of weeks before their wedding. Making of lefe in Hausa culture is an obligation that rests on the shoulders of every Hausa man that wishes to get married. Lefe is the last thing taken to the bride’s home before the wedding Fatiha. You can read here to learn all the rituals associated with marriage in Northern Nigeria.
Origin of Kayan Lefe
Before the invention of luggage sets, Hausa people used Lefen Kaba to deliver the clothing, they then graduated to using Kwalla – a vertically long container with a cover, to Pantimoti – a wooden box and then Kumbo – another kind of container for clothing.
In the olden days, one or two lefen kwaba/Kwalla/Kumbo/Pantimoti would be taken to the bride but now a luggage set of six is usually what is given to the bride.
What is Found in a Modern Average Kayan Lefe?
Inside of this luggage, items of clothing like Ankara, laces, shadda, fabrics, abaya, sleepwear, veils, inner wears are put as well as jewelry, shoes, bags, and cosmetics. The quantity, quality of the clothing and accessories are purchased per the wealth of the fiancé. If he’s wealthy, he and his family will arrange two luggage sets for his fiancée. Average people however fill one luggage set with those items.
And nowadays, it might cost between 2 to 3 million for an average person to make kayan lefe. Here’s a breakdown of a typical lefe in Northern Nigeria.
|Box||6 piece luggage set||180,000|
|Ankara, lace, shadda||90 pieces||739,000|
|Inner wears and sleepwear||According to need.||120,000|
|Shoes and bags||12 pieces each.||180,000|
|Jewellery||According to need||135,000|
|Cosmetics and makeup items.||According to need||145,000|
|English wears||According to need||105,000|
|Hijab and Jilbab||8 pieces||75,000|
|After dress||5 pieces||80,000|
Succeeding the bringing of the lefe to the bride’s home is the display of it to family and friends to assess it. One’s future spouse’s reputation skyrockets or plummets after that. The lefe determines the affluence and taste of the fiancé. If the lefe is in a large amount, people will talk about it endlessly and praise the fiancé for a job well done. If it isn’t, they’ll still talk about it, but in hushed tones.
Although it might seem smart, spending a large amount of money to purchase clothing at once that can be bought over a long period is absurd. The bride ends up having a lot of clothes over a long period. Not to mention that they could start their marriage with nothing because the groom has sunk millions into making lefe.
Also, the constant hike of the dollar in Nigeria keeps causing an unreasonable rise in the prices of things. This puts the average person in a difficult position should they decide to get married. Many youths have been calling for the scrapping of this cultural obligation. They wish to start small and lefe is what hinders them from marrying. Some people however argue that it is important that this culture is upheld because it is the backbone of Hausa marriage culture.
Still, lefe in Hausa culture remains the biggest obstacle when it comes to marriage.