At the top of my list of achievements last year was being asked to photograph a Somali wedding. Abdimalik Salaam had approached me earlier in the year about photographing the ceremonies leading up to Abdimalik and Fortun being married. Of course, I jumped at the chance to be a part of an event that had not been photographed in Lewiston or Auburn, Maine before.
A Somali wedding has no comparison to most American weddings. As Abdimalik tried to warn me, everything slows down to Somali time. The procedure begins with the Nikah, as the prospective groom meets with the elders of both families while the Bride price is negotiated and her family gives consent to accept him as her husband. This is all being negotiated through the communities Cleric, who is also interviewing the husband-to-be. When all has been accepted by both sides, songs and chants to Allah and blessings for the union are sung by all. When this is concluded, the couple are married in the eyes of the Muslim community. This does not conclude the festivities through. (Photos of this portion of the Nikah are private, and not available for public viewing.)
The Nikah was scheduled to begin at 5:00 pm on 8 Jul 2016, and this is when we began ”Somali” time. Food had to be gathered for the famiy's meeting, Elders must arrive, as well as many members of the extended family.
I received a call at 12:30 am on 9 July that all was ready to begin. I met Abdimalik, and several of his close friends and a brother, outside an apartment in Lewiston, and the adventure began. Gathered in the kitchen and living room, the women and children were enjoying food and conversation, while the men were in a separate room for the negotiations and interview with Abdimalik. Traditionally, the Bride does not attend the Nikah. Once the Bride and Grooms fathers have reached an agreement and the Cleric has given his blessing, songs and chants are begun in praise of Allah and to bestow good will to the couple.
The couple is now married, but the festivities have just begun. While the Nikah was going on, Fartun and her friends were having a Henna party. At 2:00 am, the couple, and their friends, met in the street to exchange greetings. I could not help admiring the beautiful Henna work done on the Bride’s hands.
During this evenings activities, Abdimalik was dressed in the traditional white Dishdasha or Thobe, and Fortun had on the traditional black Abaya covering her dress and Niqab for the head. Now it's home and a few hours sleep.
We were to meet that afternoon for photos around the lake at Bates College. Fortuna and her friends were not able to make it, so Abdimalik and many of his friends and family drove to Bates for an afternoon photo session. He was now dressed in a colorful jacket and pants and many great photos were captured.
Abdimalik had scheduled a limousine for the evening to take the wedding party to the “Aroos”, which is the party that culminates the wedding festivities. Unlike the traditional American Wedding Reception, the entire community is invited to the Aroos. When we picked up the ladies they were dressed in beautiful multi colored dresses and head scarves. Some memorable photos were taken along the Androscoggin River in the waning light of the evening.
Then it was on to the Community Center for the Aroos. Abdimalik and Fortun greeted friends and relatives and would then go on to their apartment as husband and wife.
I thank them for allowing me to be a part of this special day.