Romantic Love back in the days; How Africans in the Past Used to Express Romantic Love

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Many historians have been addressing the rise of romantic love in other continents. Yet, love in Africa  has been peculiarly ignored, partly due to limited history of romantic love in Africa. Thus begging the questions of how early Africans deals with the issue of Love.

Love is a feeling that can’t be touched but, it’s funny how it makes one vulnerable to other feelings like pain, danger and suffering. It’s amazing how one day someone walks into your life and you can’t remember how you ever lived without them. This article set to explore how Africans in the past used to express romantic love.

“Don’t try to make someone hate the person he loves. For he will go on loving but he will hate you. – Senegal Proverbs”

How Africans in the Past Used to Express Romantic Love

There are many ways in which Africans in the past used to express love in the past, some of them includes:

1. Words of affirmation

Love is a feeling that can be felt, but hearing words which acknowledge the feeling is one of the romantic gestures that your partner would love to see. This makes them feel understood and appreciated.
African men and women  used words to express their love. The kikuyu from Kenya would tell their lovers ‘ningwendete’ which means I love you. The Yoruba would say ‘mo ni fe re’ which means I have your love.
African men and women also expressed their love through proverbs, African love sayings. They did this to show their loved ones how much they cared.

2. Giving out gifts

Gifting someone you love is a form of love language. A gift might be something solid but the motive behind the present is what matters and what makes love sweeter.
To show interest in his potential life partner, an African man would bring gifts of bead necklaces, to the intended bride. He would also include gifts of tubers of yam, livestock for the intended bride’s family to enjoy.
In the Zulu culture, women used to show their love for the opposite sex using ucus. Ucus were love letters made from colorful beads. The bead colors represented feelings. Red was used to mean anger and yellow was used to show desire.

3. Acts of services

As we all know, actions speak louder than words. Going that extra mile to make life easier for the person you love makes them feel they are cared for. This may include helping them in their day to day activities e.g. preparing a refreshing meal for them after they have had a busy day.
To show interest in a girl they love, the African man would secretly follow the lady to the forest when they go to fetch firewood and help them and also help them carry the pot of water from the river to their homes or somewhere near their homes. He would also lend a hand in working in fields or help out with the household chores. A husband‘s love was manifested on how well he provided for clothing and food.

4. Quality time

Spending time with the person you love is also a form of romantic gesture. Everyone is busy but for the person they love, they would definitely make time. Spending time with them may include going out on a date with them, candle lit dinners, watching movies together. African romance in the past differed from other continents concept of romance which was often associated with electrifying kisses, bouquet of roses, wine and candle lit dinner and rooms.
During the past, the African man would plan for a picnic and when he was ready to go, he would signal the lady by whistling behind a tree. The lady would then lie to the family that she has gone to fetch firewood or water or sneak out and go with the man. When she meets with the man, she would express interest in a man by bending and discretely show them their waist beads since waist beads were considered intimate in countries like Ghana and Nigeria. In Niger, men held beauty pageant to attract the females. They would sing and perform dances to attract a lover.

This shows that romantic love in Africa was not simply an extension of imperial cultural and political project. Africans had their own unique way of expressing their love and even though it was different from other continents, it is also a romantic continent. They did not take love for granted. So, even though African men cannot be considered as the most romantic, they shouldn’t be considered as loveless.

Some African Proverbs on Love

  • Let your love be like the misty rain, coming softly but flooding the river. – Liberia
  • Wherever there is love there is no darkness – Burundi
  • One who loves you, warns you. – Uganda
  • Let your love be like the misty rain, coming softly but flooding the river – Liberia
  • The house of someone you love is never far – Kenya
  • He who loves, loves you with your dirt – Uganda
  • Talking with one another is loving one another. – Kenya
  • To love someone who does not love you is like shaking a tree to make the dew drops fall. – Congo
  • The house of a person we love is never far. – Kenya

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