Marriage and Eligibility

By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Woyo artist
Pot lid
W. 25.4 cm (10")
University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection of African Art, X1990.600

Marriage is a key moment that follows immediately after initiation among many peoples because both events serve to break the bonds of the individual with childhood and the unmarried state and to reintegrate the individual into the adult community.  Among the Woyo people of western Democratic Republic of the Congo and Congo, a young woman is given a set of carved pot lids by her mother when she marries and moves to her husband's home.  Each of the lids is carved with images that illustrate proverbs about relations between husband and wife.  If a husband abuses his wife in some way, or if the wife is unhappy, she serves the husband's supper in a bowl that is covered with a lid decorated with the appropriate proverb.  She can make her complaints public by using such a lid when her husband brings his friends home for dinner.  The carved figure on this lid represents a cooking hearth with a pot on three stones.  Divorce requires only the scattering of the stones, and it takes three to support the pot.