Marriage and Eligibility

By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Mali and Burkina Faso; Dogon peoples

Ancestor couple


H. 75 cm (30")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.356

It has been argued that such a system commodifies the bride and thus dehumanizes her, but others also make the argument that the system defines her value to the marriage in a concrete way and that it contributes to the stability of the marriage, because were the marriage to end in divorce, the "bride-wealth" must be returned to the groom's family, and if it has already been invested in "bride-wealth" for the bride's own brothers, this can be difficult indeed.  The "bride-wealth" creates a bond between the families which forces them to invest in the success of the marriage.  When there is trouble between husband and wife the relatives on both sides intervene to find a solution.  The male-female couple from the Dogon people of Mali represents the ideal of pairing that is necessary for procreation.  The linking of the male arm around the woman's neck emphasizes the bond that is created by marriage.