CALABAR FATTENING ROOMS

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Efik send their women to 'fattening rooms' in preparation for marriage. There, they are fed large amounts of food, massaged and made to sleep for long periods of time in an effort to increase their weight and gain fuller proportions. (If you are not familiar with this practice, please click here to read a detailed description of the procedure.) Efik women (and men) take great pride in this time-honored tradition of fattening brides before marriage. I have indeed heard stories of girls who were refused by a fiance's family because their stature was not befitting a proper rotund bride.

Prince Edem recently described best the social importance of the fattening rooms in a recent BBC article on the subject when he stated, "
People will think I am not rich... If a woman is not fat and has not gone through that process she does not qualify for marriage." He then went on to explain his 'revulsion' for slim women, clarifying that he could never marry one as slim women hold no appeal for him.

As much as I can appreciate this tradition, I wonder about the consequences of such fattening rooms for the health of the bride to be. Making any individual gain enormous amounts of weight is unhealthy and can result in serious health problems. Obesity and simply being overweight have been shown to be bad for health. Obese and overweight people are at a higher risk of suffering from diabetes, joint and muscle pain, heart problems and many other health problems that I will not expound upon here. To maintain this fattening practice in this day and age, despite our knowledge about the importance of health and the consequences of being overweight and obese is foolhardy in the least and dangerous at the most. Especially when you consider that, as Prince Edem suggested, this practice is simply maintained to show the world that one is rich - not a very redeeming quality in my book, especially when a woman's health is concerned.

I am all for maintaining traditions, but I nonetheless believe that like anything else, traditional practices are subject to review and can be discarded or modified if and when they are shown to be detrimental. Like the Osu practice in Igbo land, which I have already espoused my opinions on, I believe it is time to at least modify this 'fattening' practice. There are better, more health conscious, ways for people like Price Edem to flaunt their wealth to society. Do what the Kalabari people do, require a man to build a house for the woman in her village. The bigger the house, the more people will sing the man's praises. Or, simply put an ad in the paper or on television telling all who are willing to hear, (or read), how much you are worth. Sort of like what Yar'Adua did - publicly reveal your assets. The whole world will understand that you are unquestionably rich. Of course such a practice would not work for those who are simply perpetrating at being rich, but that is an issue for another day.

Further modification of the fattening process could require women to go away to 'beauty rooms' instead. I would be very envious of any woman who spent 6 months being pampered from head to foot with massages using oils from natural plants, soaking in mud baths and eating delectable dishes while she read a few books and engaged in meaningful and stimulating conversations to prepare her to be the partner of a 'wealthy and important' man who can obviously afford such a 'beauty room'. Doesn't that sound much better than fattening a woman as if she is a cow being prepared to produce choice cuts of steak?

If the fattening room practice is about beauty, which it arguably is, then we need to modify our understanding of beauty. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. I am not campaigning for thinness, but I am campaigning for healthiness. Just as women do not have to be skinny to be considered beautiful, so also do they not have to be obese or overweight. A woman can be beautiful however God made her. Fattening her up, should not be a prerequisite.

No one is above change. No people are above correction. I believe that we must change the aspects of ourselves that can and do cause us more harm than good. This fattening practice would qualify. Think about it....

30 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

femme said...

i don't think the fattening room means they come out fat. the object i gather is to have a healthy looking woman. i think robust is a good word.
once upon a time Europeans identified full bodied women as their beauties too.
nice blog
first timer

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ femme: Hey you! Thanks so much for stopping by. Like you, I initially assumed that the goal was to simply get the women robust and teach them a few 'tricks' Unfortunately, the more I look at Calabar fattening rooms, the more I realize that the women come out a little closer to obese than robust. Even coming out with a little meat on your bone can actually be problematic depending on how active or in this case, inactive, you are.

Anyway, I am all for African beauty - it comes in all shapes and sizes and should be appreciated by all of us.

Again, thanks for coming by. Don't e a stranger!

Reginald Bassey said...

I think the concept of the Efik fattening room has been misunderstood by many. As an Efik I had my grievances against it until I knew what it was all about. It has nothing to do with making a bride fat, but clean and polished. She is not just fed healthy food, but taught the ethics of romantic finesse and managing a house.
Naturally Efik women are not slim therefore it has nothing to do with fatness. The Efiks know what is good and what is bad, and no one will place their daughters into unhealthy eating just to look good. We know for instance that fruits make the skin glow, so eating fruits is an integral part of he process. I think the name should be changed, because Fattening room is just the literal translation. It really means the house of refinement.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Bassey: Thanks so much for sharing your view on this matter. From your perspective, a name change and more information about the process would probably help to clarify whatever misunderstandings people have about the 'fattening' process.

My aunt actually went through the process herself and while she has good things to say about it, as most participants do, her most important gripe is the weight she gained. She still hasn't lost it. lol!

Anyway, thanks so much for taking the time to enlighten us. Feel free to swing by anytime.

Reginald Bassey said...

he he he....Your aunty must have been placed into the hands of a dangerous fattening room agent who probably felt she needed some propping up. Anyways Great write up and I will always stop by.

notperfectdotcom said...

Interesting article, I know a few women who would appreciate the concept of "refinement" but I have to ask, what sort of "refinement" do the grooms go through for their brides?

Told you, you don't want to hear my americanized opinion, I'm still trying to nail one single tradition that I can identify with. Just one. lol

Anonymous said...

Hi SS, I like reading your blog. Thanks for the commitment and dedication to highlighting important issues.
Please I would like you to bring up this topic of "fattening rooms" again. An article appeared in a paper recently about how Africans are now starving themselves and going on extreme diets to look this and aspire to the "western" ideas.
While I appreciate that there is no need to go for either extreme, I think girls should know that they don't need to be stick thin to be beautiful. I would like to hear more comments from your readers on this topic. Many thanks.

AnyaPosh said...

I heard about this fattening room or 'Nkuho' as its called. When I was younger, I desperately wanted to be sent to one before I got married because I knew it would be an amazing experience. I wish I could still do it...not for any "fattening" purposes but for true refinement & possibly some time away from the city in a natural element. Sigh...I imagine bliss.

Lois Idam said...

I am a girl from cross river state,i actually wanted to go to the fattening room when i was younger, but not any more.the truth bout the matter is dat if u stay anywer 4 about 6months,witout exercise and contually eat u'll bacome unhealthy, so if dey add exercise to the fattenin room process, then it will be alot better.i definately want to maintain my slim figure and also b healthy...

Becca C said...

That's certainly a different a social approach to life then we have in the United States. Although, we too used to have a similar mentality of weight=wealth (or social standing) in western world.

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turisuna said...

Interesting tradition. It seems that I have the opposite tradition with the fattering room for bride. In my traditional culture, the bride usually should drink herbal that can make her slimer (but proportioal not thin). She also have to use long cloth to make her stomach looks small. I don't know if it's healthy or not, but for me losing weight or gain weight in short time is a bad method, and using woman's figure for man's pride is not make sense. Woman is not a property, so there's no reason that she should thin of fat just to give pride for the man.

Panic Attacks Cure said...

Wow, this is very interesting and a bit of a change when most people are looking for ways to lose weight. I haven't actually heard of this before but I love to learn new things like this.

james scot said...

HI?
nice practices that inspire us and maybe others think that your tradition looks funny because most of the people love to lost weights.
Thanks

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Lee said...

This post was very interesting because I am fat too and I have a problem of loosing weight. Can anyone give me some ideas?And I am curios about the fattening rooms?
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tanya@weight said...

This is a very interesting article. To fatten up women before they are wed is a very unique practice.

Hemp Hearts Canada said...

Oh, wow, to be the partner of a 'wealthy and important' man who can obviously afford what your idea of a 'beauty room' is, sounds absolutely wonderful to me! I would love it! This vision is delicious! Thank you! he he!

marianakamura said...

I like losing my weight too, and for now, it is so hard for me to do any exercise, because of my work schedule. I am a busy person also...hence I got interested with this article? Is this true?

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Interesting tradition...I thought its just opposite for me when I lost weight to fit into my wedding dress..:-)

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I heard about this fattening room or 'Nkuho' as its called. When I was younger, I desperately wanted to be sent to one before I got married because I knew it would be an amazing experience

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Office Cleaning London said...

I am curios about this so called “calabar fattening rooms”? Is this really true? For now my major plan for this summer is to lose weight because I am getting fat and I cannot control in eating and I was so scared to wear beach suit seeing my body that is too fat.

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Obese and overweight people are at a higher risk of suffering from diabetes, joint and muscle pain, heart problems and many other health problems that I will not expound upon here

Hoodia Health said...

This is really interesting, I have never heard of this fattening room before. I don't know why you would want to try and get fat - unless you are unhealthy thin.
I guess every culture has it's different traditions, it is very interesting.

testy na inteligencje said...

It is hilariuous, and very funny for me. In our culture slim is pretty, and fat is ugly. I would never marry fat woman.

Top Grade Acai Extreme said...

Thanks so much for stopping by. Like you, I initially assumed that the goal was to simply get the women robust and teach them a few 'tricks' Unfortunately, the more I look at Calabar fattening rooms, the more I realize that the women come out a little closer to obese than robust. Even coming out with a little meat on your bone can actually be problematic depending on how active or in this case, inactive, you are.

Robert said...

Hello!
hmm ... Why fatten bride? It must be refined and vice versa, all the girls dream to lose weight for the wedding.
Good luck!
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