The Wedding House at Gibb’s Farm

In 1958, Gibb’s Farm’s namesake and former owner, James Gibb, married his wife Margaret.  They marked the occasion by planting the Erythrina Abysinnica tree (1) that still resides outside the front door of Wedding and Coffee House today.  When this tree is in bloom it produces vibrant red flowers such as the ones in Riziki Kateya’s,.  Riziki is a regular SANAA artist-in-residence.  This cottage celebrates the tradition of marriage and partnership that has helped create the legacy that is Gibb’s Farm, as well as the traditions of marriage and family in the neighboring communities.

A German farmer first owned Gibb’s Farm in the late 1920’s and it was not until 1948 that retired British war veteran James Gibb acquired the farm and returned it to production.  After marrying Margaret in 1958, coffee producers were suffering because of government mandates.  Around the same time, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area was established and this begunan attracting more visitors to the area.  James and Margaret Gibb took the opportunity to explore another source of income and decided to open a few cottages  to accommodate the growing number of visitors to Northern Tanzania.  James and Margaret helped build the foundation for today’s Gibb’s Farm. 

Wedding House also celebrates the traditions of the surrounding communities that are very much a part of Gibb’s Farm.  The majority of Gibb’s Farm employees are from the Iraqw tribe and live in the neighboring village of Tloma and town of Karatu.  In Iraqw culture, two events are considered necessary for the transformation of the individual into adult: circumcision and marriage.  Youth is important in preparation for marriage - the final transition into adulthood accompanied with the assumption of obligations within the family and community.  In preparation for the wedding, work is begun on the traditional wedding skirt worn by the bride.  A wedding skirt (2) takes about three months to make because of the involved process that goes into its creation.  The leather needs to be tanned by hand using a fruit from a local plant and the intricate, purposeful beadwork woven on the skirt tells a story older than the bride who will wear it on her wedding day.  A wedding dress can be found in the small storage box between the leather chairs in front of the fireplace.  The designs are quite specific.

Travelers can view other examples of wedding skirts in the dining room of the Main Farmhouse.  The wedding day itself is one of celebration involving members of the community and kin that have traveled to be a part of the event.  Often these events are filled with dancing and music played on drums for most of the day.

This sculpture by Hamedi Athumani, a SANAA artist-in-residence, is titled ‘Mount Sona’ (3) and upon closer reveals a legend to celebrate the union of Margaret and James Gibb on their wedding day.

There are other wedding traditions in the area such as those of the Maasai.  Many visitors will have seen the Maasai during their safaris, especially inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area where many Maasai live.  Gibb’s Farm currently has three Maasai employees that live in a boma they helped to build on the estate and tend to the farm’s livestock.  This boma can be seen from afar on a walk through the valley to the lower waterfall on the Forest Estate walk.  (Please do not enter their private home).  Maasai weddings are considered to be very colourful with brightly coloured clothing and adornments.  Similar to the traditions of the Iraqw, the bride wears a garment made of sheepskin that women of the family have beaded with detailed patterns.  One of the more remarkable necklaces the bride wears is called the entente.  It’s made of long links of beads that reach down to her knees (4).  The bride also will have wire coiled around her legs called isenkenke olkiteng

Traditionally, the ceremony of the Maasai wedding consists of shaving the bride’s head, anointing it with lamb fat and then adorning her head with beaded bands.  The couple is blessed and given best wishes by the family and the groom’s age-mates.  The bride is then led by the women of her family and community out of her family’s kraal and escorted by her husband and his best man to her husband’s place where she will receive many gifts from her family and community before entering the kraal.

The Maasai women’s belongs can be found in the small box near the fireplace.  When two Maasai people are brought together to become a husband and wife, the newlyweds are expected to live with each other forever; divorce is not an option unless the bride price was not fully paid.

The marriage ceremony is one of the longest ceremonies in the Maasai community. It begins by a man showing interest in a woman and giving her a chain, which is called an olpisiai.  Word of this goes around and the family, as well as the community, waits for him to make his intention known.  He does this by finding women his own age who will bring a gift of alcohol to the mother of the girl.  This first stage is, called Esirit Enkoshoke and it indicates that the girl is now engaged.  After some time, the man plans to make his intentions clearer by presenting a gift of alcohol to the girl's father, which will be brought by the same women who brought the other gift of alcohol to the mother earlier.  This alcohol is called Enkiroret.  The father of the intended bride drinks the alcohol with his brothers and friends and then summons the young man and asks him to declare his interest and point out the woman he wishes to marry.  (This can often be a very interesting process because elders will pretend they do not know the girl who is being sought after.)  Once the family agrees to the man's request, both parties officially establish a relationship, which will eventually lead to the wedding.

The man is now allowed to bring gifts to the woman's family.  He starts by giving them presents as he sees fit, to a point where it will become clear that he has taken an interest in the well being of the girl’s family.  These gifts will create the bride’s dowry, the purpose of which is not to create wealth for the bride’s family, but rather to legalize the marriage.  In this way, the man puts his mark on that family and if anyone else tries to approach the family and offer a bride price, it is made clear that the girl has already been given away to another family.

The wedding day begins with the groom bringing the bride price, which includes cows, of which at least two are female and one is male and all are black along with two sheep, one female and one male.  The male sheep is slaughtered during the wedding day to remove its fat and oil, which will be applied to the wedding dress.  The remaining oil is put in a container for the bride to carry to her new home, in her husband's kraal.

The female sheep is given to the mother-in-law-to-be by the intended husband.  From that day forth they will refer to each other as “Paker”, meaning the one who gave me sheep.  There is also a calf, which is given by the man to the father-in-law-to-be.  And from then on they will call each other Pakiteng or Entawuo.  All the gifts will be kept in the calf house, which is known as the Olale.

The morning of the wedding, the bride's head is shaved and anointed with lamb fat. She is decorated by lmasaa, beautiful beaded decorations, and puts on her wedding dress.  Her relatives make the dress, not just her mother.  In this way the wedding dress is an expression of community, not just individuality.  The bride is blessed by the elders using alcohol and milk, and is led from her family’s kraal to her new home in the corral of her husband.  There, she enters the house of her husband’s mother where she will stay for the next two days, during which time the groom may not sleep with her or eat food in the house she is staying in.  Finally, after those two days, her husband’s mother shaves the wife’s head and the ceremony is over. The man and woman are married.

Peter Ray Mwasha’s composition Wedding (5), suggests the union weddings represent.  “One must contend with the many emotions that comes from a relationship - spoken or unspoken, visibly or non-visibly, by touch or no-touch.”  Every culture contends with these issues differently. 

The various wedding traditions emphasize the uniqueness of the many different cultures of this area.  Gibb’s Farm strives to honor these neighboring traditions as well as create its own traditions such as the planting of the wedding tree by James and Margaret Gibb.  This cottage and the Writer's House has been used for wedding ceremonies recently.

Travelers are encouraged to take part in the various cultural activities offered by the farm and learn about the traditions as well as the modern transitions of these communities.  For information about activities available to travelers, please contact Reception.


(1) Riziki Kateya Erythrina Abysinnica, off-set lithography from water color original in the Sanaa Gallery collection.  A Commissioned Sanaa work.

(2) The wedding skirt of the Iraqw tribe.

(3) Hamedi Athumani, ‘Mount Sona’ mpingo wood carving, front and back, A Commissioned Sanaa work.

Sanaa Art Gallery Collection installed in each cottage.  Select works have been commissioned to carry the theme and lesson of the house.

(5) Peter Ray, Wedding,

acrylic, paper, fabric, fiberboard. A Commissioned Sanaa work.

(4) A formal dress oft he Maasai Women