Gabon is a Central African country whose culture is rich and deeply rooted in African beliefs and traditions. The French culture has significantly influenced the nation’s urban culture albeit, but there is still a preservation and retention of the norms and beliefs of the country. However, just as the traditional narrative is for West, East, and Central African countries, traditional weddings in Gabon is not a far fetched event held with so much pride and glamour.
Across the length and breadth of the country, boubou is the traditional attire worn by both men and women at weddings. The style and design is what differ amongst the two genders.
The boubou can be basically described as the classic Senegalese robe, worn by both men and women all over West and Central Africa. Usually sewn from a single piece of fabric, the boubou is usually 59 inches (150 cm) wide and of varying lengths. However, the most elegant style, the grand boubou, usually employs a piece of fabric 117 inches (300 cm) long and reaches to the ankles. Traditionally, custom-made in workshops by tailors, the boubou is made by folding the fabric in half, fashioning a neck opening, and sewing the sides halfway up to make flowing sleeves. Meanwhile, for women, the neck is large and rounded as against the long V-shape for men, which is always with a large five-sided pocket cutting off the tip of the "V."
Interestingly, when this dress is stiffly starched and draped over the body, the boubou creates for its wearer the appearance of a stately, elegant carriage with majestic height and presence. Usually, men do wear the classic boubou with a matching shirt and trousers underneath while women wear it with a matching wrapper or pagne and head-tie.
At traditional weddings in Gabon, the groom always tend to look gracious for his special day by rocking in the grand boubou (agbada). This grand boubou is one of the names for a flowing wide-sleeved robe, which is in way related to the dashiki suit.
The garments is however known by various names in different ethnic groups and languages that adopted it from the original babban riga of the Hausa people, agbada in Yoruba, boubou from Wolof, gandora in Tuareg, darra’a in Maghrebi Arabic, but often called grand boubou in African francophone countries.
The grand boubou as a full formal attire is composed of three pieces of clothing: a pair of tie-up trousers that narrow towards the ankles, a long-sleeved shirt, and a wide, open-stitched sleeveless gown worn over these. The three pieces are usually of the same color. However, there is sometimes an exception in an event that the groom wants to be uniquely creative, thereby, the color of the grand boubou might be different from that of the boubou and trouser. The boubou is made from cotton and beautifully embroidered in traditional patterns.
Clearly, there is a set etiquette to wearing the grand boubou, primarily in place to keep the over-gown above the ankles at any one time, in keeping with Islamic traditions of avoiding impurity. This can include folding the open sleeves of the boubou over one's shoulders, normally done while walking or before sitting down, to ensure the over-gown does not rub against the ground, or even by folding/wrapping each side over the other with the hand, narrowing the gown's space toward the ankles. At every Gabonese weddings, it is an outright norm to the men, especially the groom adorably donning in this grand boubou attire.
Furthermore, the bride is elegant and fabulous in her boubou style at Gabonese traditional wedding. The boubou style for women is often complemented with a Pagne or wrapper, as the understanding may be.
The pagne is usually a color attire widely worn in West and Central Africa. It has both formal and informal versions and varies from simple draped clothing to fully tailored ensembles. The formality of the wrapper is usually dependent on the fabric used to create it.
This pagne designates a certain cut (2 by 6 yards) and type (single-sided "Fancy" or double-sided "wax" prints) of cotton textile, especially in francophone West and Central Africa. With its preponderant popularity in much of tropical Africa, the pagne cloth's usage and patterns are used as fashion statement. This pagne plies in some similarities with the kikoy and chitenge of East Africa. From the pagne, several outfit styles are created; boubou and even western styled suit. Head wraps, head ties, and skirts are also made from it. Hence, the style and design largely depends on the wearer.
Nevertheless, this can also be in form of kaftan, such that it worn with a head scarf or head tie.
Be that as it may, Gabonese traditional wedding is always a colorful day with the bride and groom glowing in the same color blend. The most popular non-traditional color in this part is purple or lavender, or they might go for the color of African royalty. Did you know? Blue is the color of love, and it’s also a common non-traditional color mostly worn at traditional weddings.