Assistance beyond the nuptial room
At the end of the week-long seclusion, the bride joins her conjugal home, loaded with bedding, kitchen-utensils, a new wardrobe, and a stock of incense and maya – dyalan. Usually, the magnonmakanw stay in touch with the couples that they have coached. They supposedly continue to protect them against witchcraft and bad spirits. Many of their protegees are said to have come back for more aphrodisiac substances, throughout their reproductive life and even beyond. magnonmakanw have reported that some of their ex-clients have called on their services, from abroad, to get some products or to have them travel to Europe and America in the company of brides-to-be. They claim that women need this support to their sexual life because men may remarry, but women have only one partner to attend to their sexual needs. 1
Paradoxes of Female Sexuality in Mali
Usually, the magnonmakan is the first one to hear of and deal with cases of sexual incompatibility or other types of intimate problems among “her couples”. She will then check and advise the woman about her nightwear, night diet, and communication with her husband, etc. The magnonmakaris role may go as far as getting in touch directly with the spouse or asking assistance from the in-laws. In some cases, she will take the woman to healers or advise her to go to modern health providers. However, she usually knows enough about plants and other medicines to try to take care of the problem herself. In particular, the magnonmakanw are well known for their successful treatment of minor gynaecological problems and temporary women’s sterility. However, the common expectation is that the bride will get pregnant immediately after the nuptial room. Such an event would be interpreted as galama kounandi1, an indication that the nuptial advisor should take credit for it. Sometimes, the magnonmakanw serve as intermediaries between husbands and wives in their discussions about delicate matters, such as the use of contraception or the probability that the couple’s infertility may be the man’s responsibility. Their mentoring of the couple may extend to the promotion of healthy maternity, child survival and assistance during women’s menopause.
In contrast, the magonmakanw are less involved in unmarried women’s sexual life. They may sometimes come to the rescue of divorcees and widows who are striving to remarry. They would then provide advice, support to their sexual life or even “work the targeted man” to have better feelings for the woman concerned. In general, there is no nuptial seclusion for a woman’s remarriage. In some cases, a magnonmakan will be just in charge of preparing and taking the ‘adult bride’ to her new residence.
These nuptial practices, as described, are very much alive in most parts of the country. The seclusion is still compulsory among many ethnic groups, although some urban couples reduce the length of their stay in the nuptial room to three days only. The use of magnonmakan to solve personal problems, once the nuptial room is over, is also on the decrease among the urban population. There are newcomers in the job, without much expertise or know-how but the cities still offer a large pool of clients, enough to ensure regular gifts and cash remuneration to sustain interest in the practice.