In the weeks leading up to a wedding in most ethnic groups in northern Nigeria, there are rites that must be fulfilled, and most popular among the Hausa is the fulfillment of Kayan Lefe.
“Lefe” translates to “basket” in Hausa. “Kayan Lefe” would therefore translate to “items in the basket.” However, when Hausa people say “Kayan Lefe” while talking about wedding rites, they aren’t talking about a basket or the items inside it..
Kayan Lefe refers to a luggage set of, at least, six, bought and filled with clothing and accessories by the fiancé, for his fiancée. The clothing and accessories usually constitute a brand-new wardrobe, from Ankara prints to Lace materials, to Abayas, underwear, to slippers, flat shoes, heels, makeup, and jewelry.
Each of these are bought in tens, at the least, especially the Ankara. Most are sometimes imported, for men who have the means.
The Kayan Lefe is delivered to the bride-to-be’s family days before the wedding, and her friends and family are invited to come inspect and access the items. The respect usually accorded the groom, and sometimes the wife from then on, is determined by the quality and costs of the Kayan Lefe. How expensive the clothing is, the luggage sets themselves; how durable; if they were imported or bought locally.
Although the Kayan Lefe is compulsory, it remains the biggest obstacle for most Hausa men seeking to get married because of how expensive it is. Some people have estimated it to cost no less than 3 million Naira; some have even capped it at 8 million Naira.
There have been strong and consistent agitations for the cancellation of Kayan Lefe over the years. In fact, the Kano State government passed a law abolishing it a few years ago. But it is still very much in practice because traditions die hard.
A related marriage custom that people have also called for its abolition is the Gara. The Gara is the requirement of the bride and her family to completely furnish the house where she and her husband will be living. The man buys or rents the house, while the bride and her family furnish it.