If you ever wanted to calculate exactly how much a groom and his family would have to fork over to buy you as his bride, developers in Nigeria have made an app for that. BridePrice app calculates your worth by asking questions on appearance, education, homemaking skills, etc., then — ta-dah! — spits out your price.
I hesitate to state my own opinion on the BridePrice app, mostly because my point of view is so very western. I'm not from Nigeria, I've never been to Nigeria and know little about it. My knowledge of the way things should work is neither objective nor limitless, so while to me, the bride price (what a groom pays to a bride's family for the right to marry her) might seem like an old world, dangerous concept, there very well could be a huge piece of the puzzle that I'm missing.
Many of us third culture kids of African descent do this thing, a thing where we are embarrassed by our roots as kids, then we grow militant about them, before settling comfortably somewhere in between. It's a well-trodden path, one many people will or have walked, and when we catch ourselves we wink at one another and laugh about it. The bride price app is a perfect example of this phenomenon. We know what 'bride price' looks like, and how it came to be. We understand that it has evolved, and that much like marriage elsewhere in the world, which is essentially an institution born of archaic paternalistic and patriarchal ideas, what it was is not what it now is. But we also get that there is a history in the gesture, a warmth to the tradition. And we welcome it, even as we mock it, and more importantly modify it as the world keeps changing. We make jokes about our parents, and their weird immigrant customs, and then we cleave to them, because in the end, they become all that we know, in a way.
The app itself, Adewunmi feels, is an expression of that attitude. If you take the quiz, you'll find that it's full of inside jokes (to the point where, to an outsider, it's mildly inscrutable). The parts that seem most offensive (the fairer your skin, the higher you rank) might just be the developers' way of making fun of their own upbringings.
As Adewunmi tells it:
The questions on the Bride Price app ask about things like your jollof rice game. The page opens with a couple of questions, exquisitely judged. You have the option to check "for yourself" or "for your friend/enemy" – because as Nigerians, one thing we are always aware of, even when we cannot see or hear them, is our enemy. So, even before I clicked, I was smiling. Then came the real questions: my height; my weight (options included the very standard 'medium', and the harder to decipher 'Mama Ronke' and 'Orobo' &c.), my leg shape ('straight', 'sexy bow leg (Beyonce)' etc); my facial beauty (from 'fine and intimidating' to 'complete no try') and so on. Each answer has a monetary value – no kola nuts here – both positive and negative numbers, sometimes a 'discount', as in the option of 'Mama Ronke' earlier. At the end of the quiz, the app takes some time to calculate the bride price and delivers a jaunty placeholder message with a blinking green shekere: "Please wait – the elders are consulting". Oh, this app. This is fine work.
I took the quiz and — lucky me — was ranked as a "Super Premium Babe" whose price was "going to cause a war in Africa." I'm guessing this mostly has to do with the fact that I'm American and being American was the highest point boost of the whole game.
Even after reading Adewunmi's piece and using the app, I still find the concept bewildering and — at a time when in Nigeria, over 200 girls are still being held hostage and threatened with being sold off as "brides" and slaves — a little unseemly, but as Adewunmi points out, it's not really for me to "get."
The phrase 'if you don't laugh, you'll cry' seems, more than ever, to be made especially for Nigeria and Nigerians. The collective narrative is one of woe, a nation lurching from pillar (of calamity) to post (of catastrophe) despite a resource-wealth that could easily be the answer to our problems. The concept of bride price is a window to our past, a past which is not always glorious, or edifying when viewed through a modern lens. But this app is a sly little thing in places – the nuance may not be visible to all eyes, but it's there.
Anyway, you should probably just go read her whole piece because it's excellent, informative and funny.