FULANI RITE OF PASSAGE (the FESTIVAL OF FLOGGING)

Posted by aMANDA iBIRONKE on Sunday, April 6, 2014 Under: Fashion, Tradition & Culture



The Fulani and Hausa people are located in the northern region of Nigeria. With a population of over 30 million, they have the largest population in West Africa because of their inter-marriages and constant interaction with different peoples. History shows that the Hausas and Fulanis have cultural similarities which led to the amalgamation and significant integration between the groups, who in modern times are often referred to as “Hausa-Fulani”, rather than as individual groups. They remain one of the largest and most historically grounded civilizations in West Africa.

The Fulani people of West Africa practice the Sharo/Shadi festival. It is the most important festival to the Fulfulde-speaking nomads for testing the bravery of their adolescents. The cultural festival is a major event in the Fulani settlements which attracts people from all walks of life to witness the bravery exhibited by the young and energetic male Fulanis. Even though religion and westernization have prevailed over many cultural practices, the Jafun Fulani in Nigeria still holds this age-long festival in high esteem.

The festival is held twice a year, during the dry-season of guinea-corn harvest and the Muslim festival of Id-el-Kabir. Sharo means “flogging meeting”. It is a kind of sport to the nomadic Fulanis. The festival is a test of bravery in which young men flog one another with long thin stick to the point of utmost endurance. It is usually held in the market square for a week. This public flogging is of vital importance to the nomadic Fulani, and all kinds of customs and ceremonies are rooted in it. As prelude to this festival, various kinds of entertainment are available which include the maidens dance, performances by minstrels, and all kinds of tricksters.

The core of the Sharo festival begins with bare-chested contestants, usually unmarried men, approaching the centre ring, escorted by entourage of amazingly beautiful girls. The challenger generally of the same age with the contestant comes to the centre of the stage bare-chested as well wielding a mind-blowing strong, supple cane about a half inch thick, brandishing it with the sole aim of scaring his opponent. After the show of intense competition between the competitor and the challenger with the excitement at its highest pitch, the flogging begins. The challenger flogs his opponent without an ounce of sympathy. The victim stoically withstands the flogging sometimes drawing blood, without wincing or showing pain. Just like every other contemporary games, the Sharo festival also has its own referees who are saddled with the responsibility to ensure that the blows are rightly struck and there is fair flogging of the opponent. Surrounded by family members, friends and well wishers, the opponent is motivated with their support and their readiness to offer gifts and other bounties for him if he was able to withstand the pain till the end of the proceedings.

Sometimes, the opponent chants some incantations, uses charm or pain resistant drug to fortify himself in the course of the flogging. All of these do not matter in the festival as the only paramount interest of observers is the ability of the victim to withstand the pain without any show of pain but to ask for more of the whips. Mostly, the severe floggings leave some indelible scars on the victim despite the fact that the Fulani have herbal medicines that heal the wounds fairly quickly. These scars are later displayed as a mark of bravery and sign for the successful transition to manhood. At the end of the rite of passage marked by Sharo, the brave and enduring once young boy who is now a man is allowed to marry his choice woman from the among the spinsters in the clan. The  festival tests endurance and elicit the strength and perseverance of young males to withstand the pain emanating from severe flogging. The Sharo festival is the predominant practice amongst the Fulanis due to its importance to the Fulfulde speaking people. Credit – Artzit Blog


In : Fashion, Tradition & Culture 



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