The Durbar (Military parade) festival
dates back to hundreds of years when the emirates, traditional/indigenous
political entities in northern Nigeria used horses in warfare.
Each town, district and noble household was expected to contribute
a regiment to the defence of the emirate. Once or twice
a year, the emirates military chiefs would invite the various
regiments for a Durbar for the Emir and his chiefs. During the
parade, regiments would show case their horsemanship, their preparedness
for war and that loyalty to the Emirate. Today, the Durbar
has become a festival celebrated in honour of visiting dignitaries.
The Durbar takes place in most major cities in northern Nigeria
to mark two important Muslim festivals, Id-el fitri, commemorating
the end of the holy week of fasting and Ramadan and Id el Kabir.
Durbars are truly magnificent and spectacular events, featuring
gaily adorned horses and camels, traditional songs, remarkable
dances and colourful parades.
ARUGUNGU FISHING FESTIVAL
This grand annual spectacle involves
traditional methods of fishing dating back to the 16th century.
The festival takes place in Argungu, a riverside town in Kebbi
State between February and March. During the festival, hundreds
of local men and boys go into the river equipped with large fishing
nets. Canoes full of drummers and men rattling huge seed
-filled gourds to drive the fish to shallow waters accompany them.
Fish, ranging from giant Nile Perch to the peculiar Balloon Fish,
are harvested in abundance. Diving and Swimming competitions,
canoe racing, wild duck hunting, traditional wrestling and boxing
are other attractions, which further heighten the thrill and excitement
of the festivities. After the competitions, there is entertainment,
featuring drinking, singing and dancing until the early hours
of the morning.
The Eyo festival is unique to
Lagos. It is widely believed that the festival is the forerunner
of the modern day carnival in Brazil. On Eyo day, the main
highway in the heart of the city of Lagos is closed to traffic
in order to allow the long procession of the Eyo Masquerades to
make its way to the palace of the traditional ruler of Lagos,
the Oba, where all the participants pay him homage. Eyo
festivals take place whenever occasion and tradition demand, but
it is usually held as the final burial rites ceremony for a highly
regarded traditional chief.
In Adamawa State, the Sharo or Shadi
(flogging contest), is believed to have originated as a traditional
rite of passage to manhood among the Jaful Fulani. During
the Sharo festival, bare-chested bachelor contestants, escorted
by beautiful girls, thunderous cheers and drumming, come
out brandishing whips, in frightening poses against their opponents.
When the lively drumming, singing, cheers, self-praises, festivities
and general excitement reach a fevered pitch, it is time for the
flogging competition. Opponents must endure each other’s
flogging without wincing or showing pain, lest they be branded
The Atilogwu Dance is a dazzling
art form by the Igbos in Anambra State. Atilogwu is a vigorous
dance which literally means, “is there magic in this?”.
It combines elements of gymnastics and acrobatics with foot-stomping
rhythms. Young men who undergo rigorous training before
presenting the dance in public perform the dance during important
festivals and grand social occasions. Atilogwu has become
a celebrated signature of Nigerian culture, performed with pride
around the world.
Osun, a deity, was one of the wives
of Sango, former King of Oyo and god of thunder in Yoruba mythology.
She is worshipped in Yoruba land, particularly around the river
Osun basin. The water of the Osun is credited with fertility
properties for barren women. The Osun deity ´s most
important sanctuary is in Osobgbo, in a palace shrine, where
the chief priest performs rites and rituals in her honour.
Iriji-Mmanwu or Masquerade festival
is staged in Enugu state in August. The festival features
a lively display of over two thousand masquerades from different
parts of Igboland and other states in Nigeria. Masquerades
are considered, in Igbo tradition, to be reincarnated dead ancestors
endowed with supernatural powers. The unique shapes, sizes
and colourful attire of the masquerades, as well as their rhythmic
dances and acrobatic displays, make the festival on astounding
and memorable event.