Who says Sallah (Eid) celebration in Abuja is dry? I disagree. The main reason I go to a northern state for Sallah celebration was to watch the Sallah parade (hawan sallah). The Sallah parade is an array of extravagant traditional title holders in designer leather shoes and most expensive shades; in addition to their peacock-like expensive traditional attire. I was never fascinated by this part of the parade. My main attraction has always been the foot paraders that have the most flamboyant and corny outfits… and it is in no way satirical for them.
At Abuja’s Millieneum Park (MPark), a revolution is happening. When MPark was opened to the public (some five or so years ago), it used to be the hot spot for the cool kids of abuja. Then when residents from the satellite settlements of Abuja started frequenting MPark, the inner city kids (refering to the cool upper class type) felt it wasn’t their kind of place. MPark lost it coolness and became hot for anyone wanting to host a cheap party without paying for a venue.
I was at MPark today (8th Nov) and Sallah (Eid) was alive, not in the way we expect it but as a mutated celebration conceived by nomadism and urbanism. You’ll soon get it. I took pictures too, so the written story will be short. I didnt pose with (or asked any to pose) because I will start feeling like a tourist with colonialist sentiments. Unlike many people I overheard there, I will not call the people I saw as backwards. I reserve that label for others that are less identified as so.
… Before Getting There
While driving, I saw a number of Fulani natives walking by the sidewalks, they are one of my favorite tribes. They are normally spotted on inter-city roads but this time it was opposite the Hilton Towers within Abuja City. It is not difficult to decipher that they are going for Sallah Celebration in the public MPark. I immediately trafficated and went through the security check I dread; went in and mingled. Luckily I had a camera phone with me. These are some of the things I saw that made an impression.
(It was not only Fulani tribes that were there but they were the most flamboyant.)
Cars go through a thorough weapons check but pedestrians pass unfettered. There was no metal detector for pedestrians and this particular tribe is more deadly with their wooden staffs. They were so many that only a few were made to be security-checked at the entrance while others were able to sneak through with theirs (hover mouse over picture below). I found a broken staff within the park, it could mean there was a fight or that they played the fulani dance requires hitting their sticks (see slide show at end of post for a picture of broken staff).
The guys had permed (and blown out) hairs and some with afro picks in the hair. Guys had tight under-fitted shirts and skinny three-quater pants, which are actually undersized pants. They had colorful wears, baseball hats, hair ribbons (those things like tiaras) and finally Sony (no kidding) headphones (like T-pain) to give the gear its up-to-date-ness. some had airphones instead but it wasn’t really for the music because they had phones on speakers. The teenagers have fake side burns that appear to have been drawn by eye pencil or charcoal. Many of the guys actually wore undersized tight female blouse (I think they are called spaghettis). There was justice in the air because many guys had their home-made capes (like arm-less mexican jacket) like the justice league of super-heroes or a comic fest; very colorful as well. One cool guy had his girl beside him while rocking his timberlands and a kufiyya arabiy… cool.
Another thing that stayed with me was the arab-type “over-familiarity” between the guys. Arabs cheek-kissing (a casual greeting) each other is seen as repulsive by the average mtv zombie. The Fulani guys were holding hands most of the time, so that only a few fingers lock sometimes… while walking with their girl friends. It was seen as normal and nothing homo-phobic about their attitudes because they are some secure people (in their masculinity). And these are one of the most masculine (testostorone pumping) tribes you can meet out there. Its like mistaking the kilt-wearing scottsman as feminine; William Wallace will have you belly dancing for him.
The girls were cheeky and they controlled the crowd. Many smaller crowds were formed with the people dancing in a circle to the same music. If the crowd was more than five people, It was a girl leading it. And she was not dancing for the guys there, no, she was commanding the crowd on what to do.
The cheeky girls were good at getting the guys to behave. There was always a guy trying to break in to a clique of girls (that didnt come with their guys). When guys try to do something rude the girls give them a look that says amma smack the fulani out of you! and like kids that have been scolded it was amazing to see the once rude guys behave. I saw that happened three times so here is one. Two girls bought a balloon (beach ball) and while playing with it, three guys tried to get acquainted by intercepting the ball. I figured that was what they wanted to do and I think the smaller girl figured that too so she went ahead to pick up the ball before the guy (who is further) ran towards it. She waited for him to get closer then warned him with a daring and waving index finger. He didn’t seem to have apologized but he learnt not to mess with this girl from his embarassed face and his friends mockery of him (hover mouse over picture below).
Despite their sense of masculinity, it didnt seem the culture allowed much for interactive opression of girls, as opposed to statutory inferiority.
I advice the Fulani’s there not to pursue urbanization, as it is defined by the Nigerian music industries. It was the most bizarre scene when Fulani tribesmen are dancing in circles to Timaya rocking from their loud (china made) phones. I couldn’t believe the scene. Only one crowd was rocking a Hausa-movie track. All the rest were Timaya, D’banj and similar party musicians.
The scene had hiphop improvisation at its engine. There would be one person in a crowd (like a cipher) playing music from his mobile phone and controlling the cowd (MCing). The biggest crowd was one with a girl in the middle holding small stool-size radio player which had higher volume than the mobile phones. She was the sole-controller and she definitely had mass appeal.
A Fulani girl in a christian wedding gown, fully geared with the transparent veil… no kidding. When someone made fun of her, she swore she looked like an Indian (Bollywood). The fulani’s are known for their natural long hair. I think I saw the first with fake hair attachment. Many Fulani’s there took photos without resistance to the insisting photographers but they refused to pay even after extravagant poses. MPark being the decadence-infested area it has come to be, I saw weed (marijuana) retailers with rolled-sticks thicker than candles. Openly offering me to buy, no effort in hiding.
Enjoy the slide show below. See if you can identify some of the characters mentioned. One thing is for sure, Sallah is not dry in Abuja. It is two days after Eid and it’s still popping