Tribal marks are an age-long art common to the Western part of Nigeria. The Egba, Nupe, Ilaje and other Yoruba tribes commonly use these marks and designs as a form of identification, beautification and protection. There are two different types of marks: ila (the well-known facial scars) and ona (also known as “local tattoos”). Both are created using a sharp instrument such as razor blades, knives or glass. Flesh is cut from the skin to create a gash, which later heals and leaves a permanent pattern on the body. Snails (known as Igbin in Yoruba), a popular delicacy in Nigeria, are very important to tribal mark artisans, as the liquid they secrete is used to soothe the pain caused by the instrument used to make the incisions. The unique colour of the ona comes from various pigments such as charcoal.
Today we salute Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who on October 18, 1989 became the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations. Anyaoku was born on January 18, 1933 in Obosi, Anambra State educated at the Universities of Ibadan and London, earning an honours degree in Classics from the latter. He joined the Commonwealth Development Corporation in 1959, and became a member of Nigeria's diplomatic service in 1963. His first post was at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
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Happy birthday to musical legend and political activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti! Born on this day in 1938 into a well-known Nigerian family, Fela would shake up the world music scene and his native country with his unique Afrobeat sound and his outspoken stance on societal and cultural issues, and his impact resonates till this day. His life and its many ups and downs - best-selling albums, run-ins with Nigeria's military regimes, the tragic death of his mother Funmilayo - was the subject of a celebrated Broadway musical which toured the world (including a stop in Lagos) and featured famous faces such as Patti LaBelle and Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child. Fela's life is also scheduled to be the subject of a feature film helmed by Nigerian director Andrew Dosunmu, with the lead role played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (who recently starred in the movie adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun).
Every year, Muslim families across Nigeria celebrate Eid el-Kabir. An age-long festival which has its roots in the Koranic story of Prophet Ibrahim, it marks the kindness of Allah to mankind. During the festivities, Muslims distribute food and drink to their neighbours, with roasted ram meat as the big attraction. But in this part of the world, rams are for more than eating. No Sallah – especially not in Lagos State – is complete without a ram wrestling competition. That’s right: rams duking it out WWF-style to the cheers of excited crowds. Youths in every community drag their biggest, wildest ram to neighbours’ compounds, boasting about their animals’ toughness, and challenging everyone in sight, before roasting them for eating.
Gani Fawehinmi was a Nigerian lawyer, human rights activist and outspoken government critic. Born on April 22, 1938 in Ondo State, he earned his law degree from Holborn College in London after teaching himself much of the curriculum (after his father's death, he had to drop out of university temporarily to work). He returned to Nigeria in early September 1964 and was called to the bar on January 15, 1965. Establishing chambers four months later, Fawehinmi went on to be one of Nigeria's most successful and well-known lawyers, legendary for his in-depth knowledge of the law as well for his publication of The Nigerian Weekly Law Report, one of the most innovative of its kind in Africa.
Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria's first and only Prime Minister, rose from humble beginnings to become one of the leading nationalist figures of the Nigerian anti-colonial movement. The wonderful Nigerian Nostalgia Project recently shared this video of Tafawa Balewa's visit to the United States a year after Nigeria's independence: