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Discover Nigeria > Heritage and Culture > The Sharo/Shadi Cultural Festival

The Sharo/Shadi Cultural Festival

Most indigenous cultures include the rites of passage from boys to men. Though, it varies from one community to the other, the common features are the fortification rites, sacrifice, hunting challenge and  test of bravery and strength.

The Sharo cultural festival demonstrates the test of endurance and bravery in a most dramatic way. It is celebrated by the Fulfude speaking nomads, commonly called the Fulani and found along the northern parts of the countries that make up West Africa, spreading  from  Nigeria to Senegal. It is a major event usually held twice a year within the settlements and  eagerly anticipated by participants and audience alike, including national and international audience. The main attraction is the raw display of endurance. Though many cultural activities has been eroded due to the introduction of Islam, the Jafun Fulani has firmly adhered to this culture.  The first of this festival happens in the dry-season during the guinea corn harvest and the second, during the Muslim festival of Id-el-Kabir.

It is commonly held in an open place, like a market square, and  for a week, commencing with several forms of entertainment as well as the maidens dance, performance by minstrels and tricksters. The high point is of course the flogging sequence.

Sharo which means flogging, tests the bravery of the young initiates as they lash each other to the peak of endurance. The core of the Sharo festival begins with the arrival of bare chested young unmarried men, escorted by very beautiful girls to the centre ring. The deafening cheers and melodious drumbeat raise expectations as contestants eye their opponents. The family of the contestants watch, praying secretly not to be disgraced by their sons. A son who endures the flogging for a long time brings respect to the family, but one who cannot endure by begging the opponent to stop, brings disgrace.

The challenger is of the same age group with the contestant and provokes by wielding a big thick cane at him with the sole purpose of inflicting  pain.  He flogs his opponent without a shred of compassion while the opponent bravely withstands the pain without flinching and instead screams for more to aggravate his challenger. Like most  sports, a referee is provided to make sure every stroke is correctly struck to prevent serious injuries like blindness.

Of course, it will be very difficult to withstand such pain without any form of assistance, so most contestants are seen to  silently recite something during the flogging or have previously gone through a traditional fortification in preparation for the big day. The severe floggings most times leave an indelible scar on the victim which he is proud of, as a scar is a mark of bravery and successful transition to manhood.

At the end of the Sharo, the brave and enduring boys become men and are permitted to marry the girl of their choice from the clan. In accordance with the tenets of Islamic religion, he can marry up to four wives provided he has the capacity to provide for them. Though nomads the Fulani socialization process is gender specific; the females join their mothers in the kitchen and take care of  children and chores at home, while the males rear cattle and protect the family. The culture over the years has been diffused with Islamic tradition, leaving them with little practices that survived the cultural mix. One of such is the Sharo festival, which is predominant owing to its importance to the Fulfulde speaking people.

 

Sources

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