When a boys turns 16, depending on the kind of home he comes from, he usually gets taught how to drive, handle his alcohol, get with the ladies and in some cases, even gets his own car from his proud dad or brothers. However, things aren't as peachy in the Fulani tribe of Nigeria in regards to the rite of passage .
The Fulani ethnic group, found in the northern region of Nigeria, are one of the dominant ethnic groups in Nigeria alongside the Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo groups. Like every culture in Nigeria, they have customs and traditions that guide their everyday living.
One of the aspects of the culture is the Sharo festival held in the Fulani communities twice a year. Sharo; which literally means flogging, is a festival for the rite of passage from boyhood to manhood. The young Fulani boys test their strength and endurance by getting flogged. Shocking as it may, it is a festival that is quite cherished and celebrated.
The festival is celebrated during the dry season when guinea corn is ready for harvesting and during the Muslim celebration of Eid-el-Kabir. The flogging festival lasts for a week and is usually held in open places such as markets, fields and village squares. It is attended by dignitaries from within and outside the Fulani nation and Nigeria as well.
The festival starts up with various forms of performances by tricksters, minstrels, and maiden dancers. The main part of the festival begins with the arrival of bare-chested, unmarried men who are escorted to the center ring by beautiful young girls. Spectators cheer on in anticipation as contenders eye their challengers. The families of the contenders watch and pray not to be disgraced by their sons.
Due to the fact that withstanding high amounts of pain is quite difficult, these contenders often recite mantras during the flogging rite or undergo a traditional fortification process in preparation for the day.
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Important to note that the challengers usually show up wielding terrifying canes with the aim of intimidating a contender into submission. If a contender should surrender, he will be considered not manly enough and has thus brought shame upon his family.
If the contender however survives the flogging without surrendering, he will be celebrated and hailed by families and admirers. A referee is provided to oversee the floggings to prevent serious injuries such as blindness. At the command of the referee, the challenger lands the cane on the contender’s back who is expected to be dancing, singing or laughing and screaming for more in mockery of his opponent.
The 'survivors' of this challenge are celebrated into manhood by being able to marry up to four wives in accordance to Islamic religion, as long as they can maintain balance among the four women.
The Sharo is also used at their weddings in which suitors flog each other with the strongest and bravest marrying the bride.
Sharo festival forever remains a pride of the Fulani people.
Meanwhile, check out how Mary Slessor became the white queen of Calabar.
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