Of a King and a Durbar

Exploring new topics and places with a camera around cities or streets is one of life’s awesome gift to a photographer. We see much of this wonderful world through our lenses, and the more we “waka”, the more appetite we gain for the stories and the photographs.

The 8th of February 2020 saw a group of Nigerian photographers on one of those searches for stories and photographs. They set out to document the durbar festival for Alhaji Shehu Idris, CFR the 18th Emir of Zazzau (after the fall of Shehu Usman Danfodio) as he celebrated his 45th anniversary as King of one of the Seven Hausa or Hausa Bakwai.

It was a celebration of the rich cultural heritage of Zazzau. The colors and joys expressed by the peoples of the land was breathtaking. The event which lasted for some days featured a Durbar.

The Durbar festival or ‘Hauwan sallah’ as it is called locally has been in existence for several centuries and it is displayed not only in Zazzau Emirate but almost in the entire northern region of Nigeria. It is an annual festival normally celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan and is also shared with eid el Kabir and eid el Fitri, Muslim holidays. It always begins with prayers and then continues with a parade of the Emir and his ministers / traditional title holders around the city to exchange pleasantries with their people. The emir would ride on a horse in a beautiful company of their subjects, he salutes his people who would happily salute him in return and the parade will thereafter culminate at his palace.

But on this 45th anniversary Durbar for Alhaji Shehu Idris, CFR  the 18th Emir of Zazzau, his ministers rode on horses in the company of  their subjects, amidst thousands of on lookers who happily saluted with gestures and proclamation “RANKA DEDE”-may you live long!.

The parade ended at the palace of the Emir where they paid him respect and homage.

Beautifully crafted attires were worn by the Emir, his ministers and the people. Who came out in their thousands to catch their Emir and his ministers facade of grandeur, melodious Hausa traditional music, to enjoy the loud sounds of local gun shots(not harmful)which heralded the parade, some exhibited magical acts and to see the warriors from villages and towns who came to renew their pledge of respect to the Emir. The event was very colorful.

The Loyal subjects also extended warm reception to visitors from across the country especially those of us from the southern part of Nigeria, where it’s perceived that Northern Nigeria is hostile and very dangerous arising from news-feed on our various media.

Events like the Durbar fosters unity. It is a time where differences are shed and emphasis is placed on who we are, where we coming from and where we should be as a people. Festivals in Africa showcases the strength in our diversity, tells us what we can be and do when we unite.

There exist several of such events that happens across Nigeria and Africa that exhibit the rich cultural heritage of our peoples; our apparel, culture, food, music, spirituality and traditions. We are hoping that our storytellers will show more of them in coming days, months and years.

Words : Babawale Obayanju

Photography: Aleeyu Musa , Moha Sheikh , Sani Maikatanga, BappenceyNG , Edgar Imafidon and Babawale Obayanju.