Nigeria, the giant of Africa, is made up of over 350 different ethnic groups/tribes with beautiful and varying cultures and traditions. 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. The Fulani people have rich and peculiar cultures and traditions which guides their everyday life. Of the many aspects of the Fulani culture, Sharo (which means flogging) festival where young Fulani boys test their strength and endurance by getting flogged is highly cherished and celebrated.
Sharo festival of the Fulani people, also known as Shadi festival, stand as a channel for Fulani boys to pass into manhood and marry up to four wives. The Sharo festival is held twice a year within the Fulani communities; it 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 with the gallant display of acrobatics, magic performances, dances and songs rendered by beautiful maidens with mellifluous voices. The highly anticipated section of the Sharo festival is the flogging session where young but strong boys display bravery by getting whipped without submission. At the commencement of the flogging session, a group of bare-chested unmarried boys are ushered to the center of the arena by beautiful girls. Each family of the contenders pray not to be disgraced by their representative who is about to welcome lashes of thick cane on his back. The challengers also come into the scene wielding long, thick and terrifying canes. Their main aim is to make their opponent yell for submission. If a contender should surrender, he will be considered not manly enough and has thus brought shame upon his family. But if he survive 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 raise the cane and then, ‘FIAH‘, land it on the contender’s back who is expected to be dancing, singing or laughing and screaming for more in mockery of his opponent.
Oldnaija.com gathered that many contenders are seen reciting mantras to neutralize the pain from the cane. This is because surviving the flogging session without any aid is quite difficult. However, this does not bother the spectators, all they want to see is how the contenders are flogged and still beg for more or surrender. Scars inflicted by the floggings are proudly carried about as a symbol of bravery and transition to manhood.
After surviving the flogging session, the boys are praised, lavished with gifts and welcomed 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.
Sharo festival forever remains a pride of the Fulani people and one of the glamorous festivals in Nigeria.