All the world loves the pomp and pageantry of a parade. In Northern Nigeria, on the occasion of Eid el-Adha, it is Durbar Season and all who can, will not miss these spectacular festivals. (See Durbar – Nigerian Style, 2013.) Women and children trek on foot and arrive by lorry loads cheering and anticipating the Durbar.
Kano and Katsina, both famous for Durbar festivals, are well organized and choreographed yet other city’s are not to be outdone. Zaria or the Zazzau is one city that can boast of the finest traditional uniforms, horsemanship, dancing groups with handcrafted musical instruments.
Who can resist blaring trumpets and galloping horses? Horsemen, dressed in layers of brightly embroidered robes with turbans of silk and indigo, brandish swords and staffs in a display of solidarity for their Emir. Riders, musicians, farmers, magicians, district heads and their retinues all arrive and present a spectacle full of color and action. Horsemen with turbans of ‘ two ears’ are from one of the five royal households.
Horses and camels are adorned with chain mail and glittering armor; the ornamental silver spears and swords recalls the warrior on horseback. Buckles and buttons of their riders glint in the slanting afternoon sun. Footmen carry herdsman’s sticks. The air is electric with festivity as crowds fill the dusty roads, climb upon ledges, roofs and into trees and push and shove to get a glimpse at the galloping horsemen.
The Zazzau, also known as the Zaria Emirate is a traditional state with headquarters in the city of Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria. As of September 2015, Alhaji Shehu Idris is Emir of the region.
The capital of the Zazzau is Zaria but history has not revealed the origin of the name Zazzau. According to ancient legend, the first King of Zazzau, Bayajida -snake slayer, was one of the six sons of the Prince of Baghdad. He married the Queen of Daura, the matriarchal ruler of the time, after slaying the fetish snake and gaining respect of Queen Daura. Their first son, Bawo, is said to be the first ruler of the Hausa states and thus began the origins a patriarchal society of the Hausa race. (Nigeria Magazine, Daura, #50,1956.)
Zazzau’s most famous early ruler was Queen Amina (see statue of Queen Amina), who ruled either in the mid-fifteenth or mid-sixteenth centuries. The local legend has it that in the course of her campaigns, Queen Amina “built a new town and took a new husband” at every halting-place. She marched conquering “to the sea”; Kano and Katsina, the Nupes and the Jukuns brought her tribute – “eunuchs, kolas, and the treasures of the west”. In order not to be overshadowed by Amina, her sister Zaria left Turunku, then the capital of Zazzau, and founded a city, to which she gave her name, at the foot of Kufena, the rocks that rise above the city. The next King of Zazzau moved his capital to the present site of Zaria so as to control the market then situated there. – Nigeria Magazine, The Emirate of Zazzau, #15,1938
The Zaria Durbar gets underway as the Emir arrives under the royal umbrella for the celebration. Only the Emir can ride under the umbrella. The umbrella is significant as it provides shade to spotlight the Emir, the symbol of authority and the seat of traditional power.
Canons and gunfire, trumpeters and drums pierce through the roar of the crowd. Stave bearers rush forward to the Emir, their horse prancing, their lances raised, all to salute their Emir. Courtly praise-singers shout out the virtues of the king or emir. Praise songs are accompanied by kettledrums and talking drums, along with the kakaki, a 3-4 meter metal trumpet.
Processions of horsemen approach the Emir. The thrill of the Emir’s traditional gesture encourages all who parade by to shout praises upon the Emir: Ranka-shi deddy. The ceremony ends by the District Heads in turn accompanied by their retinues, spur their horses from the far end of the concourse galloping at full speed towards the dais. Stopping abruptly in a cloud of dust, they rear their horses and shake their spears aloft in their right hands or raise their right closed fist in the traditional salute: Ranka-shi-deddy – May your life be prolonged!
The kakaki is a metal trumpet three to four meters long used in Hausa traditional ceremonial music. Kakaki is the name used in Chad, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin Niger, and Nigeria. Its use is only used for royalty and it is only played at events at the palace of the king or emir in Hausa societies.
A special thanks to Paulette Van Trier for ‘coming out of retirement’ to organize this Durbar trip under the umbrella of the Nigerian Field Society.
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