The Sharo or Shadi cultural festival as it is called, is a spectacular event of interest to a particular ethnic group in West Africa.This group of people are nomads called the Fulani. They live in the northern parts of the countries that constitute West Africa, stretching from Nigeria to Senegal and are wide spread in this region, numbering between 20-25 million people in total.
They are one of the most dominant ethnic groups in the West African region. They are said to have roots from North Africa and Middle East. This ethnic group called Fulanis are also the largest nomadic pastoral community in the world and are known to be predominantly Muslims.
The Sharo festival is an age long phenomenon that is widely and highly celebrated among the Fulanis and viewed as a rite of passage for young men. Sharo in their native language means flogging, so Sharo festival will then imply flogging festival. I know you will be wondering why people celebrate flogging festival, i also have wondered too.
It is a major and highly anticipated event that is organized twice a year drawing spectators from within and without the region. Strong and conscious efforts have been made by these people to preserve this cultural heritage and hand it down from generation to generation, despite the erosive effect of civilization and Western influence.
The Sharo or Shadi festival is a rite of passage which every mature male among these people must pass through to be inducted into manhood. No matter your age, if you have not partaken in the Sharo or flogging festival and passed the flogging test, you are not a man yet. Therefore this event is highly looked up to by the males who desire to graduate into a next level or phase of life when they can earn respect.
More importantly these young men qualify to marry if they emerge successful in the Sharo festival.
The festival which lasts for one week starts with a splendid and magnificent display of acrobatics, magic performances, dances, and singing by pretty ladies. The peak and climax of the event that is highly anticipated is the flogging session from which the festival derives its name.
The participants who are young men must have to prove that they are ready to become men and be able to do what men do. These young men accompanied by beautiful unmarried ladies come to the arena of the flogging contest bare-chested and are not allowed to wear cloths to cover the upper part of their bodies.
A young man who is a participant must bear the pains of the flogging ceremony and is flogged by other participants of his age and size who are yet to be flogged all for the glory ahead of them. To pass the test, a participant been flogged must not wriggle in pain or scream during the lashes rather should ask for more lashes continuously and be smiling as a way of making mockery of the person flogging him. Passing this test is a sign that the participant is man enough to protect his home, feed his family and an honorable man to be respected. Not all participants can bear the pain and misery associated with the flogging because it really horrendous and painful. It gives the participants permanent scars on their bodies which remain with them until the end of their lives.
Those who are not able to pass the flogging test can try their luck again at the next festival.
A referee is usually employed to oversee the flogging as there are rules of engagement to be enforced to prevent serious injuries like blindness and head injury.
It is important to state however, that one death has been reported in Nigeria when a participant was hit on the head and died during these initiation festival.
The ultimate price for a young man who passed the flogging test, apart from the glory brought to his family is the right to marry any girl of his choice. He can even choose up to four wives haven proven himself to be capable.
In addition, those who emerge winners are officially certified as mature by the leader of the Fulani people and inducted into manhood.
Just thinking aloud all by myself, when i met my beautiful wife(the most beautiful woman in the world) 5 years ago and fell in love, i think i would have been able to withstand the flogging myself if i was to be subjected to such flogging, knowing full well that i was coasting home with my beautiful angel. What about you? would it have worth the while for you.
Hmmm! the taste of the pudding they say is in the eating.
To date, the Sharo festival forever remains a pride of the Fulani people and one of the glamorous events in West Africa that attracts tourists from all works of life.
P.S: Images not ours unless stated.
Written by Samuel Agboma