In some parts of the Fulani Northern-Nigeria community, men who are ready to start a family do not get the leisure of just walking to the bride and popping the question, especially if the bride side picks ‘Sharo’ as the requirement for the marriage to sail through.
‘Sharo’ involves flogging. Through this exercise, the groom is beaten up by the older members of the community so as to earn a wife and respect.
If the man is not strong enough to bear the pain, the wedding is called off. Many young people from this tribe have succumbed to the flogging, which accounts for why this is not a compulsory practice.
Other than flogging, the bride’s family can pick ‘Koowgal’, which is a dowry payment option, or the ‘Kabbal’, an Islamic ceremony similar to marriage but in the absence of the bride and groom.
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.
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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 from tricksters and maiden dancers, however, the central focus of the festival begins with the arrival of bare-chested, unmarried men who are escorted to the center ring by beautiful young girls.
Elated spectators cheer on in anticipation as contenders and challengers set the ball rolling while families of the contenders watch and pray not to be disgraced by their sons because it is shameful for a family whose son cannot endure the pain from the flogging.
On the flip side, due to the known fact that pain has its threshold, contenders usually recite mantras during the flogging rite or undergo some form of a traditional fortification in preparation for the festival.
These severe floggings often leave scars on the proud contenders who believe the scars are marks of courage and a successful transition to manhood. Other youths acting as referees observe the proceedings closely, ensuring that the strokes are fairly struck.
At the end of the festival, “survivors” are celebrated into manhood and are giving permission to marry the girl of their choice, which can be up to four as long as he is able to maintain balance amongst all four wives.
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