Spotlight on Northern Nigeria: The Durbar Festival
With so many cultures and tribes in the green and white nation of Nigeria, there is never a shortage of cultural festivals and traditional celebrations. These myriad events give the people something to dance to and celebrate all year round. On any given day, in major cities, towns, or villages, there are events with traditional songs and dance, as well as the rich display of masquerades. There’s never a dull moment!
The Durbar Festival is one such celebratory festival. Originally arising from the use of horses during combat hundreds of years ago, the festival was intended to be a military parade of soldiers riding in defense of their Emir. The emir, who served as the military general and prince, had an entourage comprising of regiments from the different emirates of the north.
Presently, the festival revolves around the commemoration of two major festivals in the Muslim year: Eid- el-Fitr and Eid-el-Kabir. Eid-el-Fitri is a celebration signifying the end of Ramadan, the Muslim period of fasting, while Eid-el-Kabir is dedicated to the remembrance of the prophet Ibrahim and his willingness to obey Allah by sacrificing his son, Ishmael, before Allah provided him with a ram to sacrifice instead.
Durbar usually takes place in the cities of Katsina, Kano and Bida, and involves the emir and his entourage parading down city squares on horseback. The Katsina Festival is the most magnificent and grandest of the celebrations.
The Festival typically begins with prayer outside the town, and then a procession of horsemen into the town with the last horseman to arrive being the emir adorned in all his majesty. There is also a horse race at full gallop across the square. The glistening of swords, drumming, dancing and singing, with a band of performers, intensifies the fanfare. It is quite a sight to behold!
The Durbar Festival is a wonderful event to attend. It is a rich display of culture and a fun lesson in northern Nigerian history.