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All over West Africa, the calabash gourd is grown for its many practical uses. The word calabash comes from the Arabic for "dry gourd". We call it kwarya in Hausa.
Calabash gourds can be grown as a vegetable. However, here in Giginya village, every household owns many calabashes, both big and small, that are artistically carved and painted. The dry gourd shells are often made into many practical utensils like bowls, jugs and ladles. Bowls are made by cutting horizontally around the widest part of a mature gourd; small gourds with long necks make ideal ladles by cutting them in half from top to bottom. The hot Nigerian sun quickly dries and hardens the inside of the gourds.
My uncle is a master calabash maker. He first draws an original geometric design on the shell of the dry gourd by using a stick dipped in charcoal. With a heated knife blade, my uncle then burns the design into the hard gourd shell. These are two of his beautiful calabashes that he has made for us.
Calabashes last a very long time. My mother uses them as containers for dry goods as well as for hot soups and stews. In nearby villages, Fulani cattle herders use calabashes to transport their cow's milk to market.
Although practical and sturdy, calabashes can be broken. Masha Allah , as Muslims we know that israf (being wasteful) is haram. When anyone in our village breaks a calabash, it is taken to my uncle for repair. He uses fine rivets made of gourd fibre and a strong natural glue for this purpose.
The longer the calabash remains growing in the garden, the larger it becomes. My uncle holds the record for growing and carving the largest calabash in Hausaland. This "super calabash" is almost 60 cm wide and 5 cm thick! My uncle keeps it displayed on the wall of his house and only uses it during the two 'eids when he fills it with nuts to offer his guests.
Here in Giginya village we are all Muslims, ' Al-Hamdulillah. Both men and women enjoy wearing loose-fitting gowns and robes and Islamic head coverings. Such modest clothing is not only sunnah, but is also a practical and healthy response to the semi-desert climate of Hausaland.
For centuries, the people of Hausaland have produced their own textiles which have been dyed in deep vats. Fabric dyeing has traditionally been done by men. On the outskirts of Giginya village, there are many dye-pits in which long pieces of cloth are still dyed using the old tie-and-dye method.
The dye-pits are dug to a depth of 2-3 metres. The sides and bottom of the pit are coated with a cement-like substance which prevents the dye from seeping into the ground. Indigo plants are used for the dyeing. These plants are cut up and dumped into the dye-pits full of clean pond or well water. Baskets of ash are then stirred in.
Designs are first stitched into the cloth. Next, the fabric is dipped into the solution that colours all but the covered areas of the cloth. The dyed cloth is beaten with wooden bats and then passed over a tree trunk roller. This gives the blue-black cloth the high sheen that the Hausa people value. The natural indigo dyes supplies two colours. Cloth left in the dye-pits for too long, turns black, but cloth left for a short time turns a wonderful blue. Cola nuts are used to make the reddish brown dyes.
Dyers in Giginya village sell much of their dyed cloth to the nomadic Tuareg Berbers who continue to wear indigo-dyed robes and turbans. These are the famous "blue men" of the Sahara Desert whose skin is often tinted blue from wearing this material.
Hausa children, like Muslim children everywhere, Oft- eagerly await the two annual Islamic festivals: the 'eid al-fitri and the 'eid al-kabir. During these celebrations, all towns and villages of Hausaland partake in an extremely colourful traditional celebration called the durbar. The largest city near to Giginya village is Kano where the emir or ruler has his palace. Most families from my village travel to Kano for the 'eid celebrations. It has always been customary for an Islamic ruler to attend the salat al-'eid. In Hausaland, we pray salat al-'eid in large open-air prayer grounds called musallacin idi, usually located on the outskirts of town. After the morning prayers, everyone proceeds to the prayer ground. District heads and village chiefs along with their guards ride on beautifully decorated horses. The last to arrive on horseback at the musallacin idi is the Emir of Kano. A large white and pale green embroidered silk umbrella shades the Emir and rises above the heads of his many black turbaned bodyguards.
After 'eid prayers are over, it is the custom to follow a festive procession of district and village leaders, their courtiers and servants, to the courtyard of the Emir's palace. When he is at home, the Emir's flag flies high above the entrance gate. The durbar ceremony now begins! Thousands of people in their best 'eid clothes fill the streets and all converge on the Emir's palace. Upon entering the open sandy courtyard, horsemen gallop towards the Emir's viewing stand where they offer jahi, or salutations of allegiance.
Drumming and the sounds of kakaki, or long ceremonial silver trumpets, add to the colourful atmosphere. Finally, the Emir still mounted on his white stallion delivers his annual address in the Hausa langauge:
As-salaam aleykum! Barka da sallah! A very blessed 'eid to you all! Al-Hamdulillah, Thanks to Allah the Almighty for showing us yet another 'eid and for giving us a blessed, prosperous year of good health. Barka da sallah! Wa as-salaam aleykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!
The 'eid holiday now officially begins with everyone going his separate way. Most return home to their villages to enjoy special sweet dishes and to meet and greet neighbours and relatives. Children visit houses to receive small gifts; they also are given cola nuts and sweets from people they meet on the street.
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