This colorful annual festival takes place in Arugungu, a riverside town in Kebbi State, about 64 miles from Sokoto. The leading tourist attraction in the area, the festival originated in Aug. 1934, when the late Sultan Dan Mu’azu made an historic visit. In tribute, a grand fishing festival was organized. Since then, it’s become a celebrated yearly event held between Feb. and March. During the festival, hundreds of local men and boys enter the water, armed with large fishnet scoops. They are joined by canoes filled with drummers, plus men rattling huge seed-filled gourds to drive the fish to shallow waters. Vast nets are cast and a wealth of fish are harvested, from giant Nile Perch to the peculiar Balloon Fish. Furthermore there’s canoe racing, wild duck hunting, bare-handed fishing, diving competitions and naturally, swimming. Afterwards, there is drinking, singing and dancing into the night.

EYO FESTIVAL

Eyo Festival is unique to Lagos area, and it is widely believed that Eyo is the forerunner of the mod­ern day carnival in Brazil. On Eyo Day, the main highway in the heart of the city (from the end of Carter Bridge to Tinubu Square) is closed to traffic, allowing for procession from Idumota to Iga Idunganran. Here, the participants all pay homage to the Oba of Lagos. Eyo festival takes place whenever occasion and tradition demand, but it is usually held as the final burial rites for a highly regarded chief.

SHARO/SHADI FESTIVAL

The Fulani culture presents a complex system, involving age-old initiations. The most important is the Sharo or Shadi (flogging meeting), believed to have originated among the Jaful Fulani, whose ranks are still considered the finest. During the Sharo festival, bare-chested contestants, usually unmarried men, come to the center ring, escorted by beautiful girls. The crowd erupts in thunderous cheers and drumming. After some time, a challenger, also bare-chested, comes out brandishing a whip, trying to frighten his opponent. The festival proceeds with lively drumming, singing, cheers and self-praises from both competitors and challengers. When the excitement is at a fevered pitch, it is the time for flogging. The challenger raises his whip and flogs his opponent. His opponent must endure this without wincing or showing pain, lest he be branded a coward.

THE ATILOGWU DANCE

The Atilogwu dance has been elevated to a dazzling art form, particularly by the Igbos in Anambra State. Atilogwu is a vigorous dance which literally means “Is this magic?” and combines elements of gymnastics with foot-stomping rhythms and brilliant colors. It’s performed by young men and women who undergo rigorous training before presenting the dance in public. Once approved, the dance is performed during important festivals and great social occasions. In fact, Atilogwu has become a celebrated signature of Nigerian culture, performed around the world.

NATIONAL MUSEUMS

The National Museum at Onikan, Lagos provides one of the largest collection of art and artifacts in Nigeria. Of great importance to anyone seeking a deep­er understanding of African art and the rich cultural heritage of Nigeria, the artifacts in the museum date from 500 BC-200 AD, including the Nok ter­racotta heads. Its interior is majestic in scope, and retraces the development of various cultures through centuries of Nigerian history. Operated by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the museum here, like —others in Benin, Jos, Ife, Esie, Kano and Kaduna, plus many smaller ones, consistently draws thousands of tourists and historians each year to view its rich collections.

OSUN FESTIVAL

Osun was one of the wives of Sango, the god of Thunder and former king of Oyo. She is widely worshipped in Yorubaland, particularly in the coun­tryside through which the river Osun flows. The water of Osun is said to have the power of making barren women fertile. Her most important sanc­tuaries are in Oshogbo, which is contracted from ‘Oso Igbo’, or spirit of the forest, centered around a palace shrine where the chief priest performs rites and rituals.

KANO DYE PITS

The Kano indigo-vegetable dye pits are one of the most fascinating aspects of this old city. Various designs are folded into the material before dyeing, and the fabric is often beaten to achieve the shiny, iridescent appearance. The tech­niques employed to obtain this look are unmatched around the world. And although the methods they use are ancient, these lush works of art on fabric always remain extremely popular and continue to be in great demand.

LEATHER WORK

Nigeria is a veritable treasure trove of beautiful handmade crafts. Drawing from ancient traditions, Nigerian artisans create marvelous wood carvings, metal castings, exotic jewelry, traditional clothing, intricately decorated calabashes and finely-crafted leatherwork. Visitors are amazed at the quality and value of these unique creations, each made with a perfectionist’s skill and attention to detail.

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