expected to undergo severe flogging in public without flinching. It is normally staged twice a year, during the dry-season guinea corn harvest and the Muslim festival of Id-el-kabir. It may occasionally be held during a marriage, at the naming ceremony of the firstborn child of a renowned sharo exponent, to honor a chief, or as a contest between clans.
|The institution of vital importance to the nomadic Fulani, and all kinds of customs and ceremonies has arisen around it. One such ceremony is the sharo, a public flogging that is a test of manhood. Not all Fulani nomadic groups observe this ceremony or insist on it before a young man may marry. For some it is merrily a sport, indulged in for its own sake. Probably the keenest exponents of the sharo are the Jafun Fulani found in Nigeria.
The sharo is a test of endurance; a youth is
The sharo is a festival in its own right and attracts Fulani from far and near. It is usually held in a marketplace and lasts for a week. Men and women gather at the marketplace all dressed up for the occasion. Although various kinds of entertainment are available the maidens dance, performances by well-known minstrels, and all kinds of tricksters these are only a prelude to the main act. The young men who are to be flogged are attended by their seconds (those who might act in their stead should they be unable to finish the act) and surrounded by a small crowd of relatives, friends, and well-wishers. When the sharo is about to begin, young men carrying staffs and pretending fierceness clear the ground of spectators. The tempo of the music, provided mainly by drums, quickens; the youths cry shrilly and recite incantations.
point, however, is that the victim does not flinch but shows utter indifference to pain and even sneers at his attacker. If he is able to achieve this, his family and friends surround him with joy, offering gifts and congratulations. Even the belief that the youth may have fortified himself with charms and pain-resistant drugs does not dim the joy. He has now displayed his manhood and is considered worthy of a wife. Incidentally, the Fulani have herbal medicines that heal the wounds fairly quickly, leaving only scars that the youth may display for all to see.
|At this point one of the young men to be flogged comes out and strikes a defiant pose with one leg crossed over the other and arms raised clutching either a staff or a mirror into which he gazes with apparent indifference. Another young man of about the same age and size approaches, wielding a strong, supple cane about a half inch thick, and moves around the victim taking careful aim. Without warning he lands the whip heavily on the other's ribs, sometimes drawing blood. Blow upon blow may be struck, with the victim shouting for more. Other youths acting as referees observe the proceedings closely, ensuring that the blows are fairly struck. The
From The Fulani by Pat I. Ndukwe
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