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Lasharam: A munificent Kanuri culture fading away

Lasharam is a generous Kanuri culture, where friends, family members, neighbors and even strangers get together daily for an evening meal. In this famous custom,…

Lasharam is a generous Kanuri culture, where friends, family members, neighbors and even strangers get together daily for an evening meal.

In this famous custom, variety of food being prepared in various homes would be brought out to “Majalis”, a chosen location where people sit comfortably on floor mats to eat from a single plate.

This practice, lived on for centuries In fact in many ancient cities of Yobe and Borno, according to Kanuri tradition, not even a stranger must sleep on an empty stomach because he does not money to eat.

Sadly, this rich and beautiful culture has started fading away over time, due to social changes. The situation was further worsen with the recent Boko Haram crisis which not only destroyed lives and property but, beautiful values like this.

It was of common sight in the ancient cities of Damaturu and Maiduguri, to see people in groups encircled a big plate of food on the streets, eating and cracking jokes.

It was also an avenue to discuss issues concerning the neighbourhood and proffer solutions to them. Sadly all these are fading away.

When Kanem Trust visited Ajari ward, located in the heart of the ancient city of Damaturu, a group of middle aged men were met upholding the beautiful custom.

“We still hold on to this custom because it has become part of us.  It’s what we saw our parents, grand parents and great grand parents doing. There had never been a day we eat alone eversince we were born,” said one of them, Baana Gagas, while washing his hands to join his friends.

Gagas pointed to an old man sitting close by and told the reporter that he was in the best position to explain this age-old custom.

The old man, Baba Kachalla Gaidam, who said he was 100 years old believed that Lashram could only be found among the Kanuris.

“It’s purely Kanuri creation that nobody can tell you when or how it started. We all grew to see our forefathers doing it. I am 100 years now, and it’s what our children will continue doing. Because, its a taboo for Kanuri man to enter his home and eat food alone,” he said.

Pointing at seven houses in his neighborhood he said: “Every evening, we use to sit here and eat from the same plate with heads of these households.

“Our children also ate and played together. I always remember those beautiful moments, and that always reminded me to look after their families,” he said.

He explained that the motive behind the public eating was to feed those who did not have food in their houses and create bond among people.

The village Head of Damaturu, Alhaji Zannah Baba-Audu Lawan, said that Lasheram culture started from time immemorial but reinforced during the reign of Shehu Lamino, the first king of Kanem Borno empire.

“The rulers asked people to take out food from their homes to feed strangers and passersby who do not have anywhere to eat.” he explained.

He attributed the culture to the history of Kanem Burno empire and its prime position in the teaching of Qur’anic knowledge.

“Because, the people coming to seek the Qur’anic knowledge have nowhere to eat, unlike today when one can buy food from a restaurant”.

The Village Head, revealed that Lasharam is helping Kanuri people to preserve their culture, develop strong bonds and compel women to learn the skills of preparing traditional meal for their husbands.

“Because, no woman would want her food to be abandoned and only those who cook well will always have their food eaten” he said.

He said that one beauty about the culture was that, each time they came out to eat, they would start with  food prepared from the less privileged homes.

He lamented that the culture is fast disappearing among the youths

“Most of our children living in the quarters don’t practice this culture. They locked their houses and eat on dining table with their families.

Another reason for its disappearance he said was the influx of Internally Displaced Persons as the result of activities of the insurgents which overstretched resources of individuals.

“Now, most of this resident are battling to live by the day, some  don’t even have the resources to feed their immediate family let alone taking the food out for others to benefit.  We hope that very soon things will get back to normal so that we can continue with it,” he added.

Ajia Maina Gujba, the district head of Gujba, said that Lasharam was one of the most beautiful and generous culture that Kanuri had, and they would do everything possible to preserve it.

He said that in Kanuri culture,  feeding the people you did not know is a blessing and they feel proud if a stranger benefited from their wealth.

He said the culture started recording set backs in the 80s when people became too expose to western education.

“We don’t know how this custom would survive in the next generation because very few people are practicing it in this generation.

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