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Rigata festival to lit Yauri

Between February 20 and 22, the kingdom of Yauri will host hundreds of people who would troop in to participate and witness the annual rigata…

Between February 20 and 22, the kingdom of Yauri will host hundreds of people who would troop in to participate and witness the annual rigata festival.

The fiesta, which according to historians, notably Alhaji Abdullahi Yelwa, The Ajiyan Yauri, traced its roots some 200 years back when Gungu warriors took to the river Niger that flows through the emirate to hunt hippos that endanger the lives of fishermen.

That event soon became a show of bravery and naval might and skills, which was halted by the colonial administration in a bid to protect the shrinking hippo population in that part of the world.

But the rigata, which is a Gungu word for marine warfare, soon resurfaced as a cultural fiesta to showcase wealth, and marine skills, without so much hippo killing. It was staged in honour of distinguished guests, such as the premier of the northern region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, when they visited Yauri. Since then, according to Yelwa, in his book Yauri Rigata 2019: A unique Cultural Extravaganza, the ceremony had been adopted by the government as an annual event, which the present Emir of Yauri, His Highness, Alhaji Muhammadu Zayyanu Abdullahi has championed.

Today, the event features swimming competition, open to both males and females, where contestants battle each other and the vagaries of the river Niger, where the first three competitors to arrive at the high table are feted. While in the nutsa contest, the competitor who is able to stay the longest underwater emerges the winner.

One of the most fun events of the festival is the floating gourd race, where contestants on floating gourd race across the Niger, struggling to stay afloat and on their gourds. Children are not left out of the fun as they are placed in plastic bowls and paddle with their hands towards shore. The first three arrivals are also declared champions.

While the thrilling half-a-kilo canoe race is one of the major events of the fiesta.

Other events expected to be reenacted at this year’s festival include traditional dances, some dating as far back as four hundred years, according to Yelwa in his book, and others more spectacular, like the ‘yan tauri dance, where performers slash their bodies with knives and draw no blood.

The cultural fiesta draws participants from the three local governments of Yauri, Ngaski and Shanga, that make up the Yauri Emirate and participants from the Gunga and Kambari speaking people of Kebbi State.

The festival this year is expected to draw state governors, traditional rulers and title holders, culture enthusiasts and administrators from across the country.

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