13 Paja: an Abisi Berdge Hero

For Abisi, a Berdge is a brave and courageous person who has done something extraordinary and unusual.
They merit a particular place in their collective memory because they play an important role in building Abisi identity. Telling hero stories help create a collective imaginary bounding people together.
Paja really existed but he has become a historic figure of abisi political resistance. His story was told by Sapon.
Paja or Kwaja is known to have been one of the best Abisi hunter and warrior. He was considered an enemy by Hausas who wanted to capture him but they did not know how.

An Abisi Heroic Dilemma

Abisi were caught in a double bind.
On the one hand, Hausa’s strategy was to prevent farmers to cultivate their bush fields.
It was like what a observer, Eduard Vogel in 1855 wrote , with his colonial prejudices, about Bauchi area slaving.
On the other hand, Abisi faced a fundamental philosophical dilemma: they believed that the order of nature could be disrupted if they did not respect a strict ecological division between dry and wet season activities.
Hunting was strictly forbidden in farming time.
As Sapon comments : «We could not go down into the plain because in agriculture time we are forbidden to arm ourselves as for hunting. »
Transgressing this interdiction is a dangerous provocation of /Barᴈ/, the supernatural power that controls rain.
«When Hausas attacked our people, a grandfather of Ekantin named Paja had gone to get grain in Kurama because the Hausa attacks occurred during the rainy season. »
Being unable to farm and to defend themselves but having to support their family was a real challenge for Abisi uyikirat househeads.
That is why, Paja had to make arrangements to buy “a granary of grain” in Kurama.
It was when he went to fetch it with the help of his wives and other women of his house he had “borrowed” that he faced the pitfall between good and bad.

Friends and Traitors

The Kurama, living in the Zaria plain, were conquered before others by the Hausas with which they were bound.
However, a section of Kurama was allied with Abisi and could take refuge in their village on the hill during Hausa attacks.
Gurza have been constant ally of Piti with whom they fought Rukuba and Amo. No wall town at Gurza. When attacked, they went to Piti Hill.” Lere District Affairs 1936 KNA no 393.
Some Kurama warned the Hausas of his coming who prepared a plot to catch him.
Waiting for Paja to be on his way back, the Hausa hid near the Utak River. As he arrived, they encircled and captured him. They tied his right arm around his neck.
A Hausa drummer composed on the spot a song to celebrate their victory:
The sun was tied to the moon because we were looking for you, the best Piti warrior. We could never catch you but now we’ve got you like a woman. “
Hearing these provoking words, Paja took a stick in his left hand and beat to death the drummer and two other men.
A Hausa guard with a musket shot a bullet, wounded him and broke one of his teeth.
The other attackers rapidly dismounted to slaughter him as “a tree with a knife”.
Paja’s wives and the other women fled toward the Hill .
Paja would rather die than let them be captured by Hausa. He knew that if he had returned without them, other Abisi would have retaliated, accusing him of being responsible for their deaths.
The women were yelling and some Abisi heard their cries and saw two Hausas trying to catch Paja’s brother’s wife, Kanga.
She is remembered as an Igallik of Ekrami patriline, sister of Chawa, Dogari’s father. She was pregnant and they called her son Turaki.
The Hausas were quarreling over the women and finally decided to kill her to solve their dispute but Kanga, had already arrived there and standing next to the Uburga River separating the hill and the plain.
He shouted to his wife to get behind him and to keep running and  yelled to the Hausas as they advanced:
Your shall not get these women and I will kill you with poisoned arrows.”
They finally stopped the chase and went back.
Later, when the battle was over, the Abisi learned that the attack was caused by a Kurama spy.

Abisi Vengeance

They then went to see their allies, the Gurza Kurama, and asked them when their enemies, the Garun Kurama, would hold a ceremony.
Some Gurza Kurama agreed to reveal this secret because some of them lived in Pitiland.
The day of the ceremony, the Gurza Kurama went to the feast, drank their share of the beer and returned home under the pretext of going to put their ritual clothing for the dance.
The Abisi warriors went up the Uburtu Hill where the abisi archers hid for an ambush and let their horsemen go back alone to Garu.
When the Kurama saw the Abisi horsemen coming, they took their weapons and shot their bows in the air shouting: “Today we are going to finish with the Piti”.
The riders turned back and galloped toward the Uburtu Hill, pursued by the Kurama who were then caught in the ambush by the archers.
Abisi warriors killed the Kurama one by one and cut off their heads who were all taken the Abisi Mogaji. The heads are still there today.
Since that time, the Kurama no longer do their ceremonies during the day but late at night. ” The place where Paja was killed is marked by a tree where hunters gather for a commemoration before hunting in the surrounding bush.
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