37 Abisi Shouting for Rain and Cultural Identity

Prayers can be used to ask for something that is near to impossible to obtain, otherwise “help yourself and the sky will help you”.
In this catastrophic drought, they found that neither self-help nor prayers could solve the problem.
Considering that their ancestors had worked so hard to adapt their community to the Pitiland environment, Elders thought that the profound causes of these natural changes could be explained by sociological changes, by abandoning the old ways.
Could changing their ways of life disrupt their natural setting?

At∫ikirɜ: to shout for rain

 

This inquiry of the ecological question took place during a meeting at the uyikut sacred farm at a place called ” the trees of Kurama Women ” where there were a few palm trees located at the foot of the Hill.
Near, there also was a small hoed field too dry for seeds to germinate.
The San Gari, his assistants and his eldest son sat in the center of this field, facing Abisi Hill.
To their right, the Mogaji and his assistant sat on a large rock at the edge of the field and, standing on the other side, sat the heads of Ekantin and Igallik and their assistants.
Further behind them, a dozen horsemen dress in all their hunting garb waited under a tree for the discussions to go on.
The first to speak was the Mogaji and the discussion went as follows:
Mogaji: “Where do you come from San Gari ? “
San Gari “Why do you ask me? “
Mogaji: “Do you think I’m wrong? “
San Gari: “I do not know.”
Mogaji :“You, San Gari, are you not the father of Abisi? You have abandoned the hill to go live in the bush. You left me alone in the hill, me who is under your command. Who can take care of the hill in your place? Should I go down the hill and I also eat the same as you in this bush? You have a lot of land in the bush but I have to stay on the hill and I do not have a lot of lands. “
The San Gari turns to the leader of the clan Ekantin, Sarkin Dutse (war chief)
“Sarkin Dutse, why did you come here with a blanket over your shoulders? From today we know that it is your fault if there is no rain. You change too fast. You do not respect our customs and that is why there is more rain! “
Mogaji: “How is it that you wear Hausa clothes and we wear our goatskins? “
Kira, Sarkin Dutse assistant : “San Gari, your words are harsh. But your children change everything. We came on horseback but look, some of your sons came by bicycle. If you, father of the Abisi, do these things, then we shall do it too! “
San Gari: “Let’s stop this discussion and move to action. This year we do not know why there isn’t any rain. Let Barɜ send us a little rain for our crops in need! “
The section chiefs and their assistants then stood at the center of the field and, after having waited for a moment of silence yelled together a great cry: “Atiiiii” .
Immediately the horsemen ran across the plowed field several times as if their life was at stake .
The ceremony was over.

Shouting for rain

Normally dry season hunting is maintained completely separated from wet season agriculture but here hunters, on their horses ran on the plowed field of Barɜ .
At∫ikirɜ, shouting for rain, was an explicit challenge to the rain-father to obliterate their tracks on the farm with rain. This transgression of the rules that forbade hunting during the growing season was done to provoke a needed reaction.
But, even if there was, in fact, some rain that night, the leaders decided to organize a new and more orthodox Mikosira where all foreign objects and people would be prohibited.
To do this, the San Gari and Mogaji asked the Sarkin Piti to compel Sarkin Dutse to wear goat skins and prohibit the use of bicycles.
The Sarkin accepted these requests though he did not encourage these ceremonies, being a Muslim.

The Witness

The San Gari brought two witnesses to this new ceremony; one of them was married to an Amo woman.
Being sick, she had gone to seek treatment from an Amo doctor. When her husband and one of his friends went to visit her they met on their way, an old woman whose ethnicity they could not specify.
She started the following conversation in Hausa with her husband,
Woman: “Where are you going? “
Duruwa: “We go to Sokoto, the Amo doctor! “
Woman: “What will you do? “
Duruwa: “One of my wives is sick, we went to Sokoto for a treatment. We are going to visit her.
Woman: “What people (Kabila in Hausa) are you? “
Duruwa: “We are Abisi”.
Woman: “I was looking specifically to meet Abisi. I have something to tell them. I went everywhere, among all indigenous peoples of this region. “
Duruwa: “We are Abisi”
Woman: “Have you got rain ? “
Duruwa “Yes, but not enough”
Woman: “Do you know why you do not have to rain? “
Duruwa: “No. “
Woman: “I have heard that you, the Abisi, do not dress like before?
Duruwa :”Yes, it’s true. “
Woman: “Your women wore leaves ahante and your men goatskin ubozo top and bottom?”
Duruwa “Yes, it is true. “
Woman: “It is because you no longer look like your grandfathers that you do not have rain this year. I want you to go to your chief and tell him what I told you.
Men must wear goatskins and women, leaves. If you do this, you will have rain. “
Before leaving the woman said:
“Do not think that I am a Rui abo (human) like you, I am an enus (spirit ).
When Duruwa turned, the woman had disappeared but later, on the way back, she reappeared and said:
“I am here to remind you to carry my message to your leader.”
When Duruwa arrived , he immediately went to see the San Gari.
This second rain rite ended like the first, by a horse race on the small plot.

Identity at a loss

 

This meeting was clearly designed to identify the causes behind the lack of rain. During the first meeting, it was thought that this was a temporary problem caused by the negligence of Rukuba, but it was also thought that it was not normal for the San Gari to neglect his responsibilities staying on his bush fields.
As the rain still had not come, it is this assumption that was retained and the San Gari was indicted.
But, it was quickly realized that he was not the only one to have adopted new ways: the Sarkin Dutse, for example, having a blanket on his shoulders and others, coming in bicycles. Finally, it was the whole social changes that were held responsible for the drought.
The intervention of Duruwa was particularly explicit about the causes of the lack of rain: the enus (traditional spirits) showed their disapproval to social change and the drought was a consequence.
When trying to learn how Abisi define their identity, it is clear that they have a sharp consciousness of their original diversity and that they were unified by a convergence of institutions, language, and symbols.
The main one being their highland origin which radically contrasts with plain dwellers of Muslim orientation.
Dress being an important symbol of this Abisi indigenous identity.
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