Black History Month – UK

My five-year-old granddaughter’s school assignment was to write about three famous black women. In recognition of Black History Month, she chose three women whom she admires: Misty Copeland, Peju Alatise, and Maya Angelou.

Picture from exhibition at Sulgar-Buel Gallery, London

Peju Alatise is currently exhibiting at Frieze Sculpture 2022, Regents Park, London. The outdoor art gallery merges art with nature. The New York Times says, “‘Sim and the Yellow Glass Birds’ by the Nigerian writer/artist uses a series of four squares to depict the life of a 9 year old domestic servant in Lagos and how, in her dreams, she can fly.”

Sulger-Buel Gallery, London

BBC interview at Frieze Sculpture 2022

Read more about Peju Alatise: Celebrating the New Power House and Tearing at the Fabric








Abidemi Babatunde Babalola, PhD-Trained in anthropological archaeology at University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria and Rice University, Houston Texas USA, Dr. Babalola’s interests include early pyro-technologies, complex societies, craft specialization, connectivity, Atlantic influence, and heritage studies. He is the director of the “Archaeology of Glass” project in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. His research has contributed to understanding the dynamics of innovation, science, and technology in pre-colonial Sub-Saharan African societies with emphasis on the invention of indigenous glass technology in Southwest Nigeria in the early second millennium AD. 

Joëlle Rolland PhD-in Archaeology of the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and a post-doctoral researcher at UMR 8215 Trajectoires, CNRS. She is a specialist in Iron Age glassmaking and carried out analytical studies to understand the origin of the raw glass used by Iron Age societies in Europe, its manufacturing technics and the processes involved in turning glass into beads and bracelets. 




Duel Anniversary: Etsu Nupe

His Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr.) Yahaya Abubakar CFR , ETSU NUPE

Happy double anniversary on your 70th year birthday & 19th year ascending on the throne as Etsu Nupe. May the endowed mercies and blessings of Allah continue to reside in your company; may Allah grant you long life with good health, wealth and wisdom. Verily, your being celebrated on today’s dual occasions is an event in your honour for patriotism, uncompromised and purposeful leadership you have been selflessly offering for the people. Congratulations, Sir! Ba’gadozhi

In Memoriam of Queen Elizabeth II

-photo credit unknown

Queen Elizabeth II  by Ben Enwonwu (1957), Nigeria

In 1957, Nigeria was three years away from independence from England. It was the time when Queen Elizabeth’s reign coincided with a shrinking of the British empire and the emergence of a postcolonial age. Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994) arguably the most known 20th century African artist, was commissioned by the Queen in 1956 during her visit to Nigeria to sculpt a bronze statue of herself. The sculpture was unveiled on 5 November 1959 in Lagos at the start of the fifth session of the Nigerian House of Representatives in Lagos.

Fifty-one years later, on November 7, 2018, the then Prince Charles (now King Charles III) presided over an event in Lagos where Ben Enwonwu’s sculpture was again allowed to be in public view. For all these years after Independence the statue had been forgotten until Neil Coventry found it in a room used by the cleaners at the National Museum! 

Bling Bling Is Back!

Joëlle Rolland PhD has organized a summer exhibition at Gallo-Roman Vesunna Museum in Perigueux, France that documents the archaeological trajectory of the Celtic seamless glass bracelet and the journey that discovered the Masaga glassmakers and their long history making seamless glass bracelets. The first exhibition held at  MuséoParc Alésia, France incorporated the story of the Masaga glassmakers of Bida, Nigeria. See Bling Bling in Bida.

English translation follows:

Temporary exhibition: “Bling-Bling, Gallic glass in complete transparency! ”
Category: Agenda
This event takes place from July 12, 2022 10:00 to August 31, 2022 10:00.
Gallic glass in complete transparency! ”
From Monday, July 12 to Sunday, October 30, 2022
No extra charge to the museum’s entrance fee
Bling-bling is not discreet: it must be known, it must be seen. In other words: it must shine, it must slam! For a Gaul, what better way to show her success, above all material, than a glass jewel? In the footsteps of glass workshops, Bling-bling takes you to discover an ancient civilization, finally close to us by its concerns, and questions our own relationship to adornment. Through the study of materials and techniques, with the collaborations of current craftsmen, this archaeological research reveals the production and use of bracelets and glass beads, from the banks of the Nile to the wrists of the Celts.
Didactic panels, touch screens, light effects, video, illustrations punctuate the visitor’s journey.
The Bling-Bling exhibition, Gallic glass in complete transparency! Is an adaptation, by the Gallo-Roman Museum Vesunna, of the Bling-Bling exhibition, Gallic glass is displayed! Designed by the MuséoParc Alésia in 2019, then taken over by the Archaeological Museum of Val d’Oise in 2020-2021.
Curator: Joëlle Rolland
Joëlle Rolland, curator of the exhibition, is a doctor of archaeology from the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. To understand how an apparent seamless glass bracelet was made, she experimented with techniques with contemporary glass craftsmen and carried out work in ethno-archaeology presented in the exhibition. Now a post-doctoral student, associate researcher at UMR 8315 Trajectoire and UMR 7065 IRAMAT, she continues her research on Celtic glass workshops with excavations in the Czech Republic and continues to document glass ornament manufacturing techniques in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bida in Nigeria.

Celebrating the New Power House – Peju Alatise

It has been 8 years since writing Tearing at the Fabric. Since then, Peju, Nigerian-born artist and architect, has forged ahead in the international world of contemporary art. Balancing motherhood with her relentless aspiration to create visionary art combining two successful shows at the Venice Biennale, not to mention relocating her atelier from Lagos to Glasgow, Peju has demonstrated that she is a non-stoppable, power house of a woman.

Originally named the Old Power House, this dilapidated space was waiting for just the right person to come along and revive it. Peju was searching, too…with a new vision and energy where her creativity would flow… they met. Peju’s decision to relocate in this far away country and start her own colony of African artists in Glasgow was a bold move. One year later, the Power House found new life as Peju’s vibrant art studio.

On June 18, 2022, people came from all over the world to celebrate Peju’s unique, powerful beginning in Glasgow, Scotland. The day was filled with music and dancing, eating and speeches, and joy, most of all joy for Peju, her courageous decision, her art, and her bright future.

Peju explains, Why Glasgow?

Glasgow is a thriving community of artists and Peju brings her dynamic personality and visionary art to this art scene.

The day was filled with music and people celebrating Peju’s journey of life and art. Even her mother, Mrs. Oluyemisi Alatise shared her newly published autobiography, Emii Ree, a meticulously chronology of the family and three generations of women .

Since my first post there has been many interviews and in-depth articles written about Peju. Here is just one but it is comprehensive and a MUST READ!
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Hawan Sallah in Bida, Nigeria

His Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr.) Yahaya Abubakar CFR, ETSU NUPE,
Chairman of the Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers

Durbar Festival which is known in northern Nigeria as Hawan Sallah “the mounting of the horses” (sallah from the Arabic word salat, meaning prayer) or Hawan Idi (mounting of the horses on the Eid—Muslim festival), supporting an equestrian tradition that can be found in cities throughout northern Nigeria today. In the predominately Muslim north, cities, such as Bida, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Yola, and Zaria are known for these celebrations, particularly after Ramadan, Eid el-Fitr—festival of breaking the fast—and Eid el Adha, festival of the sacrifice. A procession of horsemen comprised of traditional rulers, district heads and title holders along with acrobats, and musicians assemble to parade in front of the emirs’ palaces and through the city to pay homage to the traditional ruler. In Bida, seat of the Nupe Kingdom, various activities of horse riding, parades, musical entertainment, begin with the special prayer that commemorates the end of Ramadan.

In Bida the Eid el-Fitr celebrations begin Day 1 after Ramadan when the Etsu Nupe and his entourage ride horseback to the parade grounds to perform Eid Sallah, a special prayer that commemorates the end of Ramadan. The Etsu Nupe and the entire Bida community pray together.

Community prayers after Ramadan – Day 1

The slideshow presents some photos taken on Day 1 when the Etsu Nupe went through the streets of Bida in celebration of the end of Ramadan.

The Hawan Sallah dates back to when horses were used in warfare to protect an emirate. Each noble household was expected to defend the emirate by forming a regiment. Once a year, the regiments would gather for a military parade to demonstrate allegiance to the traditional ruler, by showcasing their horsemanship, readiness for war, and loyalty. The chief cavalry officer known as Madawaki takes charge of war activities, especially that to do with horses.

Madawaki, chief cavalry title
Showcasing the loyalty to the Etsu Nupe with traditional music

Day 2 of Eid el-Fitr The community came to the palace to greet the Etsu Nupe and congratulate him for the month of Ramadan. Each person was introduced by name.

An afternoon of reciting the Quran, music, dancing and stand-up comedy was enjoyed by all.

Talking drums praising the Etsu Nupe
Nupe dance and song is highly regarded
Spontaneous participation by title holders
Standup comedian, Nupe style

Hawan Barika – Day 5 The last day of celebrating Eid el-Fitr. Hawan Bariki is the day when the Etsu Nupe rides his horse through all the districts of Bida and visit the royal, ruling houses. Also during colonial times, the Etsu would ride with this entourage to the district officer to formally close the celebrations of Eid el-Fitr. The following video, outstandingly, represents the day .

NTA News

Portraits of a Parade

Recent Interview:

All rights reserved by Lesley Lababidi. To copy or re-produce photography, videos, and or text, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required.

Barka da Sallah – Eid Mubarak – Happy Eid el-Fitr

After the month of Ramadan, fasting from sunrise to sunset, Muslims around the world celebrate the ‘Feast of Breaking the Fast” – Eid el-Fitr. In northern Nigeria, some Hausa, Fulani and Nupe cities will celebrate with an equestrian festival known as the Durbar. The festival begins with prayers of thankfulness for completing Ramadan and prayers to see the next Ramadan, prayers for the community, the leaders, and the country. In Bida, His Royal Highness Alhaji (Dr) Yahaya Abubakar, ETSU NUPE, will preside over the festivities. Watch this space for the unfolding events!

Return to Bida, 2022

The last time I was in Bida was February 2020, after which, one by one, countries closed their borders. By mid-March of the same year, ramifications of coronavirus detained everyone from leaving their homes much less to travel. Across the globe, each day we faced the unknown. But life continues, and as time marches, I, once again, am able to greet the Etsu Nupe in his Bida palace and return to the Masaga glassmaker’s community.

His Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr.) Yahaya Abubakar CFR, ETSU NUPE,
Chairman of the Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers

The week leading up to the Abuja-Bida road trip, The Lost Legacy of Bida Bikini, was screened at the Alliance Francaise (Lagos) in conjunction with Screen Out Loud on March 13th. The attendance was good with a lively conversation during the Q & A session.

iREP International Documentary Film Festival at Freedom Park Lagos March 17-20, screened The Lost Legacy of Bida Bikini at Freedom Park.

Seven years of promoting heritage awareness and preservation in Nupeland includes articles, booklets, programs, international exhibitions, Instagram @bida_glassmakers, and the documentary (permanently displayed on the British Museum website). These efforts led to UNESCO designating Bida as the creative city of crafts and folk art in Nigeria. International and local designers are interested in the local crafts and we are hopeful that collaborations and projects will soon begin to emerge. Mr. Tarek Chazli, Chargé d’affaires of the Italian Embassy, expressed interest in visiting Nupeland and possible collaboration. Mr. Chazli accompanied me on this trip and it is hopefully that his trip will be the first of many to Bida for the Italian Embassy and others.

Left to right: Alhaji Dan Galadima, Jikandiyan Gargagiya,
His Royal Highness the ETSU NUPE,
Mr. Tarek Chazli (Chargé d’affaires Italian Embassy)

Women play an important role in Nupe royalty. Hajiya Aisha is the Emira or head of the Nupe women. Her title, Sagi Nupe, gives her the status as the highest ranking woman in the royal family. I am humbled and thankful for our friendship. Here is a photo of us on March 20,2022.

The Masaga glassmaker’s community suffered as a guild and cooperative during the past two years. There are only two elderly glassmakers remaining to work the recycled glass into beads. I met with the traditional leaders and we are in discussions as how to encourage 2-3 youth in apprenticeships. Bellows operators are not difficult to gather as this needs only strength and stamina but the craft of making beads and bangles is a long commitment to learn the skill and technology of the furnace and glassworks, not to mention patience and creativity. I fear we may be experiencing the last years of this craft even with local and international attention.

Standing in the middle is Alhaji Yanko, the 95 year old man, who keeps the secret to the ancient way of making bikini black glass.

The making of glass beads and bikini raw glass is well documented within this website and in the documentary but another story may not have been highlighted sufficiently, which is the technology of making seamless bracelets. (Bida Glass at MuséoParc Alésia, France and Bling Bling in Bida)

Joëlle Rolland PhD, archaeologist at UMR 8215 Trajectoires, France studies the migration of glassmaking from Egypt to Gallo-Roman era and the innovation of Celtic technology of making seamless glass beads. Joëlle Rolland searched the globe for workshops still producing seamless glass bracelet with the same technology and concluded that the Masaga glassmakers are the only group remaining in the world who still know how to produce seamless bracelets in the same fashion as the Celtics. She discovered the work of Elisabeth Thea Haevernick who publish in 1960 her thesis on Celtic glass bangles in Bida and, the ethnologist, René Gardi who also researched Bida glass in the 1969 and wrote articles comparisons with the work of Celtic bracelets. As well as, Leo Frobenius  in 1911 who visited Bida also illustrated the techniques of fabrication with the famous illustrations Celtic glass.  All of this, by chance, led Joëlle to my documentation of the glassmaking in Bida. Joëlle explained that this technology is extremely difficult to replicate. She organises exhibitions about the Bida glassmaker’s seamless bracelet making.

comparison between bracelets made in 2019 (photo: Lesley Lababidi) and 1969 Rene Gardi, African Crafts and Craftsmen

Here is a new, 2 minute video of making of seamless glass bracelets on March 19,2022