In Memoriam: Abdullahi Ebba, Masaga Glassmaker

December, 28, 2020 Approximately 50 years old

It has been over two weeks. Coming to grips with the senseless event that took place on the afternoon of December 28, 2020 in Bida, Nigeria has taken time to process. Abdullahi (Allah yar harmu) sat outside of his workshop, as he does every day, when a motorcycle jumped the curb and struck him. He was killed instantly. This random, tragic event brought acute sadness not only because of life’s cruel twist but also because Abduallahi was the star of the soon to be released documentary, “The Lost Legacy of Bida Bikini”, filmed in 2019. Because of the pandemic and other delays, Abdullahi would never see his work and accomplishments on the screen. To snatch this joy away from a man who toiled from childhood to eke out a living by making glass beads and bracelets is a cruel end.

This video is of Abdullahi making one bead. (Other craftsmen are Alhaji Abass Umaru, Nda Umaru Azumi, and Abdullahi’s son operates the bellows.)

I first met Abdullahi in 2015 in Bida at his workshop where he and other Masaga craftsmen spent every day in front of a mud furnace fuelled by forest wood. The heat in the workshop can be 43 degrees Centigrade and above, particularly during the dry season. Yet every day they are seated around the furnace twisting iron rods making glass beads and bangles. Producing glass objects are crafted everyday; the craft their fathers and grandfathers taught; the techniques conveyed by their ancestors from Egypt. 

Every year for six years, I journeyed to Bida to research and document the glass heritage of the Masaga community in Nupeland. I learned from Abullahi and the craftsmen. In September 2019, I received permission from the Etsu of Nupeland and the Masaga guild to film a documentary about the lost art of making raw glass. It was during the month of filming that Abdullahi’s character and gift for acting developed within the first days. Our film director, Remi Vaughan-Richards, commented that Abdullahi didn’t shy from the camera and was the person she chose to lead the others. We would tease Abdullahi that he had found a new calling and would soon be well known throughout Nigeria. He would beam with pride. 

 I hope that when the documentary is released that anyone who is reading this obituary will take the time to watch it. Abdullahi stars in it! Please email me if you are interested in receiving the link of the documentary at its release. 

All Photographs and text are under international copyright laws. No re-use without the permission of Lesley Lababidi 2023.

16 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Abdullahi Ebba, Masaga Glassmaker

  1. Oh- that is sooooooo sad- life is so unfair at times!!! I’m sorry!!!! I would love to see your documentary!!! Crazy times here!! I’m coping by doing lots of art! Take care!! Deedee

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. It seems that week was a dark one across the world. Thank you so much Leslie for make him and his crafts known to us, so many miles away, and yet so connected. Allah yarhamu, Alloi haliki inti! You bring our interconnectedness so to life by your presence and and your documentation of the lives of wonderful people the rest of us will never know. I am so grateful!

  3. What a sad story. What a cruel fate struck Abdullahi. May he rest in peace.
    The documentary will be a most treasured memento for his family and friends.
    I am looking forward to watching it and will be very grateful to receive the link once it is released. Many thanks

  4. Thank you for sharing your personal relationship with Abdullahi. His craft is fascinating and your research and connection brings it to us, your followers.
    I wonder how the film and attention to his family will effect them? Will you continue your contact with them? If so, I hope you will keep us updated.
    Please add me to your list of those wanting to see this film.
    My condolences to his family, community, and friends including you.

    • Dear Mary, Thank you for reading the blog and your welcomed comment. Yes, I will continue my contact with the Masaga community and Abullahi’s family. With pleasure, I will send you the link of the documentary when released. Thanks so much. L.

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