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 2021.