Continued from: Red Walls of Bida – Introduction and Red Walls of Bida – Part Two
A blacksmith is a metalsmith who creates objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal, using tools to hammer, bend, and cut.
The “black” in “blacksmith” refers to the black fire scale, a layer of oxides that forms on the surface of the metal during heating. The origin of “smith” is debated, it may come from the old English word “smythe” meaning “to strike” or it may have originated from the Proto-German “smithaz” meaning “skilled worker.”
(to read captions, slide cursor over photo)
Blacksmithing is an ancient craft. Humans throughout their history have had a fascination with the combinations of fire and metal. Ancient Hindu, Greek and Roman mythology speaks of gods of metal, fire and craftsmen. The reality is that over the centuries, a blacksmith produces items that are necessities—from weapons to nails.
Natural metals—gold, silver, and copper—were probably the metals humans first worked. These malleable metals gave rise to hammering techniques before the discovery of smelting iron ore by the Hittites of Anatolia around 1500BCE.
Blacksmiths work by heating pieces of iron, until the metal becomes soft enough to be shaped with a hammer, anvil and chisel. Heating is accomplished with bellows operated from a wheel that blows air on charcoal. The work is grueling, hot, and with little pay, but young men are finding work and a skill that is still needed in many regions of Nigeria.
Below is a slideshow of the work of a Bida blacksmith. No imports here, truly: Made in Nigeria.
***Nigeria is often in the news — often the news is not good, however this article centers the spotlight on Nigerians, the culture and their good work to keep traditional crafts alive. Throughout the developing world, heritage crafts need support, if not, the ancient techniques will vanish only to be read about in a dusty old book. Please support heritage crafts wherever and whenever possible. By doing so you help preserve ancient techniques, encourage skills and apprenticeships, and support the local economy. ***
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