November 25, 2019: The final day of filming about the story of the lost heritage of Masagá glassmakers. Front row: Singing Tree Film crew. Second row: to the right and left of the HRH Etsu Nupe, Masagá glassmakers.
The delayed production of the film took its toll on everyone. Two elderly glassmakers died during the year 2020. With great sadness, they will not see themselves in the documentary. However…against all odds, the documentary will be released mid-April 2021.
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.
The late Shaba Nupe (Allah yar harmu) was the second in command (meaning Shaba) to the current ETSU NUPE, Alhaji Dr. Yahaya Abubakar CFR (here). Shaba Nupe was the crown prince of the Emirate, the maternal uncle to the ETSU NUPE.
On November 7, 2019, before filming the documentary about the Masaga Glassmakers of Bida was set to launch, Shaba Nupe was one of the members of the royal family that I visited to ask for his blessings. He granted his blessing for the documentary to commence and wished me and the project a good outcome.
We pray Allah to grant him Mercy and Aljannah Fridaus.
Alhji Mohammed Abubakar, Allah Yar Hamu- May his soul rest in peace, passed away a few days ago in Bida, Nigeria. He was a small man with kind, steadfast eyes. He had a tribal scar on both sides of his face and carried a brass kettle filled with kola nuts that would be distributed throughout the day.
I knew him for only a few hours that day. He took his position near my side in confidence and pride. I depended on him. That afternoon when we stood together to take a photo, I knew we would never meet again. Today, when I heard of his death, I remember Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar in deep gratitude for his presence.
With gratitude to Dr. Abidemi Babatunde Babalola whose EMKP grant gave the opportunity for me to showcase an element of the Masaga glassmakers’s story. Dr. Babalola took my project under his wing and along with his archaeological work in southern Nigeria, we collaborated on this article, “Rituals, Religious practices, and glass/glassbead making in Ile-Ife and Bida, Nigeria”. Read the article HERE.
The Emir of Zazzau and Chairman, Kaduna State Council of Traditional Ruler, Alhaji Shehu Idris, passed away at the age of 84, Allah Yar Harmu. Alhaji Shehu Idris, the 18th Fulani Emir of Zazzau was appointed on 15th February, 1975 and spent 45 years on the throne.
The Zazzau, also known as the Zaria Emirate is a traditional state with headquarters in the city of Zaria, Kaduna State. Read about the 2015 Zaria-the Zazzau-Durbar : Here
Late Niwoye Nupe Haj Aishatu Abdulmalik Wogbo, Emira from the royal Nupe house, Masaba. The entire Nupe community mourns the loss of a great woman, supporter of Islamic values, traditionalist, and keeper of KinNupe values.
Her official greeting, Ogbo, gives respect and recognition to royal position. Ogbo: Alhaja gave her blessing to me and supported the making of documentary, Bida Legacy, Bikini Glass. I am saddened that she will not share in the joy of seeing this documentary and knowing that this nearly forgotten cultural heritage is documented for the world to appreciate.
Leave something of sweetness and substance in the mouth of the world.
–Anna Belle Kaufman
Another beautiful edition of the Obelisque Magazine 2020 just hit the bookstores in Cairo! As usual it is full of articles that span subjects on architecture to heritage to travel. My contributions to the magazine this year are: “Portrait of a Glassmaker” (the second article of a 2 part series, the first in Obelisque 2019) and Street Art: “Mohammed Laz-Ogli.”
Street Art: “Mohammed Laz-Ogli.”
For more information on Masaga Community Glassmakers in Bida, Nigeria, go to:
Yanda Yayi, blinded by years of sitting in front of an open fire, created glass beads for most of his 80 years. He was the second oldest man in the Masaga community of glassmakers that had seen the making of bikini glass ( a term the Masaga people use that describes indigenously made glass) in his youth. In November 2019 when I produced a documentary about the Masaga glassmaking community, he was present, everyday, and contributed generously to the reconstructing of the process to make bikini glass,
The urgency to make the documentary about locally produced bikini glass was that the Masaga community had not made bikini glass for over 50 years and only two men had ever seen it produced by their forefathers. Yanda Yayi was one of the two. Recreating this process for the community to witness the legend of making bikini glass in the present took a year of difficult negotiation. I believed passionately their story had to be told.
Unfortunately, the film has yet to be edited and released. Hopefully the release will be by September 2020 but too late for Yanda Yayi.