TANGRA AND OTHER TANGALE FESTIVALS OF KALTUNGO PEOPLE
By Jerry and Joe Peri
The Tangale people, mainly spread across three local government areas, Kaltungo, Shongom and Billiri, with some handful found in Akko and Kwame local governments, are found in Gombe State, Nigeria. They are divided into two, Tangale East comprising Kaltungo, Ture and Shongom and Tangale West, comprising mainly Billiri and some parts of Akko.
Like other tribes, the people of Kaltungo in Tangale East, observe certain festivals which include; Tangra, Eku, Pid Tungo, Kaltungo Carnival, Par Tida, etc.
One of the oldest and most colorful is the Tangra festival.
Tangra is done before the advent of the rainy season and it’s primarily done to cleanse the land of iniquities, so that the rains will fall and there will be bountiful harvest.
The Tangra normally starts from Ture, headed by the chief priest.
Each clan will go to their sacred grove and perform some symbolical cleansing of the land, by bribing shorro with beer and pudding, in order not to distort the rains or spoil the crops. The beer must be prepared with old guinea corn, a special red variety, referred to as “Tagja”, while the pudding will be prepared with the common red corn.
The eating and drinking feasting with the shorro will take as long as three days in the evening of everyday and on the fourth, very early in the morning, the mock war, “shag kei” will take place. It is displayed by dramatizing how intruders come to the land and gets chased away/defeated by valiant warriors.
Immediately after, there will be traditional songs, dances and gaiety, from morning till late evening, with everyone, the young and old, male and female, participating!
After the dance, on the same day, the symbolic dirt from the cleansing will be passed to the next section, the people of Kalaring and Kalorgu, who will follow suit, doing the same process and on the fourth day, pass the symbolic dirt to the people of Termana, who will also pass to the people of Shongom, being the last port, who will follow suit but will finally throw the dirt away from the land of Tangale East. The land is then cleansed and ready for the rains and a bountiful harvest!
The Eku on the other hand comes after harvest and is done to commemorate it and to thank Yamba (God) for the provision of the rains and bountiful harvest. Just like Tangra, the Eku starts from Ture and ends in Shongom, but this time around it is not about cleansing but about merriment and celebration. Inside the grove, food is presented to Yamba as a mark of appreciation. Local brew from guinea corn is also presented to Yamba, along with some meat, after which the people (Men only), will feast on the food provided. The presentation of food to Yamba is done by the chief priest.
Unlike Tangra, the Eku is not celebrated with dances, it’s a celebration of eating and drinking!
Wula in the Tangale language means marriage and the marriage rites of the people begins in earnest when a young man sees a girl he wants to marry, of which after the period of courtship often not long, sends emissaries to the girls parent to inquire for her hand in marriage.
Normally, uncles will go to the girls house and notify the parents that they have seen something good in their house and will like the two families to unite in marriage. The girls’ parents will call the girl and ask if she recognizes the visitors, if she says yes, the visit will be termed successful and the emissaries will go back and report.
In the next stage, two or tree people from the intending groom will be sent to the girls family to fix a date for the declaration of intent or engagement (shaan adau). Once the date is set, the family of the intending groom is notified.
The engagement process involves a little bit of feasting on both sides. On the man’s side, on the day that is set for the preparations, the women of the clan will gather in the man’s family compound where they will fry and grind the adau (beniseeds).
During the grinding, food and drinks will be available; there will be singing and gossips.
At the girl’s place, after receiving the adau, all the matured male members of her clan will assemble at the clan’s grove to eat the engagement or bride food which also includes a large male goat that the men will cook and eat.
Only married men are properly served when this special food is being eaten. The bachelors are given the leftovers. Also a portion of the beniseed will be given to the intending bride and her mother, which they will share with their friends and relatives.
Two chickens are added, being part of the token, as the portion for the mother, but well to do suitors often substitute the chickens with a female goat. The engagement price is nonrefundable.
After the ‘shan adau’ comes the payment of the bride price, which is refundable and without feasts. Here, two or three elders of the suitor’s clan will go with the bride price, usually two goats, a large uncastrated male and a matured female that has never birthed, which is usually kept with the hope that it (the female goat), will multiply and add wealth to the bride’s family! a large cock is also brought and a fixed amount of money, which is general and subject to moderation by the Kaltungo traditional council. The current amount is ten thousand five hundred naira, the five hundred being the “kin njoko” (given to an uncle that has specially assisted in the upbringing of the bride).
When the bride price is accepted, the intending’s said to be married, “wula yaag kerji “.
The last part of the bride price is the show of manliness or the ability to be able to take care of the bride by the suitor, which is often exhibited by the groom and his closest friends, or members of his clan. In the act, the youths will either build a new hut for the girl’s father or they will go to the father in-laws farm, his largest and hoe all of it.
When this last act is done, preparations will be made for the wedding feast, after which the bride will move into her husband’s hut, always newly built.
The bride usually comes with every available cooking/kitchen utensil. Her father will personally carve a bed or pay for one, which she also takes along to make it their sleeping bed. This act is believed to be a blessing, as it will make the marriage fruitful with children.
Nowadays, after the engagement and payment of the bride price, white wedding follows. Other things like show of manliness are monetised, while provision of kitchen utensils and bed by the bride’s family are not adhered to strictly.
When a young woman decides to marry a non Tangale man, most, if not all the bride price, is monetised.
The marriage procedure slightly varies among the different sections, with a few additions to the above account.
The marriage feast involves a lot of eating, singing, dancing, games and gossips (a very important pastime among the women and recently even the men!).
Pe Kodok is another interesting feast performed when a Mai Eku died. It is a festival of eating and drinking, the responsibility of which lies with the eldest son of the deceased priest.
A lot of chicken will be slaughtered and eaten inside the “Ka Ma Eku” (sacred grove), guinea corn pudding with “ar bayo” soup will also be served. Naturally, as in every festivity, locally brewed beer (men), will be available, only this time around, it will be the finest and in large quantity.
It is after the feasting that a new Mai Eku can be selected.
Other rites nearly similar to the Pe Kodok, are the ceremonies done in the event of the death of an old person, mostly from eighty (80) years and above, although sometimes, those a few years younger are being celebrated.
When such a death occurs, the great and grandchildren of the deceased will be led to the corpse by an adult, where the children will be required to lay their hands on the back of the deceased, (the corpse is usually turned face down for such). The hand laying is a symbolic prayer, as no words are said, requesting the spirit of the deceased to return as a child to the family, through the grandchildren when they are grown and married.
One or two or more of the grandchildren will wear the deceased’s clothes and paint their faces with ashes and charcoal, they will mimic the things that the deceased does while they were alive, in a dance drama, before and after the burial. Throughout the mourning period, there will be singing and dancing and a lot of food, prepared mostly by neighbors and other family members will be served.
Son’s in-laws of the deceased are also required to jointly buy a large ox which they will slaughter and share the meat to the mourners, after having it prepared.
Another name for the Kaltungo carnival is “Kaltungo day”, initiated by Damian Motomboni and a few of his friends in December 2009.
The first event took place on the 26th of December and the Mai Kaltungo, made that date the first official date for the celebration, which is purely a cultural dance display of all the ethnic nationalies within the Kaltungo chiefdom. It is colorful and highly patronised. The date has occasionally been shifted to the 27th of same month.
The carnival takes place every year at the Kaltungo township Stadium.
“Am Pand Tungo”, like the Kaltungo carnival, is a newly introduced annual festival that was initiated by the Youths wing of Kaltungo Union of Abuja, not too long ago, in April 2012.
Tungo hills is believed to be the sixth of the seven popular migratory settlements of the people of Kaltungo and it is located within the chiefdom.
As an effort to keep in touch with the immediate past, an excursion was organised by the youths and seeing it’s prominence, Mai Saleh Muhammadu, the current Mai Kaltungo, decided to make it an official event. It holds in April every year.
It is also a colorful event featured by cultural dance displays by the Tangale people within the chiefdom.
A special feature of this festival is the cultural dance displays by children from every Tangale settlement of the chiefdom, to encourage them to have a feel of history and a respect for their heritage.
Par Tida is an event of bravado that is fast loosing relevance, because the primary aim is to hunt for game and such is hardly available in the wilds of the land, cause the people have eaten all the wild animals and converted the bushes and mini forests to farmlands!
In the past, it was occasioned by celebrations, when the hunters, often all the matured men or adult youths, returned from the expedition, which might last for a couple of days.
Any hunter can call for the hunt, which will be named after him and hunters or youths from different parts of the land can join in the hunt, to which if a major game is killed, there will be merriment, occasioned with singing and dancing.
Note : Only men are allowed into any sacred grove. Whenever the men don’t want to share any special food (mostly meat), with the women, they take it to the “Ka ma Eku”!
Our sources are from oral interviews and interactions.
The above article is only intended for information. It is NOT an authoritative material!