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Fila, Hula or Yaudi: Bama Caps from Nigeria’s Borno State are likely to be seen across West Africa

Depending on the number of layers in the design, this hand-made cap can take anywhere from two to five weeks to sew

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Bama Caps. Image Source: Wikipedia.org
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NIGERIA, September 1, 2016: The Bama Cap from Nigeria’s Borno State is a distinctive hat made by the Bama people in the north-eastern part of the country. Locally, the Bama cap is known as- filahula or yaudi.

Prized across West Africa for their intricate embroidery, the hats are now being woven into Nigerian pop culture, worn by young and old, from politicians to music celebrities.

Nigerian rapper Naeto C made a stunning fashion statement when he wore a Bama cap with urban streetwear in the music video for his 2011 hit single 10 over 10.

President Muhammadu Buhari is rarely seen without his Bama cap. Women are also rocking the style, led by creative female music celebrities.The Bama people have been making their caps for hundreds of years, but not too many people know the full story.

Nigeria's Borno state highlighted in red. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Nigeria’s Borno state highlighted in red. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Bama people have been making their caps for hundreds of years, but not too many people know the full story.

Survivors of terror 

“The Bama cap began in Yaudi, that’s the town in the Bama area of Borno state. It was worn by the leaders of the community,” explains Ahmed Isa Ghondi.

Ghondi is a promoter of the Bama cap and has written up to 40 unpublished books on the tradition. But there is also a dark side to the story.

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Bama was nearly wiped out by Boko Haram, the violent Islamic extremist group that has left a trail of bloodshed through northeastern Nigeria for years. Those who survived the carnage flocked to Maiduguri. The state capital, Borno’s largest city and commercial hub, also has been wracked by Boko Haram’s attacks, but it is still safer than Bama.

“They’ll take your wife,” Bama native Dunoma Gambo says of Boko Haram. “They’ll take your child and they’ll also force you into joining them.”

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Gambo escaped such a fate by fleeing to Maiduguri, where he now is part of a collective of internally displaced Bama people. They kept up their cultural tradition of sewing Bama caps after arriving in the state capital, and the collective has flourished.

Traditional techniques and designs

“I grew up and saw people sewing and that’s how I learned,” Gambo says. “You will be practicing and you will make many mistakes, but with time, you will do it right. I’ve now been an expert in it for 12 years.”

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Each cap starts with a design template that is sketched by hand, using a ruler and colored markers.

Templates can be bought for less than $10. Once there’s a template, the sewing of the cap’s base begins. The white centerpiece on the top goes on last.

Depending on the number of layers in the design, a cap can take anywhere from two to five weeks to sew. Everything is done by hand.

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In Maiduguri, the caps sell for about $20. In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, they sell for at least $50, and on up to $180.

Caps symbolize national unity

“The caps, they are very strong. That’s why people from different parts of the country buy them,” says Sani Mohammed, who traveled from Kaduna state to buy caps for his upcoming wedding.

“The cap brings unity among Nigerians,” Sani Mohammed says. Even though he is not from Bama, he wants to wear a Bama cap on his wedding day.
“Everyone comes here, all the tribes – from Yoruba to Igbo to non-Nigerians,” says 25-year-old Mohammed Fantami. At his fashion shop in Abuja, he says, the Bama caps sell out quickly, in part because they are a symbol of prestige.

“Wearing a cap brings respect,” Fantami says. “Between two people, if one is wearing a cap and the other is not, there is a difference. Even if you see a small kid with a cap, you will respect him.”

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Once the caps arrive from Maiduguri, they are hand-washed and starched. After drying in the sun for at least 12 hours, the caps are pressed with a charcoal iron.

Bama cap promoter Ahmed Isa Ghondi wants to expand the cap-making industry. He drives around, telling people about what makes the caps so special.

“Because of the hand stitching, the fact that it was made by hand,” he says. “You know, the carpets in Uzbekistan are famous because they are hand-stitched. So these caps must also be famous.”

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Men from Bama like Dunoma Gambo will continue to sew their traditional caps in Maiduguri. They say Boko Haram fighters may have destroyed their homes in Bama, but they have not destroyed the Bama cap. (VOA)

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Microsoft takes ‘Project Sangam’ to Middle East and Africa

"Project Sangam" was commenced from Andhra Pradesh

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Microsoft expands 'Project Sangam'. Wikimedia commons

In a bid to bridge the widening skill gap, Microsoft on Monday announced expansion of the capabilities of its Cloud-powered “Project Sangam” to the Middle East and Africa.

Launched in India by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella last year, “Project Sangam” is a Cloud-hosted platform that leverages Azure services and professional networking platform LinkedIn to support new entrants to the job market, enabling key stakeholders across the skilling ecosystem find the right talent.

Microsoft to pay $250,000 to help them catch chip bugs. Wikimedia Commons
Microsoft’s Sangam is a cloud-based platform. Wikimedia Commons

“Lack of skilled resources is one of the key issues that governments across the world are facing. There is an enormous scope for technology to come in to address the skill gap that exists in the workforce today,” Anil Bhansali, Corporate Vice President, Cloud & Enterprise, said in a statement.

Nadella launched “Project Sangam” to help the Indian government not only train but also assist people get jobs via LinkedIn that was acquired by the company for $26.2 billion in an all-cash deal in 2016. “Project Sangam” was commenced from Andhra Pradesh.

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“‘Sangam’ is the first project that wields the combined strength of LinkedIn and Microsoft to tackle the challenge of how to provide every person the opportunity to skill themselves,” added Bhansali who is also Managing Director of Microsoft India (R&D) Private Limited. As part of the expansion, Microsoft South Africa and the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) have launched “Thint’iMillion”, an online mass learning system.

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The project was first launched in Andhra Pradesh. VOA

Part of the “Tshepo 1Million Digital Mass” learning programme, the “Thint’iMillion” programme will be deployed on “Project Sangam”, allowing young people to access content via an on-phone app (Android only), tablet mode (Windows and Android) as well as an interactive web portal. IANS