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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

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Ghondi is a promoter of the Bama cap and has written up to 40 unpublished books on the tradition.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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“Visit Strengthens Further Internal Cohesion and Unity”: Pope Francis Meets Leaders of North Macedonia

Ahead of his visit, Francis praised the mix of cultures, religions, and ethnicities in North Macedonia, and said he was traveling there to "sow these seeds" of solidarity.

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Pope Francis
Pope Francis greets the crowds in Skopje on May 7. RFERL

Pope Francis, who is on a historic first trip to North Macedonia, has met with the country’s leadership and held Mass in the main square of the capital, Skopje.

Francis was welcomed by the outgoing president, Gjorge Ivanov, and other government officials.

He has sought to encourage the country’s drive toward integration into the EU and NATO after its name change resolved a decades-long dispute with Greece last year.

Like neighboring Bulgaria — Francis’s first stop on his three-day Balkan tour — North Macedonia, a small Balkan country of 2.1 million, is mainly Orthodox Christian.

But the country has a large community of ethnic Albanian Muslims, who make about one-quarter of the population. North Macedonia is home to an estimated 15,000 Catholics.

In meetings with Ivanov and with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev at the presidential palace, Francis praised North Macedonia’s multiethnic and multifaith culture, calling it an example of peaceful coexistence and a bridge between East and West.

“These particular features are also highly significant for increased integration with the nations of Europe,” he said.

Christian
Like neighboring Bulgaria — Francis’s first stop on his three-day Balkan tour — North Macedonia, a small Balkan country of 2.1 million, is mainly Orthodox Christian. VOA

“It is my hope that this integration will develop in a way that is beneficial for the entire region of the Western Balkans, with unfailing respect for diversity and for fundamental rights.”

In his speech, President Ivanov complained about delays in accepting Macedonia in the Euro-Atlantic family.

“You come at a time when [North] Macedonian society is deeply divided, and the [North] Macedonian [nation] is heavily wounded by broken promises, unfulfilled expectations and faltering trust in the international community,” he said.

Viktor Dimovski, state secretary of North Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry, told the media on May 6 that the pope’s historic visit comes at a crucial moment as the country seeks entry into the European Union and NATO.

“The pope’s visit strengthens further internal cohesion and unity, and brings messages of reconciliation and solidarity,” he said.

The pope’s visit also included a prayer at the memorial of North Macedonia’s most famous native daughter, Mother Teresa, who was born Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in 1910 in Skopje when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire.

Francis was surrounded by Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity nuns in praying before the memorial. Mother Teresa was canonized by Francis in 2016.

Ahead of his visit, Francis praised the mix of cultures, religions, and ethnicities in North Macedonia, and said he was traveling there to “sow these seeds” of solidarity.

“Living together is not always easy, we know that,” the pope said in a video message. “But it’s worth struggling toward, because the most beautiful mosaics are the ones that are richest in colors.”

muslims
But the country has a large community of ethnic Albanian Muslims, who make about one-quarter of the population. Pixabay

With the name dispute with Greece now resolved, North Macedonia, which has been an EU aspirant since 2005, hopes to get a clear signal for the start of accession talks in June. Skopje also expects to become the 30th NATO member at the end of the year.

Also Read: Puppeteers Bring Message of Harmony, Love, Tolerance in Pakistan’s Karachi

Stevo Pendarovski, who was elected president in a runoff election on May 5, said he saw his victory as a “ticket for NATO and EU.”

Six Western Balkan countries — Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia — are in various stages of the accession process to join the EU. (RFERL)