Monday, April 16, 2007


Fishermen in Matan Fada Stream

The Argungu Fishing Festival is the culmination of a four-day cultural event in the north-western Nigerian state of Kebbi. Thousands of fishermen line up, like an ancient army, carrying their traditional nets and gourds into the muddy Matan Fada stream, in teams of two; one carrying gourds to help them float, the other with a fishing net in each hand. They begin to scour the waters for huge freshwater fish. At the sound of a gun, they pound towards the narrow river and leap into the water. They have just one hour to catch the biggest fish.

Fishermen racing into the water

Their brown and white hand nets flap over the waters of this tributary of the Niger River like a flock of enormous butterflies, as drums beat out a pulsating rhythm.

Spectators witnessing the fishing event
Photos by the New Gong

Fishermen grasp a slippery 1.2-metre Nile perch, and the crowd surges forwards, watching them carry their writhing catch to the muddy shore. There, they are met by traditional horseback guards of the Sultan of Sokoto, dressed in pink, red, and green robes, who escort them to present the fish to dignitaries sitting under a shaded canopy.

The Matan Fada river is small, but it is well stocked. Fishermen only come here once a year on the day of the festival. The competitors stagger up the stone steps to have their fish tagged and weighed. At stake is a brand new bus and one million Naira ($7,500, £4,000).

The Argungu fishing festival began in 1934 - and was used to mark peace between the former Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom. The two empires had fought for centuries, and hostilities only ceased with the arrival of the British. The Sultan of Sokoto, and his entourage, were among the dignitaries at this year's festival.

A man lies on his calabash used for flotation and fish storage

Hundreds of state and federal government officials, including the guest of honour, President Olusegun Obasanjo, turned up for the event.

A prime catch
Photos by the New Gong

The annual Argungu fishing festival is an event which Nigeria hopes to make a top tourist attraction.

How many mouths would that fish feed?
Photos by the New Gong

The festival has already benefited the local economy in Kebi State.
A noisy night market operates throughout the event - which includes donkey and camel racing and water sports.

More Information
Kebi StateNigeria Fishing Festival


luihamu said...

Liz you are the best.


This is one of my favourite postings on Saharan Vibe. However, I wonder if there was no prize to be awarded would this men take part in this event. The water is muddy and one of the fellows in this posting is almost drowning himself in search for the prize fish.

Food for thought.