How Argungu Fishing Festival is Celebrated

Written by Bello Abdullahi

Bello Abdullahi loves books, design, and computers. He believes poetry to be his safe space, as it allows him to express himself in ways he normally wouldn't have. If Bello isn't reading, researching, writing, or learning about humans, he is either designing or adding to his coding skills.

October 7, 2021

Argungu fishing festival is more than what the name entails, it is a celebration of unity, blessing and tradition. Argungu fishing festival is considered to be the biggest fishing festival in Africa, as thousands of fishermen display their pride and talent to the whole world.

The festival is a deep-rooted cultural practice of the Kebbi people. The festival aims to promote the conservation of their tradition and to boost the economic standing of the state. The annual event kicks off in early February which serves to mark the end of the farming season and usher in the start of the fishing season.

The Argungu festival lasts for four days with several cultural events. It commences with an agricultural show, several displays of water sports, traditional Kebbawa entertainments and ends with the grand fishing competition in the Mata Fadan River.

History of Argungu Fishing Festival

The Argungu fishing festivals flag off was in 1934, which was at the end of a century-old hostility between the Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom.

The festival became a four-day celebration of life and unity.

Where is The Festival Celeberated?

Argungu is a town located in Kebbi State, in the northwestern part of Nigeria, the townhouses the Argungu Emirate and birthed the largest fishing festival in Africa.

How Argungu Fishing Festival is Celeberated

Before the Argungu fishing festival commences, the custodian of the river known as ‘Sarkin Ruwa’ performs some sacrifices in order to ensure the safety of the river and to gain the permission of the river oracle. The Sarkin Ruwa is the official overseer and custodian of the Matan Fada River like his ancestors before him. This responsibility is passed from one generation to the other. Without his consent and go ahead, no fish is to be caught in that river.

Most of these river sacrifices are no longer in play with the widespread of Islam within the region. Rather, a prayer is made to God to protect the water and make it safe.

The Race to The Fish

At the sound of a gun, thousands of fishermen from different states and neighbouring countries race towards the matan fada river, leaping into the water franticly to begin their search for the winning freshwater fish.

Use of Music 

While the fishermen begin to leap into the Matan Fada river, the drummers start to strike their drums to fill the air with exuberating Kebbawa rhythm as well as to motivate the fishermen. Although women are not allowed to engage or compete in the fishing competition, they are usually found amongst the drummer’s group.

Their drums are traditional Kebbawa drums made out of cow skin.

Giwan Ruwa

The individual with the biggest fish within an hour, which is called the giwan ruwa (water beast) is declared the winner of the Argungu fishing festival.

Prizes for the Winners

There are no fixed prizes for the Argungu fishing festival. It depends on various factors; such as the interim government, the attendees and the international community present. The 2020 Argungu fishing festival had in attendance the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, and several Governors as well as several international agencies.

The winner walked home with a whopping 10 million naira cash, 2 brand new cars, 2 Hajj seats as well as many other consolation prizes for the runner ups, from the second to the hundredth.

Cultural Significance of Argungu Fishing Festival

The Argungu fishing festival promotes the culture of the Argungu people as well as a Nigerian and an African Culture, this makes it a very much revered culture. It is the biggest fishing festival in Africa and attracts a lot of internal and external tourists which equally generates a lot of economic activity within the days it’s being held.

It is also an avenue for nation-building, tourism as well as promotes peace.

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