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Celebrating Peace, Unity, and Fishing at the Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival

Image of people in a river fishing

At the end of February and beginning of March, the Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival—also known as the Argungu Dance Festival—takes place in the Nigerian state of Kebbi. The four day festival “features kabanci—a series of water competitions including hand fishing, canoe racing, wild duck catching—as well as other traditional practices, such as the local style of wrestling and boxing.” Dancing and singing add to the festivities as well.

The festival celebrates the start of the fishing season. One of the competitions that takes place is a one-hour race to catch the largest fish using traditional fishing tools; many participants use their hands to catch fish. To begin the fishing season and this one-hour competition, the Matan Fada river’s custodian, Sarkin Ruwa, ensures the river’s safety by gaining permission to fish from the river oracles. Once the race has begun, drumming and dancing accompany the competitors and entertain the onlookers.

The festival is not just about fishing; it is also a celebration of unity, peace, and cultural heritage. Dating back to 1934, the festival began to commemorate the end of hostilities between the Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom. UNESCO notes that one of the purposes of the festival is “maintaining peace between the Argungu and neighbouring Sokoto community by enjoying shared cultural practices together.”


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