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Cawyaŋ Zarma Sanni

Group of musicians in the street of Niamey, Niger, playing traditional instruments

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Zarma - Songhay culture: Waffa braiding (part 3)

(At DailyMotion with 30 seconds commercial at start)

Waffa turuyaη, Waffa braiding, part 3 (other episodes)
The foundations has been laid, what follows is the finishing off of the work of art. Two layers of braids are needed to cover the Comal completely. The first layer is used to keep the Comal in place. The second layer serves to hide the Comal from view. Although Koran verses are used in the amulet, the Marabous claim that the Koran forbids the use of the Comal in braiding and that the Comal will transform into a snake that will kill the wearer. The true reason, according to Djamo, is that the cloth takes op moistures during the ritual washing. She complains women are less interested in the old fashion and customs, and that, therefore, she has to adapt herself to the modern hair styles. This part of the video shows, as an interlude, some domestic activities of the Wogo women. The finishing touch of braiding consist of making two fine thin braids to which decorations can be attached. As decorations coins of former times are used, which are thoroughly cleaned and polished. Each type of coins has its own significance and value. Djamo leaves the attachment of the coins to a younger women, an old apprentice, as Djamo doesn't see that well anymore. At the end, the woman with newly braided hair dresses herself with a traditional garments and she performs a dance.

More traditions
Marcanda, still from video
Hippo hunt, still from video
Hippo hunt
Rain dance, still from video
Rain dance
Waffa braiding, still from video
Waffa braiding
Riddle, photo of playing children
Background information
This video is the third part of a film by Ibrahim Kalla Labo titled "La tresse Waffa" and which was made in 2006 by order of the ´Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision du Niger´. The two other parts can be viewed as well. The film has been released as part of the series 'Alter metier' and is shot in Niger. The length of the original film is 25 minutes and the film has been broadcasted in October 2006 by RTBF 3. Comments and subtitles are in French. However, the people in the movie speak Songhay-Kaado en Zarma. This second part takes almost ten minutes.
About the film
This film shows in its own peculiar way that hairdressing is not only meant to make someone beautiful, or at least immaculately dressed, but also that hairdressing is an integral part of the culture of a people [1]. We see picture of the market and the river, both an essential part of the Zarma/Songhay civilisation. At the same time, we learn that de Zarma/ Songhay-Kaado language is spoken by several distinguishable ethnic groups. We get to see the role of the women in the maintenance of the house. The mud walls weather and erode by the extreme weather in the Sahelian zone, and the people have to regularly skim or daub the wall with a fresh layer of mud. But, above all, we obtain insight into the art and rituals of hair braiding, the Waffa braiding to be precise.
More information
[1] Regina Paul. About Hair Braiding. ehow.com.
[2] Jean-Paul Olivier de Sardan (1978) Marriage among the Wogo.. In: David Seddon (ed.), Relations of production. Marxist approaches to economic anthropology. Frank Cass and Company Limited, Oxon, pp. 357-388.
Fisherman: photo of fisherman throughing out his net. The Wogo is an ethnic group, that settle in the area between Ayourou en Tillabéri (Niger) around 1800. They often live on the isles in the Niger river [2, p.388]. They speak Songhay-Kaado, just like the other ethnic groups that live in this area. This Songhay-dialect is almost similar to Zarma and also they culture of the Wogo is very alike to that of the Zarma [2, p.360].
Waffa braiding, all three episodes
  Waffa braiding, part 1
Part 1
Waffa braiding, part 2
Part 2
Waffa braiding, part 3
Part 3

More culture topics
Old dance 1a
Traditional dance
Old dance 1b
Traditional music
Moussa Poussi
Popular music
Wass Wong
Hip hop
Rain dance
Building a thatched hut
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Last updated: 20 Januari, 2016