While most people have embraced the Western tradition living their custom to suffer, some live by making sure that their culture is preserved. PEMBI STEPHEN-DAVID writes.
As you approach Makurdi, the capital of Benue State from Lafia Town, just before the Makurdi Bridge, you are certain to notice Anger stands along the road side in North Bank Court 5, just by the NNPC Mega Station. The setting, which can best be described as a marriage of convenience, is certainly enviable as both the buyer and the sellers enjoy the creed. Keeping the termsA of agreement which is making good Angar becomes a happy duty for Joseph Taki and his colleagues who knit, sew and sell Angar.
The Idomas are people who are known to be peace loving and hardworking, their traditional attires known as Otachi is won during festive period like marriages, cultural dance, ceremonies and so on. Sometimes you see the senate president identifying himself as a real idoma man with the colour red and black while the Tivs also flaunt their black and white traditional attires.
Depending on the time of the day; you are likely to see some of the traders knitting, sewing or selling the traditional attire. Selling these cloth, according to Joseph, is as necessary as selling any valuable. ‘’ I can assure you that my Anger are the best and people come to this stand before going elsewhere to buy from others,’’ he says.
Taki is a young man whose desire to make a difference in whatever he does is admirable. “I leave home at Asasa, a village not too far from here every day at 5: 30am and by 6: am, I am already here to knit, sew and sell Anger,’’ he says. Second in a family of 9, Joseph is the bread winner of his family. ‘’ My father also knit and sell Anger both I have more costumer than him as he is old now and is not fast in knitting and sewing,’’ Joseph explains .
He explains that he has been in the business for about 40 years. ‘‘I have spent almost my whole life in this business. I started when I was 12, my father trained me and I have trained my son Joseph‘’ The Anger, he says, is held in high esteem among the Tivs, one of the major tribes in the state. He says it is used during cultural festivals, burial rites, coronation of traditional rulers and traditional marriages.
‘’ I came to town for a friend’s wedding and thought I could get something Benue before I leave. I was directed here though I saw the place while coming in two days ago. I really want something tradition. I am told that the different colours on display are attires of the Tiv, Idoma and Egede. It may interest you to know that I have bought the attire of the three tribes.’’
At about 1pm on Saturday, December 22, in the middle the busy North Bank, Makurdi, Joseph Taki was busy knitting and selling Anger. He does it efficiently and effectively. His attention to detail, commitment to excellence and understanding of the craft make him a force. Taki has a good customer relations and individually tailored service, these are central to making his Anger the must preferred. Joseph says he spent his teenage years learning the Anger craft.
Selling about 8 pieces of Anger and 5 shirts on a normal day, young Joseph is a happy man.’ I thank God o. I sell at least 8 pieces of Anger and 5 shirts everyday but at times, most especially when we have people who come to town from different places; I make a lot of sales. Like yesterday, about ten people came and bought many Anger material and shirts from us that is why we have few for now.’’
When he was eight, Wenge left his father in the village to live with his uncle in the city of Makurdi without realising that he was going to learn the trade of making and selling Anger. Today, Wenge, 34, is a household name in the cherished business of maintaining the culture of his people. He says when he started, it was very difficult to him but he gradually learnt the trade. ‘’ I thought I was going to stay for a week or so but I spent a year before going to see my parents. It may interest you to know that I made the Anger my three siblings and I used for Christmas that year,’’ he says. Wenge, who now lives with his family in Makurdi, says he is doing well and is doing all he can to train his son in the way of the trade.
Armed with what he calls Akusha, Atumba, Atusha, Kon and Daar, Joseph knits Anger with easy. The Akusha, he says, is used for knitting Anger. He hangs the Atumba to a tree and connects the Daar which holds the tread to a stone. The Atumba holds the tread allowing it to move up and down. He holds the Atumba with his toes while the Kon is placed under his belly. He moves the Atusha across the Atumba to produce a beautiful piece of Anger cloth.
Scooping into a collection of Anger hanged in Doshima’s stand in a bid to conquer her friends, a lady who gave her name as Justina appeared not to be troubled about whom the next person was or what was happening around her. She diligently searched for her choice. She says buys them as gifts to her friends who live and work in Enugu.’’ My friends are not Tiv but they appreciate this stuff. They actually sent me some money to help them get Anger. I hope to travel tomorrow that is why I am here to get the stuff for them.’’
None of the over 20 buyers at the Anger market had the least doubt in his or her heart that the traders are keeping their tradition while earning a living. They are doing wonderful things. Look, I have gone to many state capitals in this country, only few have a major market like this selling their traditional attires. This people should be encouraged to do better,’’ explained Mr. Ayas, a native of Bayelsa, who was in a working visit to Makurdi.