Tsibiri: The Sarki and the Red Snake

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In 1343, Tsamiya was killed by Usman Zamnagawa, who in turn was succeeded by Yaji, “the hottempered one.” At about this time, Islam was brought to the Hausa from Mali. There was opposition to Islam from traditionalist forces in the city: they defiled the mosque until they were suddenly all struck blind and turned away. Under Bugaya, the twelfth king, the Maguzawa traditionalists of Kano were ordered to leave their rocky fastness of Fongui and disperse themselves throughout the land. His successor, Kanajeji (1390–1410), son of Yaji, was the first Hausa king to introduce quilted-cotton armor, iron helmets, and coats of mail.

One of Kanajeji's wars was with Zukzuk (Zaria). At first, he was repulsed and his army was taunted by the men of Zukzuk, who wondered sarcastically where Kano was. Furious at his defeat, Kanajeji renounced Islam, and turned to the Tsibiri spirit. He was told by the Sarkin Tsibiri that he should reestablish the god of his ancestors. Kanajeji asked how this was to be done, and the Sarkin Tsibiri told him to cut a branch from a certain tree. When the Sarki had done so, he found a red snake in the branch. He killed the snake, and from its skin made two slippers. Then, from the branch, he made four long narrow drums and eight small round drums. He took these to Dankwoi and threw them into the water and went home. After waiting forty days, he came back to the water and took the objects to the house of Sarkin Tsibiri, who sewed the rest of the snake's skin around the drums and told Kanajeji that whatever he wished for in this world, he should do as his forefathers did. Kanajeji asked him to show him how, and the Sarkin Tsibiri took off his robe, put on the snakeskin slippers, and walked around the tree forty times, singing the song of Barbushe. Kanajeji did the same. The next year, he again warred with Zukzuk, and the men of Kano killed the Sarkin Zukzuk and overwhelmed his army. The Sarkin Kano entered Zukzuk and the people paid him tribute.

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