Title: Shaffa, Angiramta, Fire incident in Shafa, by Thomas Dawa and Mwajim Maidugu (typescript, 1973-1974)
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00099266/00001
 Material Information
Title: Shaffa, Angiramta, Fire incident in Shafa, by Thomas Dawa and Mwajim Maidugu (typescript, 1973-1974)
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Maidugu, Mwajim
Cohen, Ronald ( Compiler )
Publication Date: December, 1973
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Bibliographic ID: UF00099266
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: Special and Area Studies Collections
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

The Fire Incident In Shafa

Mwajim Maidugu

December 1973


1. Why are there so many Mshelia that
have their houses burnt?

2. What are exact genealogical relations
of victims?

3. Why is the suspect suspected? Why
don't they do something to diagnose it?

4. What will the Malam do?

5. How will it all end?

*I used the word "Jang" to call what the people suspected, but it is not publicly

accepted. The word must be taken with care of in secret.

See other field notes for interview with Julius Pindar Mura and Mwajim on 22 April 1974
for socio-political and sociological setting for the fires

How the Fire started

On Saturday, November the 21st, 1973, I came back from the bush around two o'clock

in the afternoon, and had my normal bath. After that I decided to walk across the main

road which is about fifty yards from my compound to see friends and to relax as well.

I saw many people already sitting under the shade we used to have our afternoon rest.

I sat among them and join in their talks. We talked for sometimes then by 3:15 pm

one of the people among the group shouted that there is a white smoke and that could

be on a compound. When I looked towards the somke fear came into my heart and I did not

know when I rushed to the place. On reaching the place I noticed that the very smoke is

on my house. Immediately we rushed in and brought out some valuable properties. Likely

enough my house is roofed with good thatch and there is ceeling as well that retarded the

burning speed of the fire. We worked very hard preventing the fire from reaching the near-by

houses, especially my wife's house and the kitchen. It took about one good hour before

my house was totally consumed by the fire. After the burning I remembered that I had

i-75. 1 3d ; ____ 140 .63 inside my room. I searched for it among the properties

that were brought out but I could not find it. (Lost *140.63 in cash)

People started to question me and my wife whether we might have left a fire

somewhere in the compound, and that it may be the cause of the incident. My wife said

after cooking her breakfast she did not allow the fire to burn but put it out. By the

time that the incident happened all the fire used for breakfast was already out. Moreover

if it were the fire from the kitchen it would have caught my wife's room first. The

fire started on the too corner of my room. All these led us to the conclusion that the

burning of my house was beyond human-being's act.

People thought that was the first and the last, but after one week, at about ten

o'clock in the morning my brother's wife's room caught fire. Still the cause was a


After the burning of my house my brother Audu came to me and talked to me about

what happened to me when I was young. He said when I was young I became seriously

sick and as a result my mother had to consult "Milim" before I was cured. He continued

by saying that since my mother died I did not dare to look after the "Milim." So

because of this the "Milim" decided to cause the fire incidence so that I could look

back to hi i, amend my ways, and give him his due sacrifices. I argued my brother Audu

that I never knew the time when I was sick and to the extent of going to "Milim" with

my mother. My mother did not tell me any of this story so how can I know and believe

it. He said he should then go and look for this "Milim" and make some sacrifices to

it. But I said no I will not do anything of this sort since I did not know it from

my parents. I even told my brother to let this very words die down from there because

it is not to my interest (what does this mean = political, religious?).

When Udud&s wife's house got burnt he eradicated the suspicion he had about me.

People started to suspect that "Jang" is responsible for this incidence. "Jang" is

an invisible supernatural man who has all powers. Though powerful in all aspects

a man owns it, and it used to bring riches to the owner. Within a short tine most

of the people in Shaffa suspect one man that he is the one that owns the Jang. The

story goes on that this gentle man bought the Jang in order to bring him riches

but due to the fact that he can not meet the demand of the "Jang". People said that

he promised the "Jang" 'something' and the "Jang" is searching for that thing promised

to him in every house that is why he goes about burning h. uses in case he may find

that thing there. Almost every one knows this suspected person but no on can mention

his name because it is something that cannot be proved easily.

This incident happened from the clan of Mshelia. The first ten houses are all

people of the clan of Mshelia, but after that people of other clans started to become


After many people have get used to the fire, the night before on hous- is to b-.rn

people would notice it by the activities of the dogs. They would be barking seriously

and at the same time trying to chase something. Throughout the night that would be what

they would be doing. The following morning all people would be ready to quench any

fire out Surely that cday that thing Jong must set fire on one or two


The Jang used to set fire on the top of the roof. Normally when it starts burning

you will see white smoke instead of black. That is the distinction between a normal house

burning smoke and the one which is suspected to be 'Jang'.

Madu Musa Anjitive's house was the third house to be burnt in Shaffa. In case of Madu

Musu Anjili's the "Jang" came for the first time and set the fire. But many people came

to his rescue and the fire was put out immediately. The following the Jang came again

and set fire on the very house and this time people could not rescue it and the fire

consumed the house totally. Madu Musu Anjitivi is not from the Mshelia clan.

Around a week after that "Jang" came and set fire on Adamu Thlama's house. The

fire did badly by burning his house as well as his wives'. The whole compound was not

destroyed on one day. It came several times and people quenched it. Before the hoi4se

was totally burnt down the Jang came about ten times. There were no much loss of

properties because people knew before hand what would happen and as such all properties

were vacated from Thatch roofs to Zink roofs.

The fourth compound to be burnt was Adamu Thlama's. At first the "Jang" set fire ca

his personal house. With many people's effort the fire was put out. The following day

in the afternoon at the same time the Jang came again and set fire on his wife's house.

Then people rushed but they could not do very much to it, so the fire burnt his wife's

sleeping room plus her kitchen. Two weeks after that incident the "Jang" came again to

Adamu Thlama's compound and set fire on his sleeping room, the room that he set fire

at the start. Despite people's effort the house was burnt within ten minutes. Adamu

Thlama lost properties like clothing and some little money.

Katsala Mahelia was the fifth person whose compound was affected. His sleeping

room was set on fire about two times, and the third time the "Jang" succeeded in burning

the whole room. About fourdays after that the "Jang" came back again. He set the fire

on his first wife's house and it was put out. The following day at the sametine a fire

was set on his second wife's house again it was put out. After the Jang forgets about

Katsala Mshelia's house and starts on other people's house. From Katsalla's house

he landed on Wakil's house. After burning Wakil's house, he came again to Katsala's

house where he first set fire. Again people put it out. The following day it came

back to the very house and this time he succeeded in burning both houses that belongs

to both wives.

After burning any house made of thatch grass from Katsala's house it again came

back to Wakil's house. This time he set fire on his second wife's house. By

people's effort the people put out the fire. The following day again he came back and

set the fire on the same house and this time every thing was burnt down, remaining his

first wife's house. A week after that the Jang came back again and burn his first wife's

house finally.

Musa Birna was the seventh person who was affected by this mysterious fire disaster in

Shaffa. Among all the affected persons this seemed to have suffered the most. The

Jang came for the first time and set the fire on his personal house, but by the people's

effort the fire was put out. Again the following day at the same time the Jang came back

and set fire on the very house on the very corner. Again people rushed and put it out.

On the following day again the "Jang" came for the third time and again people put it out.

From then onwards people knew that what ever happens the "Jang" must burn that particular

house so they used to get prepared in the afternoons to watch what would happen on that

particular house. The fourth day he came back, and since the people were ready they put

the fire out. From then onwards the Jang never set fire on the house again but

embark on the business of burning materials inside the house. Son on the fifth day

people gathered outside waiting for the burning of the house. They waited, but they saw

nothing. After sometimes they saw smoke coming through the window. They rushed inside

and they saw that one of the shirt that Musa Birma hung on the wall was on fire. The shirt

was already half burnt down so they left the rest to burn down. The following day agian

he sets fire on his siirt and the whole shirt was burnt. So Musa Birma collected out all

his clothing and other valuable materials and took them to his Zink house. Yet the Jang

did not stop coming, it still came, but still people used to put it out. The "Jang" set

fire on that very house thn times before it was finally burnt down. The following

day the Jang as the people call it set fire on his wife's house and it burnt down.


completely. His wife lost some money which she said she did not know the actual

amount. When he was burnt all the thatched roof house he started to work on the Zink roof.

Since the Zink cannot be burnt easily he used to take the kerosene the man used to

sell and then sprinkle it over the roof. Some times if Birma comes in his room he

would just find some kerosene being sprinkle on his bed or sometimes his shirts.

Sometimes he would sprinkle it on the roof. This pushed the man to give up selling

kerosene. But despite this fact the "Jang" still turns up to do the work of sprinkling

kerosene on ht his zink roof. Any time Musa Birma sees the sprinkled kerosene on

his roof or beddings he invited many people to witness what was happening. The most

recent sprinkling of the kerosene happened on the 30th and 31st of Mark 1974. At

the moment there is no thatch roof left in that house. In all there are three thatch

roof houses which are burnt down.

The eighth person to be affected by the fire disaster is Adamu Pindar. Adamu

Pindar is also from the clan of Mshelia. At the first attempt the fire was set on his

personal room but with people's effort the fire was put out. The following day at the

same time in the afternoon the fire was again set on his roof at the same corner of the

house. Again people succeeded in prtting it out. The following day the fire came

back, but this time it landed on his first wife's house, and again it did not succeed

in burning the house. After coming three times with out success, it decided to carry

other houses from other peo- le's compound. Two weeks later it then came back to Adamu

Pindar's house where he set fire on the second wife's house. This time he succeeded in

burning her roof. The next day it came back and set the fire on Adamu Pindar's first

wife's house. This is the second time the same roof has been set on fire and again people

succeeded in putting it out. The sixth time it came to Adamu's house it burnt all the

remaining thatch roof houses.

The ninth person to be affected is Ali Myada who is also from the clan Mshelia.

For the first time it did not succeeded, the second one the something. Until the

third time it:-.udeeded in burning one, Ali's personal sleeping room and second his

his wife's, and the third one Kefa's house. Kefas is Ali Myada's house boy. There

was no much loss of properties, only a few beddings.

The tenth person to be affected is Bukar Pela. His is a peculiar one in the sense

that all the rest of the fire disaster happened in the day time and in most c4ses in the

afternoon, but his own happened in the night. The 'thing' came and set fire on both

Bukar Pela's house as well as Yohana's house. Since it was night and it was unexpected,

before people could rush to the scene the two compounds were beyond control. Yohana's

compound and Bukar's compound are adjacent. More of that Bukar Pela and Yohana are from

the clan of Mshelbwala. The incident happened around 3 am. At this point when the burning

down of houses affected people from other clan every one started to think that the whole

village of Shaffa might be burnt. Before then the incident had been reported to our

District head Ajiya Ayuba, bu the Lawan of Shaffa. Despite the constant report almost

after every house that was burnt he failed to turn up to see what has been happening.

The Lawan then sent delegates to Biu to report the case to the Emire. When the Emire

heard of it he immediately came with the District officer to see to themselves what

has been happening. When they came they followed any affected house from house to house.

Garba Giulde is the eleventh person to be affected. The Jang, what they

suspected to be the cause of the fire came and set fire on his wife's sleeping room in the

afternoon, the same time as it used to happen to other people. People knew that there

would be a fire accident because they noticed it from the unusual dog barking that happened.

the night before the incident. People rushed and the fire was put out. The following

day again the fire was set on the same house on the same corner. This time people

tried to put it out but they proved helpless and the fire consumed the whole room

within a few minutes. After the burning of this house people that came for help

thought they would be no more of such happening so every one went back to his house to

wash away the dirt they collected in the process of putting out the fire. Before other

people could wash up there was another shouting and other people thought that it may

be something else like death, but when we stretched out to see what was the matter we

saw that it was another fire disaster. It was on Emmanuel's house, his personal

sleeping room. Emmanuel and Garka Ngulde are both from the clan of Mshelia, but from a

different Nyarmbwa.

Musa Siga's house is the thirteenth to be affected. It was in the afternoon at

about two o'clock that a fire was set on the eastern corner of his wife's sleeping

room. It was very windy on that day and to add to the fact that Maina Gargas house is

close to Musa Siga's, the fire jumped escaped to Gargas house and both rooms were on fire.

People tried to control both, but our effort was not big enough to put it under control.

The two rooms got burnt simultaneously. Of course there were no lost of properties, because

almost everybody in Shaffa never leaves any thing of importance inside a room that has

a roof thatch. Maina Garga is Musa Siga's elder brother, both of them from the clan

Of Mshelia from our Nyarmbwo from, where the fire disaster first started.

Nyarmbwa first originated from Mandaragirau. Our grand, grand father first lived

there, but they fought with his Junior brother and their parents blamed him being that he

was the elder one. He did not want to bear the blame among public so he decided to travel

south. He travelled until he came to the present river Shaffa and here he decided to

stay for sometimes. By then the river was having a thick forest. In the afternoons wild

animals used to come and drink from the river so he found a suitable place where he

would be hunting them. He stayed for quite a long time but he did not lack animals to

hunt so he decided to make a permanent house by the river bank. He then found the

present Shaffa. It is from this man that out present Nyarmbwa originated. Other Mshelia

from this town came from a different place.

The fifteenth house or compound to be affected by the desasterous fire was Bello

Thlama's. Two rooms got burnt from his compound, one his own personal sleeping room and

second his wife's own. On the night before the incident there was the unusual dog barking

so the following morning every one was talking about the unusual dog-barking, and likely

another fire, disaster might happen again, so they must get prepared that afternoon. In

fact it did happen. It was in the afternoon at about two o'clock, the usual time

when we saw a white smoke coming from the east. Without doubt or questioning we knew

it was the usual fire disaster and that must be on someone3s compound. On reaching the

place we noticed that it was on Bello Thlama's house, a man of the clan of Mshelia from

our Nyarmbwa. After the incident his wife told the public that she had lost some few

clothing. The husband Bello Thlama, did not lose anything.

Kapfani Msh elwaksha is the sixteenth person to be affected. Kaptami came from

a different clan, that is the clan of Mshelwaksha. The people of Mshelwaksha are

believed to have obtained their name from small rounded calabash which is covered by

a goat's skin to protect it from being broken. This rounded calabash is called

waksha and it is used for storing some tobacco which old men use in their noiees.

They would take out the tobacco, the powdered one, and put in on their palm and then

inhale it. The people who used this very much in the past were identified as "Waksha"people

that is Mshelwaksha.

Immediately after Kaptani's incident people went home to wash up the dirt they

collected in the course of putting out the fire. Not long we saw another smoke in

the direction of Audu's compound, my brother, whose house was the second to be burnt.

Again we rushed to the place and we saw that the fire was on his wife's house. People were

tired there was no much effort put to put the fire out. It did not last long the fire

consumed the whole house Audu's wife's house and Kaptani's house are among the most

recent fire disaster that happened in Shaffa. Both took place on the 20th of March 1974.

The Seventeenth person was Musa Bulama. He is also from the clan of Mshelia. His

own sleeping room was affected. He reported no lost of properties so far.

The eighteenth person was Malam Hamma. This man comes from the clan of Mshelia.

So far he is the last person to be affected by the fire disaster. There was no other

fire disaster after him. But still we are not safe. Wie are still expecting it another

one any moment from now.

The burning of the market stalls the night before this incident still there was

the unusual dog barking and also there was a heavy wind blowing. The dogs barked

almost through the night. They barked and chased some things with we people could

see. We could hear their foot steps seriously running after things and for sometimes

they would stop and resume afterwards.

The dogs rendered people almost sleepless that night. The following morning

every one was suspicious that there was something going to happen. After breakfast

all those that wanted to go to Huma market were discouraged because they knew that

something must happen, but they did not know on whose compound it would be. Everyone

was thinking that he would be the next person to affected. The afternoon passed but nothing

happened so every one tends to feel a little bit at ease. In the evening at about

five o'clock the market stalls caught fire. Within five minutes all the market stalls

within, that line were burnt down to ashes. It was very windy that evening so the

fire was really beyong control. The number of stalls that were burnt down were about

twenty. It was the responsibility of the owners to rebuild their own stalls. Many had

done so, but some are yet to be reconstructed.

The latest news about the incident.

A report from home said that after I left Shaffa still there has been another case

of the fire disaster. According to Julius Musa Pindar, the man who gave the report,

said that after I left Shaffa two other housed were burnt down again. The two houses

got burnt on two separate days. But both the two happened in the afternoon at the same

tiie the former onew happened.

At the moment with the help of the Lawan and the elders of Shaffa, a well advanced

Mallam from Kubo has been invited to look into this mysterious matter. This malam

from Kubo is called Malam. Bukar Kubo. About ten years ago this mans name had thrilled

in almost every corner of Bura Land. Not only Biu the division where he resides but

he had been famous in places like Chalagg, in Adamana province. At the time of his fame

people say he could interpret to any ont that goes to him his/her own problem. At

his climax there was no disease that he could not cure, these include cases of mental

sichnesses, deformity and paralysis.

But for some unknown reasons he lost all the supernatural powers of doing these

jobs. His fame retarded fast until his name died out in Bura Land. Now people say that

he is becoming famous again. The story goes on to say that he has gain all the supernatural

oowers he lost.

The people of Shaffa invited him as the most famous Malam who they think would

find out what is the real cause of the fire disaster. At the moment Malam Bukar

Kubo is a Shaffa.

PC. I asked about the Thlama Dawha (no mention of his home)
account of some one dying etc. neither Mwaji.n or Julius Pindar
Musa knew anything about such a story. Their account seems much more
See Usman Malgwi Yimirshika Notebook for June 1974 p. 38/39
The leadership of Shaffa is now in some doubt:
A, There is the continuing problem of Wokawa's being
Lowan's when they are really not original to the
town but have come in from Tiroha etc.
B. The leadership of Mshelia's the "true" people of
Shaffa is quite confused because when the last of the
actual leader lineage died (Bila Dzan) his son was
very young and 17 years old when gave it to
someone else then later that man died and son still felt
too young (15 years later i.e. Lowan 32) gave title
to Buba Biram present head (Bulama). People say
leadership will go back.

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