a boy smiling with dongoyaro stick in his mouth and posing for a photograph in sokoto city

A photographer in Sokoto city

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Idris likes walking around his neighbourhood in Sokoto city chewing a stick of Dogoyaro. When he goes to school, he slips it inside his bag alongside a bottle of fura do nono. A jovial boy with plump cheeks, the five-year-old Idris loves dancing.

Last Friday, after the Jumat service at the mosque, Idris walked back home chewing his dongoyaro stick. A young man standing on the other side of the road waved to him and crossed over to meet him. Idris studied the man. He was dressed in a blue polo atop a jean with black sneakers. He hung a camera around his neck.

“Salaam alaikum” Idris greeted the man cautiously.

“Wa alaikum, no’awani?” the man replied.
Idris smiled, the man’s accent gave him away as a stranger. He resembled those people that Mallam Rabiu the English teacher in school had said came from the southern part of Nigeria.

“Mido jam, anbo?” Idris replied.

The man didn’t know what to reply, he simply smiled and spoke in English, “My name is Mayor Otu, I am a documentary photographer, I want to take your picture with my camera. I will make it very fine and everyone will see you and like you. Do you want to take a picture?”

Idris smiled shyly and nodded his head, “Let me go and tell baba first” He said and without waiting for a reply he ran off towards home.

He ran past Rekiya his classmate, walking back home from fetching water at the well, a small basin of water balanced on her head. He ran past the bustling Babagana joint where men gather to drink Zobo and kunu, chew groundnuts, smoke cigarettes, read newspapers and discuss politics in Sokoto city. Idris spotted the vocal grey-bearded nationalist, Mallam Zongo who as usual was arguing at the top of his voice, displaying his gworo stained teeth, thumping his fist in the air and exclaiming “One Naigeyeria!” to stress his points.
Idris ran past Alhaja Mogayi’s courtyard where he saw the perpetually grumpy old woman bent over a pot, stirring the contents and nagging her three daughters to hasten the preparation of the Miyan kuka soup. Idris ran across the bend and got home.

No sooner had he entered the house than he saw a car drive into the open space beside the baobab tree in front of the house. The car door opened and Mayor stepped out.

“I was following you,” he said to the astonished Idris.

Mayor’s conversation with Idris’s father, Sheik Haruna went on smoothly. Sheik Haruna, a well-read scholar, gave his consent to the photo shoot and also to be photographed too. He took Major Otu to the backyard of the house where some dongoyaro trees stood.

“This is called Neem tree in English but we call it dongoyaro. It is very effective in malaria prevention and treatment, it improves eye health, treats skin infections, serves as a contraceptive and helps in heart health and control of high blood pressure” the scholar informed the photographer.

“Wow!” Mayor exclaimed.

Idris had quickly changed into his kaftan, the one reserved for use on special occasions, a grey coloured material sewed for him by Safiya for the Sallah festival last year in Sokoto city. He posed in front of the tree holding the dongoyaro stick stuck in his mouth.

“Smile and say cheeeeeese!”

Multiple shots of Idris’s smiling face were taken by the photographer.

“I will share this headshot picture on the internet and you will become famous,” Mayor said to Idris. The grin on the boy’s face became wider.
From the living room, the sound of ‘Gargajiya’ by ClassiQ playing on the radio filtered into their ears and Idris began dancing to the upbeat tune.

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