Nigerian Equestarians And The Durbar Festival: By Wale Adebisi

The Nigerian Equestrian Federation unveiled itself and rolled out critical developmental programmes aimed at revolutionising the equestrian landscape, declaring the equine industry capable of contributing a minimum of $500million annually to the country’s GDP if the current population of over 200,000 horses and its entrenched horse culture is harnessed, it is why events like the Durbar Festivals are important because it is a melting pot for history and culture, as well as a way to showcase The Dongola Horse breed, a breed of horses believed to owe a lot to the Iberian horses that were brought to Egypt in the 13th century. At Durbar festivals The Emir mounts a specially decorated Dongola Horse and struts around the city alongside his court chiefs to greet loyal subjects. After the tour, the Emir returns to the palace and only after a special game of horse racing with each chiefs family being represented in the games, that the event begins. Although the history of Horses are somewhat unclear in Nigeria, the sport of horse racing has been enjoyed by horse lovers and betting enthusiasts alike for centuries. Durbar festival occurs on the second day after the day of the Islamic festival, Eid Al-Adha, and is one of the cultural heritage of the people of Ilorin, as well as in  Kano, Katsina, and Sokoto. Yearly, religious faithful and equestrians travel home for prayers, and also, use the oppotuinity to mark an attendance at the festival. This year in Illorin, we caught up with documentary photographer Wale Adebisi who was in attendance at this year’s Durbar Festival.

Horse riders are a significant aspect of the Durbar Festival all bearing peculiar designs, patterns, and adornments, but the event is mostly about loyal subjects reaffirming their loyalty to the emirates.

Are you from Illorin, if yes, could you share a few words about what your city is really like, and if you are not, what took you to the Durbar Festival this year?

I have always wanted to document the Durbar festival for a very long time. I am a big lover of my country and I believe as a photographer it’s my responsibility to showcase our cultural heritage through my creativity. So this year I made sure I travelled down to Ilorin to experience their beautiful culture and trust it’s an experience I will never forget.

How long have you been a documentary photographer?

I have been photographing for the past four years now.

When making street portraits, do you have a special technique that you use to approach people, can you briefly explain the process of approaching an unknown person on the street and asking them if you can make their image, how do you go about this

When approaching an unknown person on the street for a street portrait, it’s important to be respectful and considerate. Here’s a brief process to approach someone and ask for their image: Choose the right person: Look for individuals who catch your attention and align with the vision or theme you have in mind for street portraits. Non-verbal cues: Before approaching, use non-verbal cues like a smile or nod to establish a friendly presence. This helps create a positive atmosphere and can make people more receptive to your request. Polite introduction: Approach the person with a friendly demeanour and politely introduce yourself. Keep it simple and mention your interest in street photography. Explain your intent: Briefly explain why you find them interesting or what caught your eye. Express your desire to capture their portrait and convey the artistic nature of your project. Seek content: Respectfully ask if they would be comfortable with you taking their photograph. Make it clear that they have the choice to decline and that you understand and respect their decision. Be prepared for questions: People may have questions or concerns about how their photo will be used. Be open and honest about your intentions, such as whether you’ll share the image online or exhibit it. Show examples: If you have a portfolio or examples of your work, you could offer to show them, helping to build trust and demonstrate your artistic style. Offer contact information: If the person is interested, you could offer your contact information, so they can reach out later to see the final result or request a copy of the photo. Remember, every situation and individual is different, so adapt your approach accordingly. Always prioritize respect, consent, and the comfort of the person you’re photographing.

Are there photographers whose work you draw inspiration from? 

Yes, I have a lot of photographers that I draw a lot of inspiration from. 

In your opinion, what makes an image qualify as a great shot?

Defining what makes an image qualify as a “great shot” is subjective and can vary based on personal preferences and the intended purpose of the photograph. however, for me, composition is the first thing I look out for as a photographer, and then effective use of the environment and lighting whether natural or artificial, and most importantly the storytelling and the subject. A great shot often has a clear and compelling subject that captures the viewer’s attention. Additionally, the image may convey a story, evoke emotions, or provoke thought, allowing the viewer to connect with the photograph on a deeper level. Lastly, for me, creativity and uniqueness are very important because they define you as an artist and what your creativity is all about.

In the series of images that you sent us, you photographed a group of women wearing blue attires, being that they are the only women in your selections, could you share briefly why you captured them or who they are?

Immediately I saw a group of beautiful women wearing blue traditional attires the scenery captivated me and I saw how well organized they are and structured I could not resist the beauty I had to make a photo of them without overthinking it.

The style in which you edit your images is prevalent in most of your work, is there a reason behind the gold/yellow hues and tints applied?

The style and way I edit my picture define me as an artist for a very long time I have trying to find a balance in creating an edit that will be like a trademark and recently I came up with that style and it just adds more depth and makes my work different.