The thought of going to Jos, or J-Town as it is popularly known, sent shivers of excitement down my spine! I had heard a lot about this city of rocks set in Plateau State in the middle-belt region of Africa’s Nigeria. Although I and my friends were going to attend a wedding in that phenomenal city, we could not hide our joy in knowing that it was going to be an adventure in nature as well.
We had heard about how foreigners loved to visit the J-Town because the weather was cold almost all-year round. At the end of the year, in December, when the cold is at its peak, you dare not bathe or wash with water even at room temperature. All your liquids must be warm! There is no snow, of course, but it gets really cold.
We travelled from Abuja to Jos by bus. Nearing Jos the scenery was breath-taking. You look straight and below, everywhere is green. You raise your eyes and look far and you see a landscape dazzling with rocks and hills crafted by no other than God. You suck in the temperate air and you are glad to be alive. Life is beautiful! Life is green!
We saw huge cactuses growing along the road, on the left and on the right, stretching far into the fields for miles and miles ahead. We took several pictures.
As we got into J-Town, which is also the capital of Plateau, we began to see buildings and human activity. We wished we could have continued with the view of trees and hills open to the beautiful sun. But the town itself was a sight to behold. From Bukuru in Jos South to Jos Metropolis and Jos North we saw the simple life of the people. We stopped to buy some bottled water and got a lot of smiles and greetings. We saw the famous Nasco Company that produced the wafers, sweets, biscuits and cereals that children and adults alike loved.
At the wedding the cheer of the people appeared to be largely influenced by the serenity and the coolness of the city. Dance and laughter; smiles and singing. There were about five different dance groups making presentations at the ceremony. All of them were draped in different costumes that spoke of the ancient traditions of the native people. Most of the dancers had similarly colored tops and wrappers and brown beads all around their legs and ankles that rattled as they made their delectable dance moves. They swayed majestically to the sounds produced from native leather drums and steel cymbals.
The food was amazing! Apart from the English servings of rice and salad and canned drinks, we were treated to the local zobo drink. The drink is a dazzling red liquid made from natural leaves, spice and pineapple flavor. It reminded me of punch but was however refreshingly cool without being too sweet.
Then our eyes caught the craft of Jos. We had heard of the ancient Nok culture of Jos which included the making of artistic carvings by skilled artisans among their ancestors. On the wedding grounds, we saw a number of such beautifully woven carvings that stood as tall as the surrounding buildings. After the event, we strolled to where there was an art gallery, not far from the wedding hall. There we beheld an array of timeless pieces of craft from ancient Jos. Pots and vases and jugs and a host of other ornamental pieces. On the wall were several images, statutes, sculptures and carvings. We looked at them and were thrown back, in our minds, to the time the images were made. A woman bearing a child; a man was hacking away at a log of wood; women carrying pieces of cut wood on their backs; a group of men playing on drums beneath a huge tree. There was a story in each art work.
The guide in the gallery told us a folk story of how a certain ancient carver had travelled for twenty-one days in search of a particular type of mud beside a stream after Shere Hills because he wanted to make the best mud statue in his community. Such was his desire to make a name that he was ready to face the wild animals on the way. According to the folk lore, he found the stream and fetched the mud. He nonetheless encountered a hyena, a tiger and a lion. At night he climbed trees to sleep so that he would be safe from the animals. He physically fought the tiger and left with scratches on his body and lost an arm. Yet he came back victoriously with the stash of mud in his one hand and was able to make twenty mud statues that the community had never seen! The statues were acclaimed to be the best because, of course, they were made from no ordinary mud and were the price of bravery.
From the gallery, we headed to the famous Terminus where Jos Central market is located. The market was bustling with activity. All kinds of things were sold there: cloth material, shoes, bags and souvenirs for visitors to the town. In the food section, the popular garri and tuwo flour were sold as well the regular rice, beans, yams, plantains and vegetables. As we moved around, the traders beckoned on us to buy their wares. We heard the Ngas, Doka and Hausa languages freely spoken among the people. What a warm people they were! It was a thrilling experience!
The next day, on the way back, we stopped to buy lettuces, carrots, pears and potatoes – the famous produce around the Jos area. There were young people and middle-aged people along the roads selling in stalls or hawking them to travellers. We stopped to buy some fruit and potatoes. In fact, before we left for Jos, some of our other friends back home had told us not to return without bringing lettuce from J-Town. We did not dare disappoint them!