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Lost legacy of Bida Bikini

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posted on 2021-05-04, 14:19 authored by Lesley Lababidi
At the crossroads of west-central Nigeria in the Nupe city of Bida, Masagá glassmakers manufacture raw black glass, a method that has remained a secret for nearly two centuries. This patriarchal organisation is composed of guild members who distinguish themselves by the claim that they originally migrated from Egypt to Nupeland in the mid-nineteenth century.

The Masagá glassmakers of Bida are renowned for their production of glass beads and bangles made from modern glass and from locally manufactured raw glass known as bikini. Bikini is a black shiny molten glass produced and used by Masagá craftspeople before the importation of modern glass bottles into this area. Bikini served as the main raw material for glass work between the mid-19th and 20th centuries, but due to the expense and difficulty of sourcing the raw materials, the production and usage of bikini glass was phased out and replaced with easily sourced recycled glass.

From 2015, research into Masagá glass production revealed that only one ninety-year-old man retained the secret knowledge of glassmaking. The knowledge to produce bikini glass was in jeopardy of disappearing. As the threat of a lost legacy loomed, in November 2019, the Masagá glassmakers agreed to recreate bikini glass.

The documentary can also be viewed here:


Endangered Material Knowledge Programme


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Kasan eyilozun tatacin kin Nigeriao, banan Ezhi wunciko nya Nupenchizhi zhina, Bidao. Baga gabo Masaga kpalaba tswacizhi zhio. Tsutswa nya kpalaba nana de yi enya mamaki naaso zandoro na, daa eya kpako gbani. Egun nya kpalaba tswaci nanazhi dewugwa gan daga kin Masar nya Egypt bo afe be kin Nupeo, daa ela eya kpako be shitsuin gbani. Kpalaba tswaci nya Masaga Bida, nanazhie etswa kapalaba tswa daga binbiri nya Bikinio, ache jin yan koro to nyan sunsun nya egwa nya kpalaba. Acha tsutswa nya Bikini nana tun kafi Nasara zhia cha kpalaba nyi kupe kin babo nan. Bikini gayi enya asiri na zanazhie latswa kpalaba nao, tsakani eya kapako gbani. Amma ebo loma, be wala nya nya dide bikini nan bea gagan nae, abea ya amfani jin be kpalaba zaman yi, bachi na agau zun maayin zo nae. Dagan de eya gutswayin gbani, dulugi lawu ke, zae ni ndochi naa kuku saraunyi nan, ke egi eya shini be guwo’e nan, gbaugi ga ke na kpe asiri nya kpalaba tswa nanao nan. Asha man asiri nya Bikini nan de gbingbin daona. Na egun nanae ga gbin nan, egungicizhi nya Masaga kpalaba tswaba nana, a minia tun dan dozhi ke ala Bikini woroa jin nan, ebo egun nana bea wu kpoyin man.




Niger State

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Cultural group


Cultural context/event

General production

Social group setting

Guild members


Bikini glass


Wood, clay, glass


HRH Alhji Dr Yahaya Abubakar CFR Etsu Nupe, Lesley Lababidi, Alhaji Abubakar Muhmud Dan Galadima, Alhaji Yahaya Alfa Masaga, Alhaji Mohammed Ndako Legbo, Alhaji Gimba Haake, Abdullahi Eba, Alhaji Abbas Umar, Ndaumaru Azumi, Alhaji Abdulazeez Muazu Yanko, Mallam Yanda Yayi, Abidemi Babatunde Babalola, Joëlle Rolland

Rights owner

Lababidi Holdings Ltd. for Fuad and Sa'adia Lababidi Foundation




Practice takes place throughout the year but glassmakers could curtail their hours during Ramadan. One cycle of glass production (from raw material collection to final product) currently takes two months. In the past the length of cycle would depend on traders and trading situation.

Date of creation