Ofir was in the hut of a Nigerian pastor named Leo when he found a document listing the percentages of Christians and Muslims in various tribes. More than a hundred tribes were listed, all with the percentage of converts. Flipping through the pages, he spotted the lone gap in the data. Just one tribe had no numbers beside it. Instead were the words, “Hostile Animists.” The tribe was the Achipawa. It would take Ofir more than a year to find them. The first photo is of Pastor Leo in his church in Nigeria, the second of a cricket that Leo offered to Ofir on the day he arrived in the village.
Nigeria has its tensions, but the people are warm and beautiful. While traveling across Nigeria by bus in 2002, I was escorted on each leg of the trip by someone who designated himself as my temporary host, buying me food and sometimes paying my fare. Here’s a shot of a breastfeeding mother, a girl in her village, and kids crowding in a bus station to get a view of Ofir.
Sharia law in Nigeria has been condemned for its human rights abuses and has been played up by political opportunists, leading to violent outbreaks between Muslims and Christians who once lived side by side in peace. This poster, nailed to the wall of a mud hut, was sold in markets at the time of Ofir’s visit. The poster shows the punishment for each “crime,” from lashes with a whip to death by stoning.
Unable to fight winds on the dammed Kainji, Ofir sold his canoe and moved north to write about the growing religious tensions in Nigeria post 9/11. When locals in Yelwa learned that there was an Israeli among them, they contacted the family hosting Ofir to coordinate his killing. The sicker in the photo is on a taxicab.