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The Art of Money Spraying in African culture
continent of expressions - AFRICA
afrostylemagazine cover december 2008

Photography: Jason Maddox

Photo Editing: Ken Pivak
www.digital1to1.com | www.kenpivak.com

Makeup: Kristine "LaLa" Sterris

Wardrobe: Kristie Jarfold

Hair: Joanie Danger

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afro style mag | The Art of Money Spraying

eing that I was born in Nigeria, the next sentence might be considered biased to some. However, I believe that Nigerian culture has a flamboyance that is unmistakable. It matters not whether the Nigerians are from the North, the West, the East or the South of the country. Nigerians of all works of life tend to be extravagant, dramatic and love to have a good time. And nowhere is this reality more obvious than in a special act reserved for Nigerian ceremonies and functions. Anyone that has been to a Nigerian wedding, for instance, has either witnessed, or if bold enough to make it to the dance floor, been the subject of spraying. Nigerians spray dancers or special individuals with money during celebrations, delicately placing each individual note on the head of the subject. A bride, for instance, can be overwhelmed by the amount of bills placed on her head while dancing away at her wedding. So much so that a family member is usually required to be on standby with a box into which the sprayed money will be collected.

Spraying in it's modern form, is probably an extension of an earlier tradition. It became an integral part of Nigerian life during the oil boom years the country experienced after independence.

The country was hopeful. Oil profits combined with a successful agriculture sector, infrastructural development and other positives meant that citizens were much well off than they are today. Nigerians had money to spend and would fly to Europe to shop. Some imported marble from Italy to line the walls and floors of their homes. It was a time of opulence and spraying quickly took hold. On the day of a party, people would go to the bank just to get fresh notes for spraying, as anything less was deemed unacceptable. Personally, I grew up looking forward to the many functions my mother would attend because I knew I could make some serious pocket money simply by being sprayed on the dance floor. It was many years after the country's opulent era, but Nigerians had not lost their taste for fun, even though the country was suffering economically under an unpopular regime. The challenge for me was in convincing my lovely mother to let me tag along, without letting on what my intentions were. Had she known, she likely would have rejected my pleas. As children tend to get sprayed just as much, if not more, than adults, I definitely made sure to sway my mother into taking me.

I must confess that I was successful most of the time and thus, it should be no surprise that I ended up a lawyer whose business it was to make arguments, verbal or written, to convince others of my client's position. Now that I think about it, in some ways, I probably have the act of spraying to thank for my career choice.

Similarly,  the “Dollar Dance, Money Dance, Bridal Dance or Apron Dance” are various names for this very popular custom performed in many non –African wedding receptions all over the world. According to a research done by Janis Martinez, Ana Urzua, and Magaly Guerra at the University of Irvine (http://www.anthro.uci.edu/Dance.pdf), the origin of the dance is credited to Poland in the early 1900’s by most sources but there is not solid evidence that verifies the specific location where it originated. The concept of the “dance” however, is that male guests asked for permission from the groom to dance with his bride by “paying” for the privilege and the female guests pay for the privilege to dance with the groom. The guest form one line for the groom and one line for the bride, usually the best man and maid of honor are at the head of each respective line to help collect the money. Another popular feature of the  “dance” is “pinning money” bills to the newlywed’s clothing-especially to the bride’s dress. In Ukraine, Cuba, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, guests expect the dance to take place but in the Philippines, pinning, taping and wrapping money in elaborate designs is very common as  the couple dance. Also in Poland, the father of the bride leads the dance by pinning money on her dress, followed by the best man and groomsmen and then other male guests. On the side of the groom, his mother will reciprocate by pinning the money on his suit, followed by the maid of honor and bridesmaids and other female guests.

In Hungary, the bride wearing a special Hungarian traditional dress, has the money pinned to her dress, or dropped in her shoes left in the middle of the dance floor before anyone dances with her.

The guests are expected to be generous when paying for a dance, because the money is used to help the couple set up their new home or with their honey moon. . Besides pinning money or using the bride’s shoe, an old custom in most Slavic countries also utilize the domestic role of the bride is the “Babushka Dance”. The Babushka dance is a bridal dance that allows the guest to drop money into the bride’s veil while forming a circle around her.


The art of money spraying

Although the above customs don’t necessarily spray money, I am sure the brides look forward to the “Money Dance” moments as brides or celebrants do in Nigeria. Although a former Central Bank governor threatened to have 'sprayers' arrested for disrespecting the Naira, Nigeria's currency, the act of spraying remains a revered part of Nigerian celebration. In fact, shortly after he announced his distaste for the custom, he was berated by angry Nigerians, artists and particularly young women preparing to get married. Many of these women countered that for their whole life they looked forward to their wedding day, not just because they would marry their Prince Charming, but also because they would enjoy their right to spraying. And, it wasn't just engaged women that were outraged. Even women with no prospects were equally inflamed by the announced ban on spraying. Just because they had no marital prospects did not mean that they would be deprived of a good spraying when their big day came, whenever that might be. Yes, spraying is taken extremely seriously in Nigeria and I doubt any other politician will try to take the custom on anytime soon. In the wise words of Musician King Sunny Ade “Spraying is our culture, you can’t ban it”. Nigerians all over the world continue to spray themselves into oblivion at parties and musicians definitely use the tradition for entertainment value during concerts


After reading this article and you come across hip hop and rap artists flossing in their music videos by “Making it Rain” remember where it may have come from. A lot of the African and Non-African cultures have been spraying, pinning money for decades while they’ve only been making it rain in videos in the last decade. Consequently, there is little doubt that money spraying or pinning is an integral part of a nation's tradition and that it will stand the test of time. And, I must confess that even as an adult and mother, I still look forward to getting sprayed at Nigerian functions.



Funmi Feyide John


Photo Credit:
Photographer Sergio Goes for Honolulu Magazine