Saturday, March 23, 2013

The African Custom Of Spraying Money

Edited by Azizi Powell

Nigerian's Spraying Money

Chima0bi, Uploaded on Aug 29, 2006

Watch how these people shower my mom with Dollars

This post is part of a continuing series on this blog about the custom of spraying money.

I am an African American who has no direct experience with the custom of spraying money. The information contained in this post is gleamed from online articles.

Additions & corrections are welcome.

Definition of "spraying money"
"Spraying money" is the act of placing paper money on the forehead or over the head of a woman or a man or a couple on special occassions such as their wedding or birthday. This cultural practice symbolizes showering the person or the couple with good fortune.

Spraying money is also the act of placing paper money on the forehead or over the head of a singer, musician, dancer, master/ mistress of ceremony, or minister at an event to show appreciation for that person's talent or skill.

Spraying money is a public act. The person spraying money intends to be noticed doing this. Prior to attending an event, persons go to banks to exchange larger denominations of currency for smaller denominations so that the person spraying money may do so for a longer amount of time.

Read this exchange from the viewer comment thread of the video that is given above [hereafter known as "Nigerians Spraying Dollars"].

auntjuicy, 2008
"so is it common to spray with one dollar bills?"
"divagurl985. 2008
"yes even 5's 10's 20's and so on. but the celebrant of the party always gets sprayed the most. i made $30 dancing*"
* Note how people other than the celebrant of the party may also be sprayed with money.
Chima0bi, 2008
"Yes.. why would you spray with 100 dollar bills? Sure there are a few people that can and will do it.. but why would you show off? If you change $100 into $1 bills you can spray longer than others.."

From my online reading it appears that spraying money originated among the Yoruba people of Nigeria, then spread to some other ethnic groups in that nation, and later spread to certain other nations in West Africa. Note these comments from the Nigerians Spraying Dollars video viewer comment thread:

iroc31407, 2009
"do any other countries in west africa practice this, or is it just a Nigerian custom?"
ConsciousKarma. 2009
"I went to a Gambian wedding and they did it there...not just naija"
Editor: "Naija" is a colloquial referent for "Nigeria". "Naija" is often written "9ja".
Aphrocentrik, 2012
"Yea, well other African countries are starting to pick it up now...but it is originally a Nigerian thing."
Glam Gal, 2010
"Cameroonians spray money" ·
Furthermore, from at least one video* that I found of an Eritrean wedding, it appears that the custom of spraying money might also occur among African people who are not from West Africa.

*Click Eritrea: Isaias & Roma´s Wedding, tolo biri, Stockholm, Sweden for a 2008 video of an Eritrean wedding in Sweden. That video and selected comments from its YouTube viewer comment thread will be showcased in a subsequent post in thie blog's ongoing series on spraying money.

It should be mentioned that spraying money isn't the same thing as the European custom of money dancing. Here's some information about that custom from
"The money dance, dollar dance, or apron dance is an event at some wedding receptions in various cultures. During a money dance, male guests pay to dance briefly with the bride, and sometimes female guests pay to dance with the groom. The custom originated in Poland in the early 1900s in immigrant neighborhoods.

Sometimes guests are told that the money will be used for the bride and groom's honeymoon or to give them a little extra cash with which to set up housekeeping."
In contrast to that European custom, the African custom of showering a person with money has nothing whatsoever to do with dancing with the person who receives that money.

It should also be mentioned that in Nigeria and probable in other African nations, everyone doesn't approve of the custom of spraying money. For example, some engaged couples request that there be no money spraying at their engagement ceremony.

Also, note in this news article that Nigerian vocalist King Wasiu Ayinde (K1) initially banned spraying at his concert in the United States because that custom made it difficult for fans to view his performance. However, because Nigerian fans were outraged at this stance, the vocalist changed his mind and allowed spraying at his other American concerts.

It's my position that the African American custom of pinning dollars on the top of the clothing of a person celebrating her or his birthday derives from the African custom of spraying money. However, beside comments from other persons, I've found no online documentation to substantiate this position.

Umemulo, the South African (Zulu) coming of age ceremony for females at age 21 [traditionally at puberty] involves the custom of pinning cash money to the female's hat.*

Click for information about this ceremony. Here's an excerpt from that article:
"The father or elder brother then leads [the young woman from whom the umemulo is held] to the center of the gathering where she dances with the other girls, carrying a spear.

She blows a whistle in order to ask for monetary contributions, and whenever she blows a whistle she approaches a prospective donor who then puts money in her hat. The hat has many pins with which to clip the money so that it does not get blown away by the wind. The girl blows the whistle and points at each person in turn until everybody has made a contribution. Each of the spectators is therefore expected to carry some bank notes, just in case they get selected to make a contribution. When the hat is completely covered with the bank notes and the girl has received contributions from everybody, she is then led back into the house".
This custom may have developed independently from the (probably) Nigerian originated custom of spraying money which is the likely source of the African American custom of pinning birthday dollars.

*Several videos of umemulo are on Youtube. However, because some of the females in those videos are topless, I decided not to post those videos or their links. I made this decision because of the possibility of these post being used as supplemental educational resources and the fact (in the USA anyway) that those types of videos would make those post unacceptable for students' use.

Click,8599,1188536,00.html"Africa's New Kind of Money Laundering" for one online article on the widespread custom spraying money in Nigeria, West Africa. Nigerian Celebrations - The Money Spraying

Here are links to some other pancocojams posts that feature videos of money spraying: Money Spraying At A Yoruba Engagement Ceremony (Wedding)

** Money spraying at a Nigerian Igbo Engagement Ceremony (Wedding).

** an article about the African American custom of pinning birthday dollars, and a video of spraying money at a Yoruba birthday party

** for a video of a Yoruba Engagement Ceremony.

Thanks to producer of this featured video and to the authors & commenters that are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. I saw the Malian singer Oumou Sangare at the 2003 Folklife Festival in Washington DC. When she came to the stage she was showered with money by the many people from Mali and other African countries as she processed through the front of the audience. It was very exciting and a wonderful performance.