Culture is defined as the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. This includes the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in these groups. Nigeria is a country with over 250 ethnic groups, and learning about some of these ethnic groups will help you understand them better. Join me as we explore the lifestyle culture of Edo and Efik people of Nigeria.
Lifestyle Culture: Edo People
Edo or Bini people is an ethnic group primarily found in Edo State, Nigeria. The language they speak is the Edo language, and they are the descendants of the founders of the Benin Empire. They are closely related to other ethnic groups such as the Esan, the Afemai, the Isoko and the Urhobo.
The Edo live in compact village settlements ranging in size from small hamlets to towns of several thousand people. They subsist primarily on yams, supplemented by corn (maize), plantains, cassava, and other vegetables. Livestock includes goats, sheep, dogs, and fowl, used mainly for sacrificial offerings. Brass casting, wood carving, leatherworking, and weaving ceremonial cloth are traditional crafts.
In the Edo village setting, the males are divided into three age-sets. Boys enter the junior age grade in their early teens and perform communal tasks. Some of these tasks include clearing paths and caring for public buildings. Middle grade of adult males do more difficult tasks, such as roofing houses, and perform executive functions for the village council.
According to Britannica, the council decides on matters related to tax collection, collective tasks, religious festivals, relations with central authorities, and other community concerns. The nonhereditary village headman is usually the oldest man in the village; he also serves as priest of ancestral and earth spirits. A sacred king, the oba, was formerly the political, economic, and ritual head of state.
Many Edo are Christians or Muslims. Traditional religion includes belief in a remote creator, lesser gods, mythical or semi-mythical village heroes, and spirits of the dead. Edo people have one of the richest dress cultures on the African continent. Their fashion accessories holds royalty and typically includes red beads, body marks, bangles, anklets, raffia work and so on.
Edo People Cuisine
The popular traditional food among Edo people is pounded yam or eba eaten with vegetable, melon or okra soups. These soups can be cooked with either bush meat (Antelope, Pig and Grasscutter etc), beef or fish. Yam and rice, which are grown in the state is also eaten with other varieties of soup and meat or fish throughout the state. Garri, which comes in white or yellow variants can be eaten or soaked in water and accompanied with beans, meat, fish, groundnuts etc.
Some Edo Festivals
Igue festival – originally celebrated as a festival to renew Oba Ewuare’s magical powers. One tradition state that the festival date coincided with the marriage of Ewuare to a wife named Ewere. Celebrated between Christmas and New Year, the festival includes the Oba’s blessing of the land and his people. During the Igue ritual season, the Oba is prohibited from being in the presence of any non-native person.
Ukpe Festival – is celebrated in June by all the villages comprising Ewohiwi to mark the end of one year and the beginning of another. Homage is paid to ancestors to express gratitude to them for protecting the people throughout the year. The festival is for a four-day duration and held separately by the various village-firstly by Idumuagbor and lastly by Ikeken. The celebration features entertainment, service at the ancestral shrines, exchange of gift and traditional dancing.
Lifestyle Culture: Efik People
The Efik are an ethnic group located primarily in southern Nigeria, in the southern part of Cross River State. The Efik speak the Efik language, and they are culturally and linguistically related to the Ibibio people. Efik oral histories tell of their migration down the Cross River from Arochukwu during the first half of the 17th century. Their migration led to the establishment of Creek Town, Duke Town, and other settlements.
Because of a European error in confusing their territory with that of the Kalabari Ijo (known as New Calabar), the Efik area became known as Old Calabar. Originally a fishing community, Old Calabar developed into a major trading centre from the 17th to the 19th century, exporting slaves and later palm oil in return for European goods.
During the 20th century a large part of the Efik population moved from the towns and settled in farming villages in the forest. The staple foods are yams and cassava, supplemented by taro, corn, fruits and vegetables, and fish.
Households formerly consisted of a man, his several wives, and their children, but polygamy has become relatively rare. Once organized according to male descent, groups of households now are formed into houses, whose leader is chosen for ability rather than age. Related houses occupy the wards into which settlements are divided.
Efik women’s main dresses are the onyonyo and the ofod ukod anwang. They are mostly used as bridal outfits. The onyonyo is a long gown. It has been suggested that the onyonyo’s resemblance of Victorian gowns is as a result of the influence of the Scottish missionary Mary Slessor. The ofod ukod anwang includes a sleeveless top and short skirt, both accessorized with coral beads and fuzzy ornaments decorating the arms and legs. The wearer has arm and leg beads and a necklace of coral beads. Indeed, the lifestyle culture of Edo and Efik people are very beautiful spectacles!
Some Efik People Foods
Ekpang Nkukwo – basically a cocoyam pottage. This is a special delicacy made in a time-consuming process where the cocoyam or water yam is grated and wrapped in cocoyam leaves or another leafy green. After that, it is simmered with various types of fresh or smoked meat, fish, crayfish and red oil until it is cooked to perfection.
Edikang Ikong – arguably the Efik’s best-known food export. It is a thick, delicious soup made with waterleaf and Pumpkin leaf. There is also a selection of meats and seafood added according to taste. Because it is so well-known, there are now many variations that are not true to the original Efik recipe. The Efik certainly need no help with their age-old recipe because the original will have you nearly biting off your fingers with delight. This soup is always served with pounded yam, fufu, eba or even rice and plantain.
Some Efik Festivals
ABANG DANCE – “Abang” means “pot” symbolizing fertility. It is believed that the Efiks adapted the name Abang, because of their allegiance to their earth goddess Abasi Isong. The goddess is credited for the abundance resources, fertile land for growing crops and clay for pottery. Abang dance displays beauty and femininity emphasizing on flexibility and grace. It is a dance of space, rhythm and unity that attracts and holds the attention of the audience, giving them the appearance of lightness and balance.
The Ekpe Festival – a powerful bond of union among the Efik, and one that gives them considerable influence. As reported, the Ekpe masquerade is one of the iconic visible spectacles in Efik Society. This is a characteristic feature of Efik culture together with the ubiquitous Ekombi dancers. The Ekpe masquerade is celebrated by many as representing the indigenous spiritual soul and socio-cultural philosophy of the Efik people.
As we have seen, the lifestyle culture of the Edo and Efik tribes in Nigeria are interesting. In the next article, we look at culture of the other notable tribes in Nigeria. What do you think about the lifestyle culture of the Edo and Efik people of Nigeria? Your comments are welcome below.