Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups that are scattered around the country, and all these groups have unique culture. People of Nigeria have this aura about them that can never be overlooked, which include culture and traditions. Learning about the lifestyle culture of these Nigerian ethnic groups helps you appreciate them better. In this review of the lifestyle and culture of Nigerian tribes, the lifestyle culture of Ijaw people is our focus. Join me as we explore this Nigerian ethnic group that has many languages!
About The Ijaw Nation
Ijaw people are located in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. They can be found in Ondo, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Akwa Ibom and Rivers states. According to Wikipedia, many Ijaw people are found as migrant fishermen in camps as far west as Sierra Leone and as far east as Gabon. With a population of over fourteen million, the Ijaws are unarguably the most populous Niger Delta tribe. Arguably, they are also said to be the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria.
The Ijaw speak nine closely related Niger–Congo languages, all of which belong to the Ijoid branch of the Niger–Congo tree. Izon is the most important of the group of languages. and it is spoken by about five million people. The other major Ijaw linguistic group is Kalabari.
Lifestyle Culture of Ijaw People
The Ijaw ethnic group consists of 51 closely affiliated clans. Membership of these clans is based on kinship lines, shared cultural and religious traditions, and acculturation.
Ijaw people were one of the first of Nigeria’s peoples to have contact with Westerners. They were active as go-betweens in the slave trade between visiting Europeans and the peoples of the interior. This was the era when West Africa was still known as the “White Man’s Graveyard” because of the endemic presence of malaria.
Some of the kin-based trading lineages that arose among the Ijaws developed into what is known as “houses.” Each house had an elected leader as well as a fleet of war canoes for use in protecting trade and fighting rivals. Traditionally, fishing and farming are the main occupations common among the Ijaws. The Ijaw people live by fishing supplemented by farming paddy-rice, plantain, cassava, yam, cocoyam, banana. Other crops they cultivate include vegetables and tropical fruits such as guava, mangoes and pineapples. Smoke-dried fish, timber, palm oil and palm kernels are processed for export.
Although the Ijaw majority is Christian, traditional religious elements are still making the rounds. For Ijaw people, it is crucial to hold in reverence the reminiscence of ancestors and religious traditions. One of the most prominent idols is one of the water spirits called Owuamapu. Ijaw people believe that water spirits are just like humans, they have their accomplishments and imperfections.
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Ijaw Cuisine & Attire
Like many ethnic groups in Nigeria, Ijaw people have many local foods that are not widespread in Nigeria. Many of these foods include yams and plantains, as well as fish and other seafoods like clams, oysters and periwinkles. One such food is Onunu, a dish made with pounded yams and boiled overripe plantains. It is mostly enjoyed by the Kalabaris.
Other meals synonymous with Ijaw people include Ignabeni (a watery soup prepared with either yam or plantain seasoned with herbs, pepper, goat meat, and fish) and Kekefiyai (a pottage made with chopped unripen (green) plantains, fish, & other seafood.
When it comes to dress, Ijaw attires are pretty similar to the traditional attires of the Itsekiri and Isoko people. The fashion style of Nigerians in general is pretty unique and colourful. Their native clothing are magnificent and they are very proud of their heritage. A typical daily clothing of a Ijaw man would usually comprise of a shirt and trouser made of wax material.
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Some Ijaw Festivals
Seigbein Fishing Festival Sagbama – celebrated every 27th May. This is an age-long annual tradition held at the Seigben Ogugu Lake in Amassoma, Bayelsa State. It is usually graced by beautiful dance performances of the Egbelegbele dance troupe among others. Other major activities that accompany the festival include a ‘Love Boat Party’ and singing.
EREMUTORU FESTIVAL – This is a festival that is held in Peretoru in Ekeremor LGA. It usually holds December through – 2nd of January every year. This festival is very popular among the Ijaw people living in Ekeremor settlements.
As we have seen, the lifestyle culture of Ijaw people in the Niger Delta is quite. Did you enjoying reading about the lifestyle culture of Ijaw people? What do you think about their culture and history? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.