Nigerian Culture: The culture of Nigeria is shaped by Nigeria’s multiple ethnic groups. The country has over 50 languages and over 250 dialects and ethnic groups. The three largest ethnic groups are the Hausa-Fulani who are predominant in the north, the Igbo who are predominant in the south-east, and the Yoruba who are predominant in the southwest.
The Edo people are predominant in the region between Yoruba land and Igbo land. Much of the Edo tends to be Christian while the remaining 25 percent worship deities called Ogu. This group is followed by the Ibibio/Annang/Efik people of the coastal southeastern Nigeria and the Ijaw of the Niger Delta.
The rest of Nigeria’s ethnic groups (sometimes called ‘minorities’) are found all over the country but especially in the middle belt and north. The Hausa tend to be Muslim and the Igbo are predominantly Christian. The Efik, Ibibio, Annang people are mainly Christian. The Yoruba have a balance of members that are adherent to both Islam and Christianity. Indigenous are often blended with Christian beliefs.
Nigerian Culture: Cultural Diversity and Common Ties
It is popularly believed that Nigeria has about three hundred fifty linguistic groups Language is the vehicle for creating and mastering the complex realities that define any geographical expression. It is the most dynamic element of any culture or society. Languages are vital for transmitting knowledge, world views and verbal arts over the years. These languages and the cultures they transmit are however not barriers but bridges of understanding and mutual cooperation across their respective frontiers which differentiates them as entities sometimes referred to as “ethnic nationalities”. Some super structures are known to have grown which help to mediate the diversities and channel them into harmonies and unity. This is why today we talk about “Unity in Diversity”. Examples of such include, dress modes, inter-ethnic marriages, shared religious beliefs and practices as well as commerce. People have equally developed interest in other cultures to the extent of speaking different languages and taking names from other cultures for their children.
In the area of dressing, Nigeria is characterized by the diversity of its traditional attires. It is fashionable for Nigerians to wear the traditional dresses of their regions or ethnic groups of origin. The Igbo men from southeast geo- political region for instance are known for their red caps just as the hat is a peculiar feature of men’s traditional wears in the Niger Delta region. In Benue State the “Ange” cloth characterized by its zebra-like black and white stripes is used by the Tiv people while their Idoma neighbours wear similar clothes with red and black stripes. But it is not uncommon for Nigerians to adopt particular attires from other regions which have become very popular. The ensemble “Baban riga” (or “Agbada”), “Buba” and “Shokoto”, completed with a cap to match, or the “Kaftan” which are popular among the men-folk in the north (predominantly Hausa/Fulani) are now worn by people from other parts of the country. In western Nigeria, the Yoruba brand of the “Agbada”, “Buba”, “Shokoto”, with the cap to match, has become popular too.
The recently introduced attire, referred to as “resource control”, which was initially associated with men from the Niger-Delta region has today become a common outfit across the length and breadth of Nigeria. As for the women- folk, the “Buba”, “Iro”, “Gele”, “Ipele” have been adopted across the regions with minor nuances of style. Although attached to the uniqueness of the traditional attires of their places of origin, Nigerians are also simple lovers of beauty and so do not hesitate to adopt a fashion or an object of beauty that appeals to them. Most of these cloths are products of hand-woven fabrics such as “Akwete”, “Aso-Oke”, “Batik”, “Tie and Dye”, “Ota- ochi”. These materials are the vogue in the textile industry. Nigerians have carved a niche for themselves in the fashion world. The use of “Ankara” materials by both men and women sets Nigerians apart in fashion at home and internationally.
Nigerian Culture: Literary and Performing Arts
Writers and performing artistes, the world over are regarded as the “cultural engineers” of the society. This is because they help to create and lubricate the fabrics of societal stands and joints through their creativity. Literary arts in Nigeria, has enjoyed greater patronage since Independence in 1960. With the increasing documentation of folklore and traditions, the literary arts, has witnessed a phenomenal growth. This has equally given prominence to Nigerian authors and scholars within and outside the country.
These literary icons include Wole Soyinka, the first Black writer to win the Noble Prize of literature in 1986, late Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, John Pepper Clark, Gabriel Okara, Abubakar Imam, Flora Nwapa, Zulu Sofola, Amos Tutuola, Chukwemeka Ike, Elechi Amadi, Chimamandia Adiche to mention these few. This development has encouraged script writers to have a reservoir of materials for film scripts used especially by Nollywood film producers.
Nigerian Culture: Nigerian Cuisine and Gastronomy
The Nigeria culinary practice is as diverse as the country’s ethnic groups. Every ethnic group is associated with particular cuisine which they hold as dear to them. The major traditional dishes and delicacies which have become national heritage include: Edikaikon, Okoho, Fufu, Tuwo, Akpu, Suya, Kilishi ,Gbegeri, Owo, Bush meat, Fura de nunu, Kunu, Amala, Eba, Pounded yam. Today, Nigerians from various cultures prefer these foods to the western or so called continental dishes. The popular snacks include Akara, Boli and Corn (boiled, popped or roasted). The beauty in the Nigerian experience is that guests are fed generously.
Nigerian Culture: Nigerian Arts and Craft in Building Decoration and Landscaping
It is not particularly an easy exercise to draw a straight line of demarcation between arts and crafts. This is usually so because the same artist (genius) who produced the beautiful bronze head, could be involved in the production of ornaments of brass, just as the same carver who produced a door panel could be involved in making stool, comb or ritual drum. It is however accepted that the first product by the same artist from a mould represents an art, while subsequent products from that same mould are classified as craft, though coming from the same artist.
Each product is intended for a specific usage. Generally, climate, geography and religious factors play vital role in art or craft production as the main motive or idea was utility and aesthetic satisfaction. These factors are equally responsible for the decoration of such objects of everyday use, for example granary, door panels, bowls, knife handle, drinking horns, special design of the rulers roofs and walls (interior and exterior), etc.
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Nigerian craftsmen have been in their trade for over two thousand years. Their efforts are known to have produced the terra-cotta and iron smelting tradition of Nok, Ife, Igbo- ukwu and Benin bronze respectively. These high quality works of art represent the evidence of early civilization in Nigeria. The works of art enjoy patronage especially from the royal palaces and homes of wealthy personalities in the Nigerian society. Such patronage encouraged the production of state swords, sceptres, royal drums, ivory ornaments, whisks fans beaded handles, crowns and various royal regalia. A few examples may suffice.
Calabash carving is a prominent craft practice with long standing tradition in Nigeria. For instance, Old Oyo is well associated with this practice as well as some communities in Plateau, Bauchi, Sokoto, Adamawa and Bornu states. They produced burnt or engraved geometric designs on calabashes which are widely used and marketed across the country. These crafts now enjoy patronage in many African countries. This craft item is sometimes used as wall hanging, so also are raffia based crafts.
In the area of buildings decorated with arts and crafts, Nigeria has a long tradition of such practice. This is where door panels, wooden and stone objects are utilised as “Installation Art” pieces. It is a common feature these days to see beautiful art displays and expression on edifices across the country. Most of these designs utilise marble materials as “Mosaïc”. There are also giant art works in front of edifices, developed from wood, bronze, Iron and Fibre. An example of this art expression is the giant art work at the defunct NEPA building in Lagos.
In Nigeria, landscaping appears to be incomplete without works of art. This is why most round abouts across the country are adorned with giant art pieces. Some of these works tell the tourist about the dominant cultural activities of the people of the region. For example, a tourist entering Makurdi the Capital of Benue State is presented with an art expression that this is the “Food Basket of the Nation”. These decorations depict Nigerians as lovers of beautiful environment and as people endowed with creativity.
Nigerian Culture: Contemporary Painting and Sculpture
The creative inspirations of early civilization such as the Nok, Ife, Benin and Igbo-Ukwu presented the foundation and platform for the creative evolution of cycles and generations of modern artists in Nigeria. Art traditions which started with traditional carvers have today metamorphosed into contemporary art with “western-trained” artists. Nigeria has since Independence produced five generations of modern artists. What started with people like Aina Onabolu has produced young artists like Samuel Onyilo, Paul Oluwole, etc.These artists were trained in Art Schools in Nigeria.
In the area of painting, their works cover a wide range of colours and expressions. These expressions or art forms use water colours and acrylics to produce wide range of techniques. Some undertake a technique known as wood burning or mixed media. Nigerian sculptors are very outstanding in their art forms and expressions. They produce works on wood, Iron, Bronze and Stones among other features. Their works are found in major galleries and private homes globally, some of their commissioned works adorn major round-about in most cities across the country. The patronage covers private individuals, companies and government agencies.
Nigerian Culture: Traditional Music and Dance
The development of modern music and dance had their foundation or origins in the traditions of the various communities in Nigeria. Different communities are known to have their music and dance forms, which they use for entertaining themselves and important guests. Every occasion or event attracts its own form of music. There is music for entertaining workmen in farms drums, especially with double membrane, on hollow wood produce the music and is supported by the gong, horns and trumpets. There is music for naming ceremony, installation of kings and at burials. Both genders are involved, cutting across generations. For example the Idoma of Benue state, have the “Ajah”, Oghrinye, Odumu and Ichicha to mention a few.
Their Tiv neighbours have the Swange and Kwagh-hir ; Atilogu and Nkponkiti is common in southeast ; Sakara, Bata, Sato, Ponse, Yemoja, Gelede, is popular in southwest; while Chalawa, Dabe, Goje hold sway in the northeast and northwest respectively; and Igbabo is well known in Edo State (south-south region).
Nigeria is famous for its English language literature, apart from English language being its international language, pidgin is also a lingua franca that was common among illiterates and the street touts who cannot speak the formal English but nowadays everybody including the rich and the poor, the literates and the illiterates all speak Pidgin English which is a picture of English and other slang like ‘How you dey’ instead of ‘How are you’ and its popular music. Since the 1990s the Nigerian movie industry, sometimes called “Nollywood” has emerged as a fast growing cultural force all over the continent. All over the country, and even increasingly in the conservative north, western music, dresses and movies are ever popular.
Nigerian Culture: Entertainment industry Nollywood and Nigerian music.
Nollywood emerged in 1992 and quickly imposed itself as one of the world’s largest film industries. Today, it comes just behind “Hollywood and “Bollywood”, American and Indian film industries respectively. It is a unifying brand for practitioners in scripting, directing, sound, High Definition (HD) techniques, acting, cinematography, make-up, editing, etc. in Nigeria, Nollywood is the Nigerian national movie industry articulated around a few major production centres like Lagos, Onitsha, Enugu, Asaba and Abuja. The distribution of the films also hinge on these same production centres as well as other major distribution points in Nigeria such as Aba.
The movie “Living in Bondage” by Mr. Kenneth Nnebue was the bold step that made a journey of a million miles worth embarking upon. Today, looking behind to its trail blazing achievements, Nollywood with its sister – Nigerian Music Industry, is proud to take the world stage, by identifying its relevance and essence in filling the gap created by the dearth of quality productions in the local television channels and radio stations, Nollywood has established itself as a major cultural and economic force in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. The entertainment industry which they constitute accounted for over 1.4% of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013 and this figure is fast growing.
Nollywood today boasts an impressive number of star actors and actresses as well as film producers. Suffice it to mention a few names as examples: Pete Edochie, Olu Jacobs, Nkem Owoh (alias Osuofia or Ukwa), Segun Arinze, Francis Duru, the famous duo Chidi Ikedieze and Osita Iheme, Desmond Eliot, Emeka Ike, Ojoho Ouafor, etc. are among the outstanding actors, while actresses who have become familiar house-hold names include Patience Uzokwor, Rita Dominic, Genevieve Nnaji, Ini Edo, Omotala J. Ekeinde, Ngozi Ezeonu, Mercy Johnson, Stephanie Okereke Linus, Funke Akindele, Uche Jumbo, Joke Silva etc.
The music fact of the entertainment industry has waxed relatively strong, expanding year after year, turning in billions of naira to the economy. There is no gainsaying the fact that music is part of our every- day life and, more or less, an integral part of visual and audio media productions, including soundtracks in both local and foreign movies. With an apparently inexhaustible stream talents and capacity to innovate, the Nigerian music industry is one that can neither be hindered by economic depression nor lack relevance.
Nigerian music has the necessary resources to rule the air waves of not only Nigeria but also the length and breadth of Africa and the world at large. It is noteworthy that the number of stakeholders in the Nigerian music business is ever increasing. The stakeholders include artistes, musicians, producers, promoters, managers, distributors, marketers, etc. In the past six years, interestingly, the growing numbers of new production studios and artistes springing up has paved way for a more vibrant and self-sustaining industry. A lot of Nigerian artistes are already enjoying cooperate sponsorship for their unique talents and achievements. Some have recorded landmark albums sale, sometimes running into hundreds of thousands of copies.
Others have won prestigious awards in international contests and events, hence attracting more and more investments from very many sources. The investments have no doubt aided production of world class quality music as a result of innovations in sounds, rhythms and recording techniques Pace-setters, Nigerian musicians have developed a vast spectrum of music genres, blending hip-hop, rap, rhythm and blues, reggae, gospel, etc. with traditional Nigerian beats and instruments. Some of the popular names include 2-Face Idibia, P- Square, Davido, Timaya, Tiwa Savage, M.I, Bracket, Olamide, Flavour, Wizkid, D’Banj, Kcee, Asa, Skales, Don Jazzy, MC Galaxy, Yemi Alade, Patoranking, etc. A good number have also made name in Gospel music: Chris Morgan, Panam Percy Paul, Yinka Ayefele, Frank Edward, Sinach etc.