Nupe land is made up of an agrarian population, where the economy and social life revolve round agriculture. The people are active farmers. Major crops grown are rice, sorghum, sugar cane, millet, melon, vegetables, yam, homestead livestock management and fishing.Cassava, maize, and sweet potatoes (grown inland) are of secondary importance. The large proportion of seasonally flooded (fadama) land has allowed a greater emphasis on growing rice, sugarcane, and onions. This has encouraged the establishment of commercial growing and refining of sugar at Bacita. The Nupe practice hoe agriculture, using a large, heavy hoe called a zuku and a small hoe called dugba. The Nupe system of agriculture is based on shifting cultivation combined with rotation of crops. The low population densities and less intense form of agriculture allowed more of the original savanna to survive, and woodland products are significant, particularly from the shea-butter tree and the locust-bean tree. There are many fishermen in the villages on the banks of the Niger and Kaduna rivers and their tributaries. Food processing is entirely done women. Also,marketing of farm produce is in the hands of women. Cattle raising is engaged in the Bororo Fulani, who move their herds from one pasture to another as necessity dictates.
A major staple food that is common to many households in Nupe land is rice. This is prepared either as joloff rice or in the form of “eje boci” (mashed) rice. The reason for this development is due to the fact that majority of the farmers both within and around fadama lands (Low land marshy areas) which allow for the cultivation of rice, in communities like Jima, Doko, Edozhigi, Bacita, Katcha, Gbara etc have rice production as a major and profitable venture. Hence, the explanation why rice is a common feature in households’ diet
in Nupeland. Another delicacy that goes with rice is fish; both smoked and fresh fish are in abundance, especially from adjoining tributaries around Rivers Niger and Kaduna. All villages and towns around the bank of these rivers and other smaller rivers engage in fishing activities all year round.
It is a tradition in Nupe land to welcome visitors with delicious meals from rice and fish soup. Also, during ceremonies such as naming or marriage ceremonies as well as festivals like Sallah (end of Ramadan) Id-El-fir or Id-Kabir celebrations, rice feast is a common feature.
Other food types include mashed meal “eje boci” which Hausas refers to as “tuwo” from –sorghum, millet, and maize. These are served on alternate basis with beans, cooked yam, potatoes and garri. Sometimes beans is mixed with “Yiwara” (ground sorghum) or millet sprinked on beans after conversion into paste form. Other common foods are porridge from millet, sorghum or maize called “Kunu”. This is consumed along with certain snacks like akara (bean cake), “masa” sorghum cake, “mashe” (early millet cake) or “Dankuwa” special confectionery from a combination of fried ground nut and maize and lastly Kuli-Kuli made from groundnut after extraction of groundnut oil, where the paste from that process is fried; this is popular with students as African “biscuit”. These snacks are very important in Nupeland because they facilitate “casual” eating especially among children when they like to soak garri and drink along with these snacks of interest. Most significantly, they are used to take breakfast when served as porridge. This also brings to focus, the consumption of “left over” (Jekun) that is cooked with fresh ingredients. Jekun is the second cooking of leftover food from previous supper. This left-over is from “eje boci” (mashed food) of rice, millet, sorghum or maize origin.
Several dishes are served with specific soups in Nupeland. Some of these soups are stew made of tomatoes with either meat, chicken or fish. It is good for all kinds of food; it goes with “eje boci”, white rice, yam, etc. Other soups are Ezowa (bean soup) significant for “eje boci” from rice and vegetable soup that is sometimes mixed with melon that is served along with “eje boci” rice. Others are Ningbana (from liquid ground sorghum). Ningbana is delicious if served with left-over (Jekun) second cooking of left-over food. Other common soups are from Herbiscus Sobderifa (Calyx) known as “Emagi”, Okro soup, Baobab leaf soup (Kuka) among others. One significant soup ingredient in Nupe land is “Kula” processed locust bean that is Nupe’s version of “Dadawa” (Hausa) and “Iru” (Yoruba).
The traditional industries, especially guild-organized crafts in which membership is largely hereditary, are done men. These trades include blacksmithing, brass and silver smithing, glassmaking, weaving, beadwork, building, woodcarving, and carpentry. Nupe brasssmiths (tswata muku) are found mostly in Bida. The woodcarving tradition of the Nupe does not depend on the ceremonial or ritual use of artifacts but is almost entirely “art for art’s sake.”
The development of cash crops has involved mostly foodstuffs for the Nigerian market rather than industrial crops for exportation overseas. Nupeland was an important market center on trade routes. Those ancient trade routes have given way to motor roads and railways. Nupe exports rice, kola nuts, smoked fish, palm kernels, shea nuts, shea butter, groundnuts, and craft items to other parts of Nigeria and imports palm oil, salt, southern kola nuts, and livestock.
Division of Labor
A Nupe woman’s obligations as a wife are to prepare meals for the family, perform child care, wash clothes, and bring firewood and water. Women spin, weave, cook food for sale at the market, or practice hairdressing. Men perform the primary productive activity, such as cultivating or transplanting crops; women occasionally assist in the harvesting. Women are in charge of preparing and marketing agricultural produce. The division of labor is flexible, and couples generally help each other when necessary.
Nupe women carrying load on their head
Under traditional conditions only men can hold or claim land. Lands were apportioned the village head among the heads of families. The family head granted the right of occupancy to members of his family. Land cannot be sold, but it may be redistributed after the migration of the holder or the extinction of the family. The small individual plots (buca) are situated near the village, and the larger family plots (efako) some distance away. Old men who own plots are given preference locating their plots near the village so that they do not have to walk too far
Marriage and Family
Traditionally, marriage could be contracted in one of two ways: The would-be bridegroom asked for the consent of the girl (sometimes the girl suggested to her father whom she wanted to marry), or the marriage was arranged the heads of the families. Polygynous marriages were very common both before and after the introduction of the Islamic faith. Marriage involves the payment of a bride-price the groom, and postmarital residence is patrilocal. Marriage has no real meaning without procreation. Barrenness is regarded as a curse and a misfortune, and traditional means are utilized to secure fertility or cure barrenness. Divorce rarely occurs because men want to avoid the publicity and ridicule of divorce proceedings in Alkali court (Islamic court). Most marriages are terminated only the death of a spouse. Widows must remain in the compound for five months before they can remarry.
Marriage in Nupe Culture
Among the Nupes, marriage is a sacred institution which is contracted between a man and a woman. The two people involved are referred to as “eba yawo and yawo” meaning husband and wife.
In the earlier Nupe tradition, young boys and girls did not on their own choose who to marry. This arrangement was left for the two families to decide on behalf of their children. However, this has changed significantly over the last three decades. Young boys and girls now meet and agree with one another before they involve their parents. However, one thing is very clear, the practice follows mutual understanding, consent and approval of both parents. It is against this background that when the boy’s family wants to ask for the hand in marriage of a girl (desire to marry their daughter) to their son that one of the elders or a family friend (Rinna) is sent on delegate mission to meet with the girl’s family. The Rinna is very important in Nupe marriage; he is the intermediary between the two families, though with paramount interest of the boy’s family.
At the inception of negotiations, the Rinna goes to see the girl’s family on a mission called “Egi wa” meaning seeking for marriage of a girl.
This mission is accompanied with Kola-nut and some money as evidence. The girl’s family collects the items and a reply will follow sooner or later. This is marked the distribution of these Kolanuts and money (no matter how little) to immediate family members and distant relations of the girl’s family announcing that their daughter Miss A is now blessed with a husband, which the family after due consultations and investigations will finally approve of.
The next stage now is for the Rinna to broadcast same to the boy’s family that mission has been accomplished, marking a good begin-ning. Therefore, the boy and his friends will now carry on a special visit called “emisa” (greetings) to the girl’s family to show appreciation for such approval. This visit affords members of the girl’s family to know their son – in – law. The period usually attracts a lot of jokes from older women in the girl’s compound who will claim to be the first wife, hence, a big challenge for their future
bridegroom or son-in-law. Infact, some will even go ahead to assess in joking pattern, his completion, physique and handsome looks. That is not a problem, as majority of Nupe people have similar looks – handsome, sociable and peaceloving. In the post-jihadist movement, there has been no reported communal, religious, ethnic or political upheaval of any magnitude in Nupeland. Hence, Nupe people are models in peaceful coexistence.
The subsequent stages are related to the wedding plans. These start with the negotiation of “Ewo yawo” (bride – price) which differs from one Nupe zone to another but majority are in accordance with the tenets of Islam. After a specific amount is agreed upon, the Rinna ensures prompt payment and other charges are
set aside like “Godiyagi” (small thanks) and “Godiyako” (big thanks). The amounts are used to show appreciation to relatives and the girl’s parents respectively. The later in addition to other resources the girl’s parents can afford are used to acquire wedding gifts such as plates, cooking utensils, dresses and new cloths for their beloved daughter. Any sacrifice in this direction is not too much. This is because in Nupe custom there is a wise saying that “The daughter of a bride must also become a bride” many women look forward to this land-mark event in their lives.
When all the conditions are fulfilled and the girl reaches puberty and is assumed “matured” to undertake maternal responsibilities, the Rinna meets with the boy’s family to decide on the month of the year they want the marriage ceremony. He then communicates this to the girl’s family who will give approval after due consultations with other family members. Finally, a specific date is fixed in the approved month and the wedding proper is arranged.
On the night preceding the wedding date, the girl is formally initiated into marriage “yaworufa dan”. This date in the 19th Century up to the early 20th Century, is kept secret and the girl does not know about it. However, things have since changed, that not only are Kola-nuts distributed to all well-wishers from both sides openly, but also, the introduction of invitation card in accordance with the dictates of modern civilization characterizes Nupe marriage in the 21st Century.
On the wedding date, Mu’alims (Islamic scholars) are invited the girl’s parents to carry out the solemnization of their children’s wedding fatiha with representatives of the boy’s family in attendance and other well-wishers present to bear witness and share the joy of the occasion.After the pronouncement of the couple as husband and wife, celebrations follow all through the night. In some families, Islamic preaching is observed all night, while in a majority, beating of drums and folk songs are engaged in with well wishers joining the families in celebrations.
Late in the evening of the wedding fatiha, the new bride is prepared for the journey to her husband’s home. She goes round relatives to bid them farewell, that emotional moment is not always easy for both the bride and the parents as tears and prayers flow freely. Others give her final counselling and guidance for a successful marriage life. Then the parents finally handover the girl to Rinna (yawogo) and she is usually
accompanied a little girl and another married woman to her new home.
In the new home she is received into a newly prepared room the groom’s family. Here, another round of celebrations continue for the next 24 hours. This time around, it is merry making galore and the atmosphere becomes charged with dancing and singing as the common feature. In the traditional age-old Nupe culture, this ceremony may last between 5-7 days. But nowadays, the entire ceremony is completed within 24-48 hours. Several traditional practices in Nupe marriage have been jettisoned due to the enlightment created Islamic preaching and educational programmes.
In Christian communities, church wedding systems are adopted based on the teachings of each denomination. However, varying degrees of celebrations are observed in terms of entertainment and support friends, family and well-wishers.
The members of a household share a house and cook and eat together. Household size has declined as young people have migrated to towns to work or attend school. Most households consist of a nuclear family and relatives of the husband or wife. Children are often left in the care of grandparents when married couples move to town. In a polygynous setting each wife has her own hut or room, and in some cases all the women eat together. Maintaining a household requires the labor of both men and women. In times of economic hardship a mother may take over some of the financial duties of the household normally handled the father.
The deceased’s property is divided between his oldest son, other sons, full brothers, and daughter in decreasing proportions. If the children are very young, the money is held in trust for them. If the marriage did not produce children, a woman may inherit from her husband or the deceased’s brothers may forgo their right in her favor if they feel she has been a very good wife.
Infants and children are cared for both parents, grandparents, and older siblings. Emphasis is placed on sharing, cooperation, avoidance of quarrels, and respect toward one’s superiors. Children may be sent right to a boarding school for years, or their relatives may take them in, enroll them in school, and arrange their marriages. Children call these foster parents father and mother and when grown up visit them and give them money before visiting their biological parents.
Among the pre-Fulani (Islamic) Nupe the link with magic and myth, rituals and taboos, and the law of succession separated the king from his subjects. Fulani rule turned this semisacred kingship into strong rulership. The king became the highest rank holder in a royal nobility characterized precedence and promotion. The elimination of primogeniture provided a system of succession that allowed for a balance of power that could satisfy rivals.
The Fulani created emirs (kings), who in a loose sense became vassals of the Fulani Empire of Gwandu. Under British indirect rule in Nigeria the Etsu was still elected from the ranks of the royal princes gitsuzi and sarakizi (title royal and non-royal elites) and assisted a council of four.
The Etsu is the head of his government. He is responsible for law and order in his domain, carries out measures of administration, and tries certain legal cases, advised and guided the district officer in charge of the division. The appointment of a new Etsu was subject to confirmation the colonial governor of Nigeria, and in some cases the governor could depose the emir on the advice of the district officer. The Etsu Bida and other chiefs of the emirate are paid a salary in accordance with the importance of the office. Since the independence of Nigeria in 1960, the position of Nupe king has continued to be affected the political situation. However, the practice of compensating traditional rulers with salaries and confirmation of new appointments to the throne has continued under subsequent Nigerian governments..
Social control is geared toward ensuring social responsibility. Religious (desecration of sacred objects or places) and kinship (inheritance, violation of marriage rules, incest) offenses may result in ostracism or punishment the deity. Simpler offenses traditionally were settled reparation (gyara) or arbitration, and more serious offenses involving “criminal” cases called for formal judgment and punishment (sheri’a). The Koranic law introduced the Fulani was modified the British and continued to exist side side with customary law.
Precontact religion involved a variety of local deities and the honoring of ancestors. Among pre-Islamic Nupe veneration of the guardian spirit Gunu was the most widespread religious practice and represented the peak of ceremonial life. Animals are sacrificed in his honor, and their blood is poured out as a libation to him. Every eleven months the men go to his altar, where they kneel down and bow their foreheads to the ground. There is also a semireligious institution called Ndakogboiya, in which a man may complain of a wife’s conduct and beg that she be exposed, together with any other guilty party. The man then mounts a stilt and appears among the people, proclaiming their evil deeds and receiving propitiatory offerings of goats and fowl. The Ndakogboiya lost most of its efficacy when Islam replaced ancient religious beliefs.
Jubril, a Nupe king of about 1770, was the first to adopt Islam, though Islamic influence in the area may date back to 1700 c.e. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, under Etsu Mu’azu, the impact of Islam was felt through the activities of Mallam Dendo, who came to Nupeland as an emissary of the Fulani.
The indigenous Nupe dresses like “bente” under wear have been replaced modern pants and boxer shorts have replaced “Ganpegi” short knickers. It is also significant to note that due to the common mode of worship in Islam which requires long dress for prayers, the Nupe people are found of using the same type of dress common with Hausa people especially the “Babariga” (Big flowing Gown) and “Dan Kano” (long dress) that is now regarded as “Senegalese” because of the “over size” pattern of the dress.
Interestingly the Nupe youths are highly sociable and adventurous. Due to the inter-state travels and sojourn of these youths in cities like Lagos, Kaduna, Ilorin and Minna, they have brought along the western mode of dressing, for instance, wearing jeans-trousers and shirts to match.
Nupe people are generally lively and happy people. They enjoy entertainment in the form of music. Traditional music with folksongs are prominent features during marriage ceremonies at both the bride’s and groom’s houses. It is an occasion where friends and well-wishers come over to dance and spend money to the praise singers as a clear demonstration of love and best wishes. In the past, women dominate praise
singing in Bida areas, but men feature prominently in Lafiyagi area.
The foundation of Nupe Music is rooted in the original “Eyan dukun” (pot drum) and later “Gbagurasa”
bigger drum that can be hung on the shoulder. The woman who brought Nupe music to national and international recognition is late Hajiya Fatima Lolo.
Nupe music has served as a motivator in-group farming in the past, where Gbagurasa drum is used to praise men in action at the farm level on competitive execution of farm operations. In recent years, it has proved to be popular social mobilization tool. Recent experience in HIV/AIDS awareness campaign reveals that Nupe Angale Music is a viable tool for mobilizing people for change in Attitude, Knowledge and Practices.
At the time of the Fulani conquest the main forms of artistic expression included weaving, cotton spinning, and hairdressing women. Other art forms include embroidery, leatherwork, indigo dyeing, straw hat making, mat making, the manufacture of rope and twine, basketwork, and canoe building. These items are not marketed overseas. Drumming, singing, dancing, and oratory (including preaching) are also prevalent art forms
Therapeutic practices among the Nupe include the use of natural materials such as herbs, grasses, roots, and the leaves of trees, which are processed pulverizing, boiling, or mixing. The manufacture or application of medicine often involves invocations of the deity and sacrifices. The knowledge of medicine is transmitted through teaching and in some cases is considered hereditary. With Islam came Mal· lams, who administer cures and sell charms or amulets prepared in accordance with Islamic belief. Western medicine is practiced in hospitals and dispensaries, but the high cost of such treatment leads people to depend on traditional medicine.
Special Body Marks
In the past, apart from the facial marks that are still practised on a lower scale in some parts of Nupe land, other body marks are common. Some people still inflict body marks on their chests, shoulders and stomach. In the last decades women used to have tattoos but this custom is no longer practised.
One prominent mark is the neck mark that is associated with traditional treatment of sleeping sickness. It is believed that those who are not treated thus will be stunted in growth and sometimes could lead to mental illness. Now, this belief system is almost extinct as it is not common to see people with neck bandage or fresh neck incisions again as practised in the past.
The Nupes bear facial marks of different cuts that range from single vertical marks on both sides of the cheek (kpelle) to three horizontal cuts (eyagi). Sometimes the three horizontal cuts have additional three smaller vertical cuts all on both sides of the cheek. However, some others especially, the Kutigi people have a distinct single-long cut on the forehead (yegunla) and sometimes, additional three to five cuts on the chin (nungbe)
Death and Afterlife
After conversion to Islam the Nupe came to believe that life emanates from God and exists with God in the sky. At birth it is sent down when the child is in the womb, and at death “God takes it away.” During sleep body and life soul are separated temporarily; normally the soul will return to the body, but at times a person may die while asleep. Death is accompanied ceremonial observance. This is consistent with the Nupe religion, which emphasizes ends rather than beginnings. While Islam has reduced the incidence of extravagant burials, ritual elaboration at the death of old people continues, since “they have seen the world” and there is no cause for grief. Drumming, singing, dancing, and feasting accompany their death. This festive aspect is absent in the case of younger people, whose death makes “the heart ache.” The funeral includes the burial, called mba, and funeral rites performed after 8 days, 40 days, and 120 days in some cases. The number and scale of funeral rites vary with the age, sex, and status of the deceased. Old men and family heads and old women are buried in their sleeping rooms, beneath the floor; everyone else is buried in the space between the houses or the compound wall. Sometimes graves are built from concrete cement blocks to make them more permanent and keep the memory of the deceased alive.
- Confluence of Rivers Niger and Kaduna The confluence of Rivers Niger and Kaduna at Muregi shows a clear distinction, with marked differences showing River Kaduna, whitish in colour and River Niger greenish in colour. The two never mix as the confluence progresses down, until after several kilometers where the
influence of other smaller tributaries alters this natural process.
- Masaga Glass work in Bida
It is a wonderful tourist resort in Bida town. The glasswork involves melting of present day bottles as raw material. The melting process involves intense application of heat to the bottles under a furnace or local fire point in a traditional parlour (katamba) dedicated to melting bottles and glasswork. The broken bottles placed on fire normally melt into liquid product that is used to make different types of ornaments such as
bangles, bracelets, beads, snake like toys etc. Interestingly, only members of this family can melt and mould bottles in this Katamba. No other person outside the family of the glass workers can practise this trade.
- Other Tourist Attractions in Nupe Land
These are Kanji National Park and Mokwa Cattle Ranch.
POPULAR NUPE WISE SAYINGS
- If a child is found walking in the night, there is an elder behind him.
- If a child is climbing a tree with his hands relaxed, there is an elder holding and assisting him from below.
- A patient should not be in a hurry to sleep, there is enough opportunity ahead in the grave.
- They had wished you to sleep with hunger, but early the next morning you were seen eating prepared rice
left over with chicken.
- Nobody sows good seed and reaps evil, nor will anybody who sows evil ever reap good result. Whatever you sow is what you reap. Hence, you do not sow millet and reap sorghum.
- A child that answers for his father will be buried ahead of his father
- Nowadays, religious people are many, but Godly people are few.
- The person preserved God will definitely be left alone human being.
- You don’t go to the river with a basket, the way you go to the river with it is the same way you return with it.
- The son of the soil is doing a bad thing,
- Whatever is meant for a Toad does not climb up.
- Tough Aliyu Aliyu is like whirled wind, Aliyu is like thunderous rain, Aliyu stays on top of mountain and sees next year, Aliyu joined a canoe and the paddler says he is going down the slope, but Aliyu insists on moving up stream.
- Kuta Donbashi! (Worthy praise for the leader of fishermen) No man ever praises his wife, it is in the presence of a dog that an elephant enters the bush, and it is in her presence that the elephant will come out.
- It is only cricket you catch, hold and break its legs but not a scorpion.
- Richness is not hereditary, poverty too is not inherited, you can be rich today and get poor tomorrow and you can also be poor today and become rich tomorrow.
- If God relieves your burden throw away the carrier, but if human being should assist relieve your burden hold on to your carrier.
- He that assists others is only helping himself; equally, he that cheats on others is cheating himself because
whatever you do to others will be paid back to you.
- Who is a blind man deceiving that he is sleeping? Is there any difference between when he is awake or
- It is from the point where farming starts that boundary demarcation is effected.
- The tick (Koti) that cow goes for grazing with, is that which kills a lamb.
- Fly that moves with a leopard will never eat rotten meat.
- Familiarity with a chicken does not prevent its slaughtering when needed.
- A newly wedded young man must not go hunting for a Buffalo or else the new bride will easily become a
- A widow should not celebrate, what took her husband is not yet fulfilled.
- We should not be too proud, because grasses are growing on a mountain while others are dying in the
Fadama (marshy land).
- Love breeds happiness while hatred breeds disaster.
- The dog that will miss its way will never hear the sound of the whistle of its owner.
- Leave the dancing stage when the ovation is loudest,
or else it is shame that will follow soon.
- Any Goat that follows dog about will soon start eating faeces
- If you dig a trench for a bird it will definitely come and pass?
Contributors: Elisha Chebwawaza Gideon, Najeem Mohammed, Trip Down Memory Lane and Bukola Saraki, Kwara State governor(Former)
This is a publication of Words in Pen, weekly publication(every Wednesday) of I am Best Magazine… proudly IAMBESTNETWORKS LTD.
Are you a writer and you want to be a contributor to WORDS IN PEN,
Call or whatsapp: +2347082151580 08130286036; call:07057457203
Email us: [email protected]
Facebook: I Am Best TV