7 Nigerian tribes and their cultural attires
Culture is the way of life of a people. It comprises of arts, customs, values, beliefs, behavioural practices, lifestyle, dressing, food and greeting of a particular group of people and this dissociates people into different groups in a diverse society.
Nigeria consists of about 250 ethnic groups, each with a unique story and tradition. Examples of these groups are; Isoko, Urhobo, Efik, Itsekiri, Igbo, Yoruba, Oron, Obolo, Annang, Ijaw, Ibibio, Tiv, Hausa, Fulani, Edo, Igala, Jawara, Berom, Tarok, etc. Among these groups, are three (3) major ethnic groups which include the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba tribes.
All these groups have their own beliefs and traditions and they all speak different languages. Each culture has its own traditional attire that differentiates it from other ethnic groups.
This article briefly highlights a few of these ethnic groups with emphasis on their traditional attire, its name and symbolism and the occasion for which it is showcased.
They are inhabitants of Benue and Plateau states. Their native dressing is known as the “A’nger or A’nger U Tiv”. The fabric is usually a black and white striped cloth. Their traditional attire is a fabric wrapped around the waist reaching the knees with a turban for the men. The women unlike the men have multiple options; it could be sewn into a blouse, skirt with a matching head tie. This attire is worn on special occasions needing silent display of culture usually for identification during such occasions.
Political or funeral ceremonies are the most pronounced of such occasions. The black in the fabric is interpreted to mean that the Tiv African roots while white signifies peace and love. Both colours portray a zebra- their totem animal, wild but peaceful. Another aspect of their dressing is the ‘kpaabor’ bag which has a pruning spear to represent a courageous leader.
They are said to have received their name from the Yoruba tribe. Igala in Yoruba means ‘antelope’. For its purity, the antelope is highly revered in Igala as their totem animal. They inhabit the east of the confluence, Kogi state. Yellow and black colours dominate their fabrics, while blue, green or white are accommodated as just stripes.
The colour black symbolizes wealth in mineral and crude oil resources, yellow symbolizes hospitality and presents gold as a symbol of refined wealth and prosperity. The women usually wear long dresses or skirts with yellow or black stripes, and the men, white trousers with t-shirts, scarfs worn around their neck for cultural sophistication then their Igala Achi (traditional cap).
The men wear flowing attire made with voile, Ankara lace or complex jacquards with long trousers or white wrappers and loose shirts. Jewellery made of coral beads (popularly the Ekan and Ivie beads), embroidered caps and walking sticks complete their attire. The women wear gowns or wrappers adorned with same traditional beads said to symbolize freedom and royalty.
The Urhobo/Isoko men usually wear white lace shirts (or other colours of shirt), Georgian wrappers with a black cowboy hat a walking stick for completeness. The women wear two wrappers made of the same material as the men’s, a blouse then a head tie. They also adorn their dresses with coral bracelets and necklaces.
As earlier introduced to be one of the major ethnic groups in Nigeria, their traditional attire Is a ‘sokoto’ and ‘buba’ for the men or an agbada and fila (traditional cap). The women wear ‘iro’ which is a wrapper and With a blouse- ‘buba’ , then the ‘gele’ , an head tie then an ‘ipele’ (sash) over their shoulders for an established presence. The ipele and gele are of same fabric. Most times, the wrapper matches with gele and ipele while the top is of a different material.
This is another major ethnic group. Their traditional attire consist is a Flowing pullover for the men called an ‘isiagu’ (interpretation- lion head) establishing dominance. The Isiagu is a shirt with a large lion head, crowns and other symbols imprinted on it symbolizing authority. Trousers or wrapper preferably fierce, and a red cap (Fez) or hand-knitted Okpu Agwu (leopard hat). The women wear a blouse and skirt or a dress. Both attires are usually adorned with beads. On special occasions like a wedding ceremony, the bride is seen carrying a ‘horsetail’ while on occasions where the lions gather, they carry their manes as horsetails or walking sticks.
This is the last of the three (3) major ethnic groups in Nigeria. Their traditional attire is similar to that of the Fulanis. The men wear flowing gowns called ‘Babban riga” with the name of the robes as “juanni and jalabia”. They also wear Tuareg-style turbans or hula (embroidered caps). The women tie wrappers called ‘zani’ made of a cloth called ‘atampa’ along with matching blouses and head ties or shawl. They also make designs on their skin with temporary colors called ‘mehendi” and on their hands which is ‘henna’.
Nigeria is a diverse nation with beautiful traditions and surprising cultures and these diversities have been reason for unity and collectivity, through which we learn to appreciate cultures different from ours, hence preserve our heritage through peaceful coexistence.