Subcultures in Northern Nigeria

Freshman (College 1st year) ・Anthropology ・MLA ・2 Sources

Varieties of Cultures in the World

Varieties of cultures exist in the world today. The various ways of life among people plays an important role in ascertaining the social, political, and environmental factors that exist in the relative regions. The comprehension of the cultures produces the appreciation of how communities live and engage in their day to day activities and also admitting the rich practices possessed. The Nupe is one interesting community that is also referred to as the Nupeci. The word Nupe means to the language spoken. Geographically, this cultural group is majorly located in Nigeria, particularly in Niger State. However, others are dispersed in other regions such as West, Central, and Northern Nigeria. Their neighbors consist of the Hausa, Yoruba, and Kakanda among others. A close outlook reveals that this community is composed of several subgroups namely the Batau, Kyedye, Eghagi, Ebe, and Benu. The main towns that they inhabit include Bida, Minna, Agaie, Lapai, Mokwa, Jebba, Lafiagi, and Pategi. The local ecology is made up of lowlands, and a typical Guinea savanna that is dry in the North-West while humid as one moves towards the Southeast region. The area is also blessed with land that is seasonally flooded due to the presence of major rivers Kaduna and Niger. The most recent census that was conducted in 1991 established that the total population size stood at approximately 1,062,000 people (Usman).

The Yanomamo Ethnic Group

The Yanomamo is typically a dispersed ethnic group which is a contributing factor to the diverse terminologies used to describe them, for instance, Yanoama, Yanomami, Yanomamö, and Yanomama. The Ynoamo group is composed of smaller groups which are the Waika, Waica, Guaica, Shori, Shiriana, Xiriana, Shidishana, Sanema, Guaharibo (Guarajibo), Aica, Catrimani, Marashiteri, Macuxi, Paramiteri, Shiriteri, Nabudub, Pubmatari, Taclaudub, Casapare, Karime, Samatari, Mucajai, Surara, and Pakidai. Unlike the Nupe who reside in Africa, the Yanomamo are found in South America on the border between Venezuela and Brazil. The area covered is flat with occasional gentle rolling and is graced with the presence of Rivers Erebato and Caura. Additionally, the Parima Mountains are found in this area. Generally speaking, the total area inhabited by this community is approximately 192,000 square kilometers of a dense tropical forest with hints of savannahs here and there. Demographically, the Yanomamo make up a total of about 21,000 individuals with 363 villages that have 60-90 people each. However, some villages have more than 200 members (Hames and Beierle).

Cultural Comparisons


An outlook on these two cultures reveals that the Nupe are typical farmers. As such the main foods that are considered as staple include millet, corn, yams, rice, and groundnuts. Other food crops like cassava, maize, and sweet potatoes are just but secondary crops. The presence of rivers and occasional flooding encourages rice, sugarcane and onion farming in the area. Sugarcane farming has fuelled the sugar refining industry as well. Crop rotation and shifting cultivations are part and parcel of the subsistence agricultural practices. Additionally, the presence of eater bodies including river Niger and Kaduna support fishing activities. Likewise, the neighbouring communities like the Fulani have influenced the Nupe in the practice of cattle rearing (Usman). On the contrary, the Yanoama's subsistence is best described as foraging horticulture. The staple crops include plantains and bananas which are grown through slashing and burning approaches. This community also engages in hunting and gathering as well (Hames and Beierle). However, one similar subsistence activity shared with the Nupe is fishing. All in all, the Yanoama are more of horticulturists who depend heavily on wild resources while the Nupe are more focused on advanced farming practices for subsistence.


Traditional Nupe marriage is performed in two major approaches. The groom asks the bride for her hand in marriage or the heads of the families arrange for the union. Apparently, Polygynous are heavily present even after the Islamic religion was introduced into the region. The bride price is usually paid by the groom, and after the marriage, the couple settles among the groom's people. In this community, marriage is deemed meaningless if at all there is no procreation. Simply put, barrenness is considered by many a curse that requires several traditional procedures to cure. Divorce is not a popular happening since most people prefer to avoid the lack of privacy in Islamic court hearings. Nevertheless, marriages are terminated following the death of a spouse after which the remaining individual has to remain in residence for five months (Usman).

Quite dissimilar to the Nupe system, the Yanoama marriage prescribes that partners must be cross-cousins. The women are married off immediately following the initial menses while the men are in their early twenties. A similarity in marriage is that both cultures permit a patrilocal residence for the couple. Likewise, the polygyny practice is present in both tribes. One major difference is that for the Yanomamo, a bigger portion of marriages (75%) end in divorce (Hames and Beierle).

Political Organization

The Nupe political structure is made up of the King as the top ranking individual. A succession system also exists where the Etsu is considered the government head and is responsible for law and order, administration and certain levels of legal cases. The Etsu is advised by the respective district officer. A new Etsu is appointed after confirmation by the Nigerian colonial governor. The Etsu and other chiefs are remunerated in relation with the offices held. The position of the Nupe King has however been affected significantly since Nigeria's independence in 1960. Nevertheless, the traditional rulers are still salaried by the Nigerian government (Usman).

On the other hand, Yanoama's political organization is made up of the village headman as the top political leader. The headman must come from the family with the most members. Such a leader must have specific skills involving the settling of disputes which can be through verbal measures or bullying tactics. The way forward is reached upon the consensus by the adult males that are present but without coercion to participate (Hames and Beierle).


The ecology has a significant influence on the subsistence of these two cultures. The Nupe inhabit a place that is fertile and with abundant water sources. This makes it easier and more profitable to grow crops such as rice and sugarcane. On the other hand, the Yanomamo are located in a region that is typically a dense forest. Growing plants similar to the Nupe is not possible here hence the reason for preference to hunting and gathering with some horticulture. The presence of rivers in both regions support the subsistence activity of fishing. Concerning marriage and the political structure, it is evident that the social organization has a lot of impacts. The Nupe community is quite large with over a million people hence the need to have a King and District officers. On the other hand, the small Yanomamo population favours the rule by a village headman. Additionally, to continue growing as a united cultural group, the Yanomamo prefer marriages between cross-cousins. On the other hand, the widespread nature of the Nupe suits marriages either by a proposal to the bride or by parent selection. The wide area coverage of the Nupe makes it hard to have marriages strictly based on cross-cousins.


In conclusion, these two cultures are very different from one another except for a few aspects such as fishing, and the patrilocal residence when couples marry. The extent of the diverse practices is a clear indication that the demography, ecology, and social organization are some of the critical factors that define cultures.

Works Cited

Usman, Aribidesi Adisa. “Culture Summary: Nupe.” eHRAF World Cultures, 2014, Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

Hames, Raymond B., and John Beierle. “Culture Summary: Yanoama.” eHRAF World Cultures, 1995, Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

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