Nigerian culture is mainly shaped by the multi-ethnic background that encompasses the country. The country has over 521 languages and 250 ethnic groups, making it one of the most diversified nations in the world.
The six largest ethnic groups in Nigeria entail the Yoruba, Hausa and Fulani, Igbo, Tiv, Efik-Ibibio, and the Edo people (the Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa Fulani are the largest and consist of 60% of the total population). Each ethnic group in Nigeria has its traditional beliefs and practices. For example, the Yoruba have monarchical leadership, practice polygamy, and worship different gods like Sango the god of thunder.
In contrast, the Igbo people are primarily Christian although they also practice a traditional religion called Omenani. The Igbo people also confer titles to highly accomplished people in their society. These people are usually highly respected and recognized in the community.
To consolidate its ethnic diversity, the language mainly used in Nigeria is English. Although English is used the languages of the 3 largest ethnic groups are also widely used. Pidgin, a hybrid language composed of local languages and English is very popular in Nigeria and serves as one of the lingua francas in Nigerian society. Pidgin English is a creolized form of the language in the same form as in the Caribbean Islands; it is spoken by over a third of the Nigerian population.
Nigerian has a wide variety of traditional clothing styles. The Yoruba women wear an iro (wrapper), buba (loose shirt), and gele (head wrap). The Yoruba men wear sokoto (baggy trousers), agbada (flowing robe with wide sleeves), buba (long shirt), and fila (a hat). In the Igbo nation, the women wear a puffed sleeved blouse two wrappers, and a headwrap.
The men wear Isiagu (a patterned shirt) worn with trousers and the Okpu Agwu (the traditional hat). Hausa women wear wrappers and shirts and use hijabs (veils) to cover their heads. The Hausa men don long flowing gowns (barbarigas or kaftans) with tall decorated hats.
Most of these materials are dyed and weaved locally at markets. People that have settled in urban areas are mainly influenced by western styles of wearing and usually wear in regular clothing such as jeans and t-shirts.
Nigerian food is made up of a rich blend of traditionally African carbohydrates such as yam and cassava. Cassava is used to make ‘garri’ the staple carbohydrate that is praised by the locals for giving strength and satisfaction.
Maize is also a popular crop in the country. Nigerian beans are also popular in the country. Nigeria is known throughout the world for its distinct traditional cuisines that are infused in different spices, herbs, chili peppers, and flavourings that are blended with palm oil or groundnut oil to create aromatic sauces and soups.
Fermented palm makes a traditional liquor, palm wine, and also fermented cassava produces alcoholic beverages. Around the world, in developed countries, one is bound to come across Nigerian restaurants that serve authentic Nigerian foods (it would be advisable to visit these places to have a full-blown experience of what might be the usual Nigerian menu.)
What is internationally recognized as Nigerian food is mainly attributed to the Efik-Ibibio people who are exceptional culinarians? Their food is popular throughout the entire Nigeria including the popular Afañg soup, Edikang Ikong soup, pepper soup, Ukwoho, Atama, Eritañ, and jollof-rice. Food is an integral part of Nigerian culture and embraces a lot of symbolism than it is for nourishment; Nigerian feasts are colorful and lavish and social.
In Nigeria, you are bound to be engulfed by the aromatic markets and roadside snacks that are popular and found on street stalls everywhere. Lately, most restaurants in the country combine traditional culture with international urban sophistication.
Nigeria is fairly divided amongst the Christian and Muslim populations. The Christians dominate the southern parts of the country whilst the Muslims occupy the northern part of Nigeria.
The country has the fifth largest Muslim population in the world and the sixth-largest Christian population in the world. A minority of the population still practices traditional religion although it is common to come across locals who mix traditional religion with either Christianity or Islam. Nigerian constitution ensures freedom of religion.
Nigeria has become the hub of black cultural identity, representing the “African aspect”. When the international scene thinks Africa, Nigerian music, dressing, cuisines, and even accent comes to mind. It comes as no surprise that many tourists visit Nigeria for the “African experience”.
Tourists are treated to a variety of festivals and events that portray the Nigerian way of life. Lagos has become an integral part of this. Many festivals are held in the city throughout the year.
Some of these festivals include;
- Festac Food Fair
- Eyo Festival
- Lagos Black Heritage Carnival
- Lagos Carnival
- Eko International Film Festival
- Lagos Seafood Festac Festival
- LAGOS PHOTO Festival
- Lagos Jazz Series
These festivals usually include art exhibits, traditional cuisine food stalls, various music genres, and dancing. Many other festivals date back to the pre-colonial era, these were usually culturally based festivals, but have since withered with the advent of Christian and Muslim festivals.
The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation working with the different states has been on a mission to resuscitate traditional festivals as a source of tourism revenue. Nigeria has many other tourist attractions. There are miles of beautiful coastal beaches, wildlife reserves, and a variety of museums that house artistic treasures.
Musically, Nigeria is as varying as its ethnicity. The country has had a great impact on what is perceived as the sound of African music, including Afrobeats, West African highlife, and palm wine music.
Nigerian music heavily uses native rhythms, folklore, and techniques linked from different parts of the world to come up with a unique sound. A popular Nigerian musical figure who became instrumental in the 20th century is Nigerian superstar and social activist, Fela Kuti who was popular for fusing indigenous music with American jazz and soul to form Afrobeat which has, in turn, influenced new age hip hop music in Nigeria.
Traditional music uses diverse instruments, such as Gongon drums, the kora, and the kakaki. The Institutes of African Studies, at the Universities of Ibadan, has taken strides to ensure interest in traditional folk art has been reawakened.
Nigerians also have a rich literature background. Some of the greatest African literary works are from Nigerian citizens. Of note are the two great African authors Wole Soyinka, the first African Nobel Laureate in Literature and the late Chinua Achebe author of the famous “Things Fall Apart”, which has sold close to 10million copies worldwide.
The book remains the most translated African author of all time. Other writers of international note include John Pepper Clark, Ben Okri, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Reading culture is highly treasured in the country that is why Nigeria boasts of the second-largest newspaper market in Africa despite the worldwide decline in print circulation.
Nigeria has the largest movie industry in Africa in terms of value and the number of films produced. Nollywood as it is widely known is the second largest film producer in the world after India’s Bollywood.
The growth of the film industry has contributed effectively to the country’s economy and forms a major economic backbone of cities such as Abuja, Kano, and Enugu. Nollywood has produced internationally recognized film production and actors that have gone to feature in international platforms.
In pre-colonial times, wrestling was a popular Nigerian sport and used as a vehicle of expressing individual and social identity, status, and prestige. In current times Nigeria is a football nation and the sport is considered to be the largest. The Nigerian national team is known as the “Super Eagles” and is the second-highest-ranking African team after Senegal and ranks as the 31st team in the world.
In 1994 it was raked at 5th world-wide in the FIFA rankings. The Super Eagles have played in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010, 2014 and 2018 FIFA world cup. The team has won 1980, 1994, and the 2013 African Cup of Nations. They won gold at the 1996 Summer Olympics when they beat Argentina, becoming the first nation to win gold in Olympic football. Nigeria is also involved in other sports such as basketball, cricket, and track and field.
" Its a place to be" - Martin from Canada