WELCOME TO NIGERIA
Come along on a journey to Nigeria and learn about a land that is rich in culture, ancestral wisdom, and art that celebrates, unifies, and empowers.
- Nigeria is located in West Africa, it shares a land border with Benin, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger.
- The largest city in Nigeria is Lagos with an estimated population of around 21 million people.
- The capital city of Nigeria is Abuja, which was planned out and then built in the 1980s, officially replacing Lagos as the capital in 1991.
- Nollywood, Nigeria’s massive film industry, is second in terms of output to India’s Bollywood and bigger than the US’s Hollywood. Nollywood is said to produce at least 50 films per week.
- Nigeria was the birthplace of several early civilizations. The Nok civilization (1500BC – 200AD) produced life-sized earthenware terracotta figures that are some of the earliest known sculptures in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Lagos was invaded by the British in 1851 and became a British protectorate in 1901. The colonial rule lasted until 1960 when Nigeria finally attained their independence. Nigeria is still greatly impacted by colonization even though it has gained its independence.
- Take a quick look around at the variety of sights you can see in Nigeria.
LANGUAGES OF NIGERIA
Nigeria is a diverse multiethnic country. Like other parts of the world colonized by Europeans, there were many different ethnic groups of people who were there before the Europeans arrived, each with a unique culture and language. The borders we now use to frame and name countries don’t often fall along ethnic lines and so many cultures exist within a country.
While English is the official language of Nigeria, more than 520 spoken languages are spoken! Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo are some of the major languages. Other languages include Fulfulde, Ibibio, Kanuri, Tiv, and three sign languages–Nigerian, Hausa, and Bura.
LEARN THE YORUBA WORDS FOR DIFFERENT ANIMALS
- Pig– Ẹlẹdẹ
- Donkey– Kẹtẹkẹtẹ
- Turkey– Tòlótòló
- Duck– Pẹpẹyẹ
- Goat- Ewurẹ
- Guinea Pig– Ẹmọ
- Rabbit– Ehoro
- Horse– Ẹṣin
by Bianca Nwokeji
Someone once asked me; “Bianca, why do you write?”
On hearing that, my lips arched with a flashed smile and I replied with complete honesty.
“Ever saw something so wrong but couldn’t change it?
Ever felt something so cosmic and wanted humans to hear it?
Well, that’s why I write.
I write so that I could make my contributions to Earth, to ease the situations I cannot change; situations beyond my human power.
I write so that those cosmic floods of thoughts could be heard; to give them life.
But most importantly,
I write to build myself; to heal myself
To let out my emotions and get control of them.
I write to discover myself.
To know how deep my demons lie; to find my strength and weakness.
I write to find peace.
For whenever I hold a pen to a paper, my soul reaches the altitudinous peak of complete tranquility.”
SING SONGS IN YORUBA WITH NUOLA
Enjoy this video of Nuola Akinde, founder of Kekere Freedom School, and her family as they sing in Yoruba and teach you a few words. Nuola is of Nigerian and Bahamian descent and is guided by the wisdom of her grandmother’s grandmothers and the drive to create a future of equity and radical love for her grandchildren’s grandchildren. She does this by exemplifying what it means to liberate through play and decolonize childhood with her family and at her school.
Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994) was born in Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria and was a painter, sculptor, and social anthropologist. He is considered the most influential African artist of the 20th century, combining indigenous traditions with western techniques and increasing the visibility of modern African art. His incredible work celebrated Africa and blackness and the importance of preserving indigenous culture and heritage.
TWO OF BEN’S FAMOUS WORKS OF ART
Tutu, 1974, Oil on Canvas (one part of a three part series)
A portrait of Yoruba princess Adetutu Ademiluyi. Painted three years after the end of the Nigerian Civil War, Tutu was intended as an expression of national unity and Enwonwu’s way of celebrating his country’s cultural identity.
Anyanwu, 1954–1955, Bronze
An Igbo Sun Goddess. Given to the United Nations by the Nigerian Government in 1966 and located at UN Headquarters.
Create your own art inspired by the work of Ben Enwonwu!
Some of Enwonwu’s work, like Country Road you can see to the right, focused on what he saw and experienced in nature within the beauty of Nigeria. Think about a time when you’ve walked through nature and the types of trees that you saw around you. Think about the path that you took or use your imagination to envision a natural path between the trees.
- Gather supplies–pencil, eraser, paper, colored pencils or crayons.
- Use your pencil to mark a spot on your page that your path will lead up to. This should be within the bottom half of your page.
- Draw two lines leading out away from that point, becoming further apart until you reach the bottom of the page.
- Now draw the trunks of the trees along each side of the path. The tree trunks can be different sizes and somewhat close together as they reach up to the top of the page.
- Use crayons or colored pencils to add details like the colors of the tree trunks and the different shades of colors for the leaves.
- Finish your picture by adding color to the path and possibly adding a drawing of yourself as you travel down the path.
Country Road, 1957, Black Chalk and Watercolor
Adire is a textile craft, passed down through generations as a form of cultural preservation and empowerment. Adire art can be traced back to the 19th Century. The First Adire is said to have emerged in Abeokuta, a city that was known as the center for weaving, cotton production and indigo-dyeing.
The cloth is created and worn by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Derived from the Yoruba words, adi (to tie) and re (to dye), Adire means tie and dye. The original versions were indigo-dyed and decorated with resist patterns. Locally-woven white cloth (teru) was tied to produce simple patterns and dyed blue with elu (indigo) from locally grown elu leaves. However, modern adire uses different materials to create many different shades of color and stencils are often used for designs.
Adire is not entirely unlike the methods used for what many people in the United States call tie-dye. But unlike the U.S. version, producing just five yards of adire is very hard work and can take up to three weeks or more.
Click the button to see the process for creating this beautiful fabric.
COLOUR OF LOVE, photo by Joanna Lipper, 2010
The traditional art of adire is dying out. That is what I am trying to pass on to younger generations. I’ve had many offers to stay abroad. But I always come back to Nigeria. Indigo is the colour of love.
– Chief Nike
Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye, internationally acclaimed artist, curator, respected elder and advocate, was brought up with the traditional weaving and dying practices in her native village of Ogidi in Western Nigeria. Chief Nike’s artistic skills were nurtured at a young age by her parents and great grandmother who were musicians and craftspeople. Nike was in a large part raised by her great grandmother who was a weaver and an adire textile maker/dyer. She passed down her knowledge and craft to Nike who continues to honor her ancestors and celebrate her culture through her art and action.
Chief Nike was able to use her international success to launch a cultural revival in Nigeria, founding four art centers in the country collectively called the Nike Art Center. The centers offer free training to over 150 young artists in visual, musical and performing arts. Much of the work Chief Nike has done has been focused on empowering the women of Nigeria to be self-sufficient. She has said, “police arrested me over twenty times, locked me up and accused me of ‘practicing American feminism in Nigeria.’ I said, “No, I am only training women to be self-sufficient in Nigeria.”
CARDAMOM PUFF PUFFS
MAKE YEWANDE’S CARDAMOMM PUFF PUFFS
For the Puff Puffs:
- 1½ cups warm water or milk (110 degrees)
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
- 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- 3-4 cups canola oil or other neutral oil for frying
For the Spiced Sugar:
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon zest of orange or other citrus such as limes, lemons
CAUTION: ADULT SUPERVISION REQUIRED–hot oil will be used to fry dough!
In a small bowl, combine the water (or milk), 1 tablespoon sugar, and yeast. Whisk to dissolve the ingredients and allow to sit for 8-10 minutes until foamy.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, remaining sugar, salt, and cardamom. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture once foamy. Combine, stirring with a wooden spoon to incorporate all the ingredients into a smooth batter. The batter should be wet and slightly runny. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and allow it to rise and double in size, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the spiced sugar: In a medium bowl, toss the sugar, cardamom and orange zest to combine. Set aside.
Pour the oil into a deep skillet or saucepan, up to 1½ inches from the bottom and heat over medium high to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a rack or paper towels to drain the puff puff once out the oil. Once the batter is proofed and doubled in size, work in batches dropping tablespoonfuls into the hot oil, don’t overcrowd the skillet. Fry, turning frequently until golden brown on all sides and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Move the puff puff to the rack or paper towel to drain and repeat the process until all the batter has been fried.
Toss the puff puff in the spiced sugar to coat while still warm. Enjoy warm or at room temperature!
Yewande Komolafe is a Nigerian immigrant who was born in Lagos, Nigeria and has lived in the United States for the past 20 years. She is a food stylist and recipe developer/tester/writer and her “approach to food is based on a curiosity about the cultural connections we make through food.”
“When Yewande Komolafe cooks, she summons memories from growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. She also pulls from her own culinary improvisations and experiences as an immigrant chef. Because recipes were rarely written down in her family, she remembers watching diligently and taking mental notes as her mom or aunties prepared dishes like sweet plantains, stewed chicken, and jollof rice. Food has always connected Yewande to her present and past (Diaspora Co.)”
Coming together around food is incredibly important in my family—it’s how we connect with one another. Recipes are rarely written down at home, so I am accustomed to watching and learning, soaking in the movements, smells, and methods of the kitchen.
– Yewande Komolafe
Games, music, and dance have long been a way for oppressed people to come together as a community and speak out against injustices. Cultivating liberation through play can be one of the greatest ways to deconstruct oppressive systems.
Try playing these classic Nigerian communal games with your friends and family. How do you feel when you play together? Can you imagine feeling empowered to make change by playing together?
- Use chalk to draw multiple squares within a big rectangle on the ground. The rectangle could be drawn into two columns and six rows.
- Each player hops on one leg after throwing a pebble in a square.
- The goal is to avoid stepping on the square with the pebble in it.
Suwe is somewhat similar to the North American game Hop-Scotch.
- The players start by touching each other’s palms and saying the words “tink tinko tinko loco tinko.”
- Then they start clapping their hands in an up high and down low position respectively.
- As they go on, the number of claps increases numerically, so they clap once, then twice, then three times, etc.
Tinko Tinko is a hand-clapping game, similar to rhyming, clapping chants played on schoolyards across the United States.
Parents may be interested to read more about the importance of play in the US in this recent New York Times series The State of Play, including The Magic of Black Girls’ Play, which looks into play as a form of resistance.