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Nigeria

Patrycja Kozieł

 
Basic information

People and their culture

National holidays and customs

Everyday life

Cuisine

Associations with Poland

Integration in Poland – successes and difficulties

 

Basic information

Stoisko na targu Kaduna m1Nigeria (Federal Republic of Nigeria) is a country on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. The landscape in Nigeria is diverse. The south of the country is dominated by flatlands, waterlogged areas with tropical equatorial forests and mangroves, turning into flatland savannas and steppes towards the north according to climate zones, shaped by Sahara's climate. The central part of the country has hills and plateaus. Convenient weather conditions are favorable for the cultivation of cereals and vegetables, among others cocoa, peanuts, cotton, palm oil, corn, rice, sorghum, panicum, manihot, rubber plants and citrus fruit.  Nigeria is one of those countries in Africa which has many natural resources, including oil, natural gas, iron ores, black coal, bauxite, limestone, lead, tin, gold. The basis of Nigeria's economy is agriculture, the mining industry, sea fishery as well as breeding cattle, sheep and goats in the north of the country with dry savannas. Due to its huge economic potential, Nigeria is one of the most rapidly developing countries in Africa. At the same time, it is a country with a quite unstable internal situation because of ethnic and religious conflicts of various intensity as well as infrastructural problems: the lack of direct access to electricity and drinking water, corruption and crime.


People and their culture

Nigeria is a country with a very large ethnic and language diversity. It has 250 ethnic groups and the number of languages is estimated at more than 400. English, used by half of the inhabitants of Nigeria, is the official language. English is used in official administration, the press, radio, television and education (however, native Nigerian languages play a significant role at the primary level). Three native languages, raised to the national level, play a significant function at the state level being the means of inter-ethnic communication. The following languages obtained such dominant status: hausa (in the north), yoruba (in the south-west) and igbo (in the south-east). Another language used for communication for many people from various language groups (lingua franca) is also the Nigerian version of Pidgin English which is a mix of native languages with English. The number of people speaking this language is assessed at approx. 30 million. Arabic is also the language of law (sharia), religion and culture in the north.  The Hausa people, speaking hausa, as well as the Fula people, speaking hausa and the Fula language, (constituting in total 29% of Nigeria's population) include the most numerous and most influential political groups in the north of Nigeria in terms of ethnicity. Both of these groups are mainly Muslims. The south of the country is dominated, on the other hand, by the Yoruba people (the yoruba language is used by 21% of Nigerians) and the Igbo people (the igbo language, accordingly by 18%), being mainly Christians (Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals). Other ethnic groups, among others, include Ijaw (10%), Kanuri (4%), Ibibio (3.5%), Tiv (2.5%) as well as Edo, Idoma, Bini, Efik, Bariba, Bassa, Nupe.  Nigeria boats of numerous cultural achievements, earning recognition at the international stage. The importance of natural-cultural qualities is proven by the presence of two sites which were entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The first is the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove - a sacred place of worship of the goddess of fertility Osun, located along the banks Osun River, near the town Osogbo in the Osun, Nigeria. It is the largest and one of the last sacred remnants of the primary high tropical forest which were previously were left on the edges of Yoruba towns for worship purposes. The second important place entered on the UNESCO list in 1999 is the Sukur Cultural Landscape, a separate area of mountainous landscape in the Adamawa State, eastern Nigeria (Mandara mountains near the border with Cameroon). The palace of the tribal chief (hidi), located on a small hill, towers over Sukur, local villages and terraced fields. Thanks to archaeological research conducted there, it was possible to reach numerous remnants of melting iron after a vigorously developing craft and smithery. The UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List recently was recently expanded by three items illustrating the diversity and richness of Nigeria in terms of spiritual culture and art. These include: the Ijele masquerade, the oral heritage of Gelede as well as the Ifa divination system. It is worth pointing out that Nigerian communities have complex traditions related to art and craft. The high level of sculpture is an example of tangible culture which is being developed to this day in the form of artifacts designed for tourists and art collectors. These are images and heads of gods made from bronze and iron, statues, dolls made from palm fibers as well as ritual wooden masks, made in the polychromy technique and decorated with colorful fabrics, beads.  An important part of culture and art are musical instruments, typical of the entire West Africa. Drums play an important role in the culture of the Yoruba and other ethnic groups. Some of them are collectively called dunun, others bata. The music sector is also resilient. The most famous Nigerian musicians include the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti - a multi-instrumentalist and activist, creator of the afrobeat genre, funk, jazz and highlife musicians in the 1970s and the 1980s and human rights campaigner. The following music genres were created in Nigeria: juju, apala, fuji, afropop and waka. They spread to other African and Caribbean countries, affecting the development of other genres.   Global content from the circle of popular culture has unquestionable impact on the shape of Nigeria's cultural image. For instance, the development of the production of homemade video movies and the movie industry. All genres distributed on the streets in towns, stands and in stores with the use of VHS cassettes and DVDs in the form of the so-called "small media" are a part of the Nigerians' everyday life, their free time and entertainment. Movies are cheap so people can afford to buy many of them. The movie industry is the source of employment for many young Nigerians. Actors, editors, technicians are constantly needed nowadays. Many of them graduate from primary schools without further education on a higher level so the movie industry is an opportunity for them to ensure good living conditions and a professional career.


National holidays and customs

Nigeria is not homogenous also in religious terms. The area of interest to us has several religious systems with the dominating Islam (including the Sunni and Shia branches) covering 50% of the society and Christianity - 40% (Catholicism, Protestantism, Baptism, Anglicanism, Pentecostals).  Syncretic religions play an important role for 10% of the society, including Afro-Christian churches, Church of the Lord (Aladura) as well as native African religions, combining the worships of ancestors and magical practices. The population of Nigeria in the past followed traditional polytheistic religions. The Yoruba's cultural memory preserves an expanded system of gods, called orisa, the ghosts of ancestors and other supernatural entities. The following issues are preserved in the oral tradition of the Igbo people whose beliefs were not codified in the form of comprehensive dogmas: the belief in the presence of many gods (including the three domestic gods, responsible for personal success: chi, eke and ikenga), the worship of ancestors, the belief in reincarnation. Part of the Yoruba and the Igbo population, despite the fact that they accepted Christianity, lives their everyday life according to these old religious practices. The figure of the traditional sorcerer, diviner, folk healer and priest-healer, the Hausa bok or the Yoruba babalawo, until this day is considered an important figure among the Nigerians and magical practices (divination from kola nuts, interpreting dreams according to the Arab dream book) are performed despite the acknowledgement of Christianity and Islam as general religions.

Everyday life

The everyday life of the Nigerians has a diverse character, depending on the place of residence (village or town), ethnic origin, religion or social status. A Hausa family from the north of Nigeria is usually polygamous, assuming the form of polygyny - marriage of one man with many women. Therefore, household and family chores are divided between several women. Currently, this family model changes and monogamous marriages become more and more common, as in the majority of Christian ethnic groups in Nigeria. The Igbo people are a community in which polygyny is practiced today. In the north of Nigeria, man as the head of the family (uban gida), works to maintain his wives and children because he has the obligation to feed the family and provide them with necessary goods. Women are responsible for everything which is related to work at home: they cook, bring water, provide fuel, clean, take care of the children, breed poultry and goats, deal with minor door-to-door trade. Women in the Hausa culture are subject to partial or complete isolation (kulle) from the moment they are married. This means that they have to stay at home. When they wish to leave for the town, for example to visit someone, go shopping or to the university they should ask their husbands for permission. The degree of such closing depends on the education, family traditions and the place of residence (this happens less frequently in rural areas). Older women, when their babies grow up and become more independent, often become professionally active by starting their own businesses or engaging in literary art, working as writers and teachers.  The division of duties and privileges of members of the family slightly differ with regard to other ethnic groups. The Igbo women have a high social position, they often conduct independent activities in the service sector (hairdressing, beauty salons, bars, restaurants, stores with clothes) and maintain their families using money earned by selling food products at the market, also ready-made meals, e.g. cooked jam, fried sweet potatoes and grilled meat. In the south of Nigeria, women usually have small, domestic pieces of arable land where they grow peanuts, millet, sorghum, corn, manihot. Some of the crops are used for their own use, the rest is sold. Women also hold high positions in official administration, banks, factories, offices, the police and the Nigerian movie industry, Nollywood and Kannywood.  Men, on the other hand, deal with craft and trade. They sell their goods (vegetables, cereals, clothes, salt, articles of daily use, gasoline, manufactured articles) at numerous marketplaces, markets or roadside stands. A considerable part of the non-agricultural population works in the craft sector (modern furniture industry, sculpture) as well as in the services sector (phone and vehicle repairs, storekeepers) and in the mining industry also in large municipal centers, including the multimillion Lagos, Kano and Abuja. The rest is state officials, teachers, doctors, Muslim scholars, police officers, taxi-drivers, drivers, mechanics.  Nigerians live both in brick houses, in housing estates as well as in low, round or rectangular huts covered with roofs made from corrugated steel or thatched roofs. Many cities in Nigeria are full of contrasts, for instance Lagos which is a metropolis full of sophisticated skyscrapers, representative industrial and international business districts but, at the same time, full of slums without permanent access to clean water and electricity.  An element of the daily clothes of many Nigerians, apart from fashionable shirts, jeans, blouses, dresses which are identical to the style of clothes in the global north and south, common to Europe and other African countries, are national and ethnic clothes. They are put on mainly during important celebrations, e.g. weddings.


Cuisine

Handling household chores and cooking is the domain of women in the vast majority of societies in Nigeria. Taking into account the large number of ethnic groups in Nigeria, it is hard to talk about one Nigerian cuisine which would be common to all inhabitants of this country. Nigerian cuisine consists of regional meals and food products from hundreds of ethnic groups which largely depend on religions and culinary traditions. Each community has its own customs for preparing food, selecting components, the most popular meals consumed on an everyday basis and those served only during holidays. As in other West African countries, many local vegetables, spices and herbs in combination with palm oil, peanuts and coconut milk are used to cook stodgy soups and sauces. Meals are often prepared on the basis of rice, sweet potatoes, manihot, yam, beans, while aromatic grilled or deep fried snacks may be bought on waysides and fairs. Citrus fruit such as oranges, melons, grapefruits, mangos, bananas, lime, pineapples and papayas are also easily available.


Associations with Poland

Little is known about the presence of African people on Polish lands in history. The first references to African people in Poland date back to the early 17th century when the presence of African people was recorded on royal and lordly courts where they served as lackeys, butlers, among others for king Stefan Batory, Jan III Sobieski, August II or Tadeusz Kościuszko. They also reached Poland as prisoners of war, previously enlisted in Ottoman armies. This trend was preserved until the 19th century. The number of African people in Poland started to increase from the 1960s. It involved significant historical events of 1960 which is called "the Year of Africa" because of the proclamation of independence by seventeen countries on this continent, including Nigeria, on October 1, 1960. Due to the fact that Poland established diplomatic relations and concluded numerous international agreements for scientific, technical and cultural cooperation, African students came to Polish universities from the newly created African countries, having received scholarships from the Polish government. They studied at technical and medical majors, less frequently at humanistic ones. They were also obliged to participate in a previous preparatory course, lasting one year, and to learn Polish. Approx. 2 thousand students of African origin were studying in Poland in the 1970s. This number decreased with time, in 1999 it dropped to 500 people. African students usually returned to their country of origin after graduation. Graduates rarely stayed in Poland and it happened when the student got married with a citizen from Poland. Soon, migrants also began to appear. Their objective was to settle in Poland and they applied for permission in order to legalize their stay for a definite period of time and then they applied for Polish citizenship.


Integration in Poland – successes and difficulties

Unfortunately, the number of complete sources of research devoted to the course of the Nigerians' cultural integration in Poland is modest. First of all, there are no opinions from the Nigerians' themselves which would be the most valuable. According to statistical data from the National Census from 2002, the overall number of African people was then approx. three thousand. The census presented this as follows: People from Algeria (approx. 500), Libya (400), Nigeria (254), the Republic of South Africa (263), Kenia (91), Sudan (84), Congo (75). Nonetheless, these numbers became outdated and have a dynamic nature due to the fact that the number of Nigerians in Poland is increasing in recent years (mostly men), some of them intentionally decide on an illegal stay, some, on the other hand, leave. A substantial part of the Nigerians in Poland are migrants from the south of this country, namely the Igbo people, the Yoruba people or the representatives of other ethnic groups. On the other hand, there are few inhabitants of the north of Nigeria, namely the Hausa people. The majority of migrants decide to come to Poland for economic reasons looking for better living conditions, willing to earn some money and find satisfying jobs. In addition, many people come here thanks to support from members of their families and friends who already live in Poland. For others, Poland is a country of transit towards Western European countries where they seek a chance for a better life. Another group is formed, e.g. by education migrants - students and doctoral students from Nigeria who use the possibility to study at Polish universities as part of foreign scholarships, professional training periods or internships. They regulations also make it possible for highly-qualified persons, specialists, doctors, sportsmen to migrate.  Conversations and everyday observations show the fact that the difficulties faced by many Nigerians in Poland result from deeply rooted stereotypes and circulating views and opinions expressed by some Poles. First, the Nigerians are not usually perceived by the Poles in categories of their own nationality but classified as "exotic foreigners", "strangers" due to the color of their skin. For this reason, they are attributed qualities which refer to all African people in the public discourse, without distinguishing their ethnic origin. There are situations in everyday life when they need to face the pejorative term "black", considered by many of them to be degrading or even racist and promoting other prejudices preserved in the Polish language. These attitudes involve a view on a certain cultural and civilization inferiority of the African people as compared to the Europeans. It is worth emphasizing that discriminating attitudes towards them result partly from the lack of sufficient knowledge about African cultures and their diversity. When Stadion Dziesięciolecia (the 10th-Anniversary Stadium) in Warsaw functioned as a marketplace, hundreds of immigrants and refugees found self-employment there in trade professions. Currently, the majority of Nigerians sell goods (textiles, shoes) on marketplaces and bazaars, they also work in factories, international companies and larger industrial companies, also as research workers, doctors. Some manage to become successful in sports (football), music, entertainment, business.  However, it is worth looking at the activities of several Nigerians who live in Poland. John Abraham Godson, a politician and clergyman, Member of the Polish Parliament since 2010, is working for the integration of African and Polish communities. On the other hand, Henry Ubaka became an employee of the police station Praga Północ in Warsaw.  An example of Nigerian art in Poland is also the book entitled "Stadion. Diabelskie igrzyska" by Ify Nwamana, a Nigerian living in Poland since 2005. In his debut novel I.  Nwamana deals with migration from Nigeria to Poland, focusing on the difficulties which form a part of the everyday life of Nigerian migrants.  The growing interest in African cultures in Poland is proven by the resilient activities of dance schools where the instructors are, to a large extent, musicians and artists from various African countries as well as the number of emerging restaurants serving African meals, e.g.: a Nigerian restaurant and an African store in Warsaw.  In addition, several non-governmental organizations work for the African people in Poland, including the Nigerians, e.g. Fundacja Afryka Inaczej, Fundacja dla Somalii, Stowarzyszenie Somalijskie w Polsce, Fundacja Ocalenie, Fundacja Usłyszeć Afrykę, Fundacja Afryka Connect, Forum Kenijsko-Polskie, Polska Akcja Humanitarna, Instytut Afrykański. The University of Warsaw, on the other hand, has the Chair of African Languages and Cultures, the only such academic center in Poland conducting studies on Sub-Saharan Africa (including the Hausa language and Nigeria).