Names of Informants:
Names of Clans in Bura Area:
- 2 -
General ethnography. 25/6/73
Subwang is in Biu division of the northeastern state of
Nigeria. It is also in Kwajaffa district. It is about 17 miles
away from Biu and also three miles away from the main road com-
ing from Biu to Garkida. There is a bush path going to this
place from Shaffa which is by the main road.
This place, Subwang, is located on a hill south of Shaffa.
There are some streams also which pass on either side of the
hill. It has got some other paths coming from neighboring vill-
ages and also those going to farms and other places. This place
was big in the times past, but now it is becoming a small one.
It has only two zaras (wards). These two zara (wards) are
called mashidu and diza. (Mashidu means mosque/and this will be
dealt with later.- Diza means the color of the place, which is
dark with loam-type of clay, which is very fertile and produc-
tive. And although the place is hilly there are some places
which are good for farming, and as such the people do not travel
far for farming. The maximum or the farthest distance they travel
for farming is only about one to two miles.
f. .I /
MAP OF SUBWANG
S 1 houses
Scale 6" to 1 mile
~x vegetables and maize
7 i//farm lands for guinea corn,
cotton and groundnuts
The direction is according
to the layout of the plan
of the village.
- 3 -
Simon Mwada's house
2 I I
t I I
/ / /
This man has g(
A t I
I I I I
Scale 1" to 8'.
)t only one wife and
This is Inuwa Kadaku's house. He used to prac
blacksmithing but not doing it now.
- 5 -
fence 1' to 6 yards.
are difficult to measure. They are not very big. The
houses are 1" to 6 yards also
Women's huts and their kitchens
The first one at the gate belongs to the children.
The one at the innermost belongs to the man.
The house above belongs to Shehu Bilani Mshelia Subwang. He has
five wives with 17 children. Shehu and Simon Mwada are brothers.
Also, Shehu is the Mai Angwa (ward head) in this place. And also
Imwa Kadaku is very related to the next two. This is because in
the whole there is no non-clan at Subwang.
In this village,Subwang,almost everybody is a farmer. I
said 'almost' because there are a few people who have cattle and
do not do very much farming although they do a little. Although
these people are farmers they do not find for themselves big or
large lands for the farm work. Instead they use only that they
think can be enough for their subsistence crops. They farm
little cash crops. These cash crops are mostly cotton and ground-
These farms are not far away. The farthest could just be
about two miles. These farms are also small in area. But there
are some people who have large ones, although they are only a
few. These people also do not have only one plot per person but
many. Also, not only the men that work on the farm but even the
women and children. Some people have many people in their family
and as such they have the largest plots. An average man may farm
about ten acres of land. But somebody having a lot of children
may farm about 15 acres. The women usually have their farms
separately and they farm about four to five acres of land. The
women grow a lot of things on their farms but the men do only a
few. The men mostly grow,apart from guinea corn, cotton and
groundnuts, while the women may grow groundnuts, cotton, guinea
corn, beans, rossel and some few vegetables. Some maize is also
grown but this is mostly close to the compound together with the
vegetables. These vegetables are taken care of because animals
would destroy them, although in the wet season every goat or
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sheep would be tied.
This is so because almost every house has got some animals
(domestic) either goat, sheep or cattle and these cattle are
kept close by and the calves which do not go with the herds do
some damages when they are not cared of(for). The goats and the
sheep also go out with the herds but sometimes the family may not
have small children and so they would tie the goats at home and
bring them food from the wilds. This is somewhat tiresome be-
cause every day one has to cut grass or any other food material
for the animals.
Not many people) send their cattle to the Fulani for care
but there are a few that do. These people usually have less than
five cows. But when they are somewhat more than five they bring
them close to themselves which they may either put them together
with the other people's or they may make herd of them themselves.
On the farm some people may employ other people to work for
them as laborers. But this is not very much in use only those
who are regarded as richer in the class.
In the times past, many of them were blacksmiths but now only
a few. Their original work was blacksmithing but now that many
boys have gone to school they have forgotten their traditional
profession. There are still some who are good at the work. In
this profession, only the men do the work; the women are said to
The men are called mshelia and the women are called kwatamdia.
- 8 -
This will be discussed in detail later.
The blacksmith would build for himself a zana mat house or
sometimes a mud wall and a grass thatched house in which he does
his work. He would make bellows out of goatskin and then fix
them to a board woods through which the air is pumped, and also
uses charcoal. He would use an anvil and hammer. He uses other
things like miksa and tsingi which he cuts the metal with, also
which helps him in his work. The man would find someone that
would do the bellows or pump the air and then he would put the
metal into the fire. When the metal becomes red hot he would take
it out and then cleverly shape it into whatever he likes. Nor-
mally the blacksmith's house is made of two doors, one for the
person that pumps the air and the other people who would bring
their works,and the other is for the man that does the work.
The blacksmith is very important in Bura area because it is
through him that many people get their living as most of Bura people
In Subwang there is no other dur or clans. There is only
the Mshelia group in the village with its two nyarmbwa. These
two nyarmbwa are found to be according to the zara which is found
in the village. One nyarmbwa is found in the Mashidu and the
other one is found in Diza.
These people do not have many haptu or milim. This is
because they claimed to be Muslims in the beginning and so most
of their belief was based on the Mashidu which was made in the
village. This Mashidu was not built as a house but was made in a
form of a fence with trees circling it. Up to today the trees
are there and still growing in great branches.
There was a belief that anyone that cuts down any-branch
would die. As was said by one man, during the time when Lugard
was the governor general of Nigeria he sent some Europeans to
this place because they were tough and they were to go and quiet
them. But when they went there one of them cut down one of the
branches of the trees and he was struck down at the spot died(dead).
More information would be got later.
But although many of these people claimed to be Muslims
there were some who do have haptu and other idols but these people
keep them in their homes. In the house also the man would build
a small shrine where he kept the haptu. The women for their part
would keep them in their bedrooms.
There are only two nyarmbwa haptu in this village, one of
them for Diza, one for Mashidu. The one for Mashidu was with
Betara but now it is with Kachagana. The one for Diza was with
Chakata but now with Pindar Mwada as related by Kwatam Mwajim.
The Mashidu was the founding group. Although they are all Mshelia,
they came to split into two with the result that the Diza nyarmbwa
was got or found. The group which the Bulama came from in the
past and present will be found later.
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Name of informant: Kwatam Mwajim Age: 51 years old
Place of interview: Shaffa
Date: 28/6/73 Time: 8 9 A.M.
Haptu is what the people believed as something which has
had a super power, a power of helping them in time of trouble
and healing. In short they take it as their God. This clan or
nyarmbwa haptu is kept at home with the person in charge. As
already said, there are two nyarmbwa haptu in Subwang, one for
Diza and one for Mashidu. The one in Diza was with Chakata but
now with Pindar Mwada. And the one for Mashidu was with Betara
but now with Kachagana.
These people got the job of holding the haptu by virtue of
their ages. This has been followed since the creation of the
village, making successive taking overs(takeovers) from father
to the eldest son in the group. This also has been the way the
Bulama was chosen. The way this was started I do not know. The
person that keeps the haptu may not necessarily be the Bulama.
All the predecessors are grandfathers of the person holding the
haptu today. These haptus are not so powerful today, although there
are some people within the clan who still believe it.
But with the coming of other religions, the haptus are not
so much looked after as in the days past. This is because people
have realized that they cannot really obtain salvation from what
they created by their own handed, and as such many or most of the
people have forgotten about the haptu. Most of the people are
Muslims but some of them are Christians. And today there are
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mosque and church in the village.
In the times past these haptus were believed to have some
super powers which help the people. For example, when a child
became ill the parents of the child will take a chicken, mostly
black or white, and this would be slaughtered to the haptu and
would be cooked with mash so that this boiled chicken and the
food would be taken to the child and as soon as he or she ate it
the disease would leave him or her. This was the practice of
the people. This also was believed to have helped even some-
body living some hundreds of miles away from the place, if only
the food made in the name of the haptu is taken to him. This
nyarmbwa haptu worked only to the nyarmbwa members. Non-dur or
even a dur member but non-nyarmbwa was not allowed to go to that
particular nyarmbwa haptu for any help. If he or she did there
would be no help. This means that the nyarmbwa haptu was only
for the nyarmbwa members.
The nyarmbwa haptus had no specific time for worship and
consultation, but any time there was trouble. Many of the various
families had their own haptu in the house which the man kept for
them. This also is Vow going out of date because of the other
two religions Muslim and Christianity.
There were times when the person keeping the haptu would die
without having a big son to take over and when this happened the
haptu was taken care of by the brother of the deceased and from
there the sons of the person having the haptu would now continue
the procedure, even though the deceased son would have grown by
now he was not given the chance to take care of the haptu unless
agreed upon by every man in that particular nyarmbwa.
Name of informant: Kwatam Mwajim Age: 51
Place of interview: Shaffa
Date: 3/7/73 Time: 4:30 5:30 P.M'
The present religious denominations are Islam and Chris-
tianity. This is applicable to the dur as a whole. But majority
of the people are Muslims. The oldest of them is Islam. This is
so because it was believed that the first person to have started
the dur Mshelia was a Fulani man who brought the religion Islam.
And so it has been very long time since it started.
For Christianity it has not been long since it started. It
was started as soon as the time Europeans first came to Garkida
in 1922-24. Many boys were taken to Garkida for schooling and
it was there they heard of the Christian religion. They then
brought it to Subwang and people began to learn from them when
they came home for holidays.
The first time these religions started people became very
/ serious in following them but now many people do not take reli-
gions so seriously as they first began. But there is no
explanation to this. But I could suggest that this is because
the leaders are becoming reluctant in their:duties. But what
makes them reluctant? This is the root question which keeps
coming up when talking to somebody about religion. There are
only a few if any who take the religion seriously. At the same
time they are not trusting or believing their haptus but just do
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their work and other things.
By the time the Christian religion came people thought it
was going to disturb them in their Muslim religion. But it
later became clear to the people and there was no trouble be-
tween the people about religions. By the time Christianity came
Islam was there, the worship of haptu was not so much believed,
and so there was no conflict between the two religions and the
indigenous pagan religion. Instead, each part developed interest
in each other to learn about their own ways of religion and to
know its rules and in doing so some people were able to convert
other people to their own ways of worship and the rules of
following the religion.
Name of informant: Kwatam Mwajim
Date: 4/7/73 Time 8:30 10:00 A.M.
There are three generations in the marriage customs of the
people of Subwang. And in all these generations variable differ-
ences are observed. And they can be seen in the three ways quite
First of all, the Mshelia people of Subwang were known to
be the first people to bring about circumcision. These people,
because they were circumcised, other people did not allow them
to marry their daughters. Many people were against this circum-
cision and so they cut themselves away from the Mshelia people.
AS already said, these Mshelia people were Muslims at the be-
ginning they themselves made themselves superior to the other
people. Because of all these things they could not inter-marry
with the rest of the people around.
They later developed certain habits of catching any girl
they wanted in market places and dancing places. When one of
their men saw a girl that suits him or that is beautiful to him
he would ask his mates or fellow friends to catch the lady for
him. This they do at the end of the dance or when the ladies
will be going home to their places where they come from. These
people were believed to be very strong and so as soon as they
caught the lady they would run away with her to Subwang. The
lady may be struggling to fee herself and her people may also
run after the people but even so they may not catch them. When
the girl is taken to Subwang she would just be the man's wife.
During those days there was nothing like money so the
people of the girl would just keep quiet about the whole affair.
But after some months the parents of the man (gentleman) would
go to the girl's parents with about three buckets of beer and
that's all. This went on for many years. Many people never
agreed to it and so a sort of enmity used to be created. But
reconciliation used to be made by giving the parents of the girl
either a goat or a sheep and ree buckets of beer. The second
generation was more advanced. After the people became friends
with others around them things became better.
The reason why they became friends was that these Mshelia
were blacksmiths and so they made hoes to sell in the markets.
They made knives, arrowheads and spears and also all sorts of
war weapons. These people made many things which were helpful
to others. Because of this many people made friends with them.
Again, in the whole area they were the people who had cows and
so milk was easy to get. Other people around went there to get
milk, to sharpen their hoes, knives, spears, to buy also other
things which they made in their workshops. All these things made
people interested in them and so friendship was established be-
tween them and the neighboring villages.
From here now they stopped the act of catching people's
daughters in market places and other gatherings. They became
well known and as such the other girls also developed interest
in the young men. By now they would meet the girls they had
interest in and then talked to them about marriage. The young
men get the girls also in market places and other gatherings also
but now in a more gentle manner. If the girl agreed, then the
man would prepare some two to three buckets of beer which is
equivalent to three big gourds of beer. This is taken to the
parents of the girl, together with one kuntu, a cloth made by
the local people which is rolled up, and some metal ornaments
which they used to put or wear on their hands. These things have
now become the dowry and the parents of the girl would accept
them and now the girl has become the man's wife.
By now, although the girl loved the man they would never
stay long on the same place. This was said to be a sort of respect.
The woman would pretend as if she did not love the man. She kept
Running (many_ times) away from the man. The man then arranged a
certain date with his friends that they would go to catch the
girl for him. This was somewhat peculiar again because the ques-
tion of catching comes up. This is because the girl would not
go to the man's house. During this arrangement, if the girl
heard their plan she would run away from her home and hide in a
neighboring house. But if she did not hear about that, then the
men would get her either in the play they used to do every night
beside their homes together with other girls or even when they
saw her going to fetch some water. But the men would never go
inside the house to catch her unless they saw her outside.
By the time they saw her outside they would catch her and
run away to their place with her. By now the rest of the people
in the girl's village would never say anything because they knew
what was happening.
When the woman was taken to the man's house a piece of cloth
would be sewn to her out of the handmade cloth. This is called
jambi. The way the cloth is sewn is by making some combination
of white and black pieces. The black pieces were made by using
dyes. The dyes were gotten from barks of trees or some leaves.
These white and black are then sewn together out of which a beau-
tiful cloth is gotten. By this time the bride would be in another
woman's house apart from the bridegroom's mother's house. If
the (?) in the bridegroom's house there is only one woman, that
is his mother, the bride would be in another man's house for a
few days. This did not mean that somebody else would have sex
with the bride. But this was only to make her stay for sometime,
say three days in peace and to rest.
The bridegroom would now collect his friends and get a
musician to play for him and also to see the bride grind some
guinea corn. On this day the bride and her friends would cook
some food and distribute to the neighbors and relatives around.
A goat would be slaughtered and be used as soup. Some rich people
would even slaughter a cow. Those people outside the dur also
would be asked to come and witness the ceremony and these people
would come with their girls. It is also in such gatherings that
the other young men would find their future partners.
This day would be full of joy and happiness for all the
people around because a lot of food would be cooked and also beer
for even the old people. The young men would come and then ask
the musician to play for them in the names of their girl friends
and their future wives.
Sometimes rivals would meet there and as they (asked) the
musician to play for them they would contradict each other. Some-
times the girl they were both interested in would be there and if
one man put her to grind so that the other people around would
see, the other man would say the girl should not do it. These
sorts of contradictions used to cause fights among the young ri-
vals. Sometimes this used to creatE great enmity which may involve
- 18 -
even the big men of the various clans.
After this ceremony the bride is now a confirmed wife to the
man. This time she was to go to the bridegroom's house. On this
particular night the bride would be very shy to go to the bride-
groom's house. Now the question of going to bed comes. When
the bride would not go to bed with the bridegroom. She would
dress herself so well that the man could not get her easily. The
lady would not just go to bed with him and had to use his whole
strength to get her into control. If by the time he was able to
knock her even on the floor and had sexual intercourse with her,
and if blood was seen on the next day on their bed, the girl's
parents would be very happy when they hear about it. But when
it was found to have no blood it meant that the girl was not a
virgin and it could mean an insult to the parents and the girl.
The parents of the boy would also be happy that their son married
a virgin. After the first forced intercourse the lady would
never be hard for her husband again. But now~everything is done
peacefully and by this time she would just cook food for the man.
In those times past girls married at the age of16 to 18 and
boys married mostly from the ages of 17 to 20. For the first two
years the man would work together with the wife but after two
years the woman would be given her own farm to work alone. The
woman also ate her food alone but never together with her husband.
The woman also did every family work alone and also worked
as well as the man. The man gave her guinea corn only when her
own was about to finish. She finds firewood, fetch water, did the
grinding, cook, and at the same time looked after the children.
From all these works the women did it would be seen clearly that
the women worked harder than the men.
When the woman got pregnancy she was sewn bigger piece of
cloth and this big one was called japta.
This is roughly how the cloth looked. A small one was called
jambi but a big one was called japta.
When the woman gave birth a still bigger cloth was made for
her. This time it was quite different from the two. But the
difference was only in the sewing but the sort of material re-
mained the same. The decoration was made with more care and also
with more black and white coloration. This was called dambadir.
This dambadir was even popular in the years 1950's to 60's. But
now one could hardly get any which was made by the old men of
As the years went by the new generation in the ways of
marriage changed. This time more peaceful than the rest. And
everything is also in order. There are a lot of cloths and also
a lot of money is spent on the basis of marriage. Things are not
Today, if the girl ever went to school her dowry will even
be up to N80 apart from clothes that the man will buy for her.
In this, every type of women's dress will be of pairs. This
is the first set of the clothes for light engagement. But for
heavy engagement every type of women's dress will be in fours.
This will cost the man about N200. Again some money is accom-
panied with the clothes about N20 for showing the clothes for
the parents and relatives.
When the man goes to take the wife he has to spend some
money again for the people in the house. The girl also would
not come out unless some amount is given to her friends. Any-
way, this money sometimes is given back to the bridegroom but
not all anyway. The man may decide to do his engagement in the
church if he is a christian. But if he is a Muslim he would
just call the imam and the rest of the people around with some
kola nuts, usually 800, and distribute 200 in the place of engage-
ment but the rest of the kola nuts will be taken to the parents
of the girl. The imam would read some scripture from the Koran
and the engagement is now done. The reading of the Koran is
accompanied by some questions as to who is the bridegroom and
who is the father of the girl. The bridegroom will ask the father
of the girl before the imam and the people around that he wants
to marry the man's daughter. The man will then answer that he
agrees. This is done three times before the people and now every-
thing is finished.
This time the woman will be taken to the husband's house.
This is done by the husband's friends. They would play for the
man and his bride. The usual music played is gararja which is
called yakandi in Bura language or kulum. This gulum is made
in the same way as banjo. It has three strings. The yakandi
has two strings. Sometimes tsindza which is called zalophone
(xylophone?) is played. Some people may even arrange dance
with drums and xylophone together. Many people like this very
Marrying an illiterate is easier because not all the re-
quirements said above are done. For them only half of the
clothes discussed above is used. The dowry for an illiterate
is only N40, for a class seven leaver only N80, but a girl that
went to higher institutions the money ranges from N120 to N160.
This distributes almost all over the Bura area and even in some
places outside Bura area.
My own comments
In areas where the cost of living is very high and the money
for marriage is just too great for the people and also rentage
is high, those with low income or salaries find it difficult to
marry and as such they would prefer to befriend harlots and to
satisfy themselves. This is one of the reasons why young men
today do not care to marry.
For example, the class seven leavers(learners?) who were
unfortunate in not finding the chance of going to any higher
institute. They get only few Naira, not even up to N30. What
will this do to them? When will they collect that few Naira
for marriage what will they live on and pay rentage and then feed
the two of them or even with their children if at all he is able
to marry one? Even I myself will never dream of that. I would
rather suffer myself than to take other people's daughter and
suffer her for nothing.
Now let us take the case of secondary school leavers. They
are facing the same problem. They get only N40. This will
never help them anywhere in this our country where the cost of
living is very high and the cost of women is equally high.
So to conclude my comments, I would say these things are the
factors which encourages harlotry lives in Nigeria. Because if
men will not marry women, and at the same time women must eat,
they have to find means whereby they would get and that is the
easiest way. And if this thing is not looked after well the
whole population would burst into harlotry in the future.
Name of informant: Ibrahim Kadaffir Subwang
Place of interview: Shaffa
Date: 5/7/73 Time: 2:00 5:30 P.M.
Yamtarawalla was born in the town of Gassargamu. He was
born in a king's house. This king was a Kanuri man. The place
itself is in the Kanuri land. His mother was a slave in the king's
house. His mother got the pregnancy in the king's palace. Nobody
knew whether the king was the one who gave her belly or someone
else. The boy Yamtarawalla was born.
By this time the king had no son but one of his true wives
had a pregnancy. That woman gave birth and it was a son also.
The two boys grew together in the presence of the king. But it
happened that the king grew old. Later on he died. Up to this
time nobody from outside or even those inside the house could
tell which was the king's real son. So they were pondering over
the question as to which one of them should be king. I have for-
gotten the name of the real king's son. Anyhow, that is not so
So because in those days when a king died his son, usually
the elder, was made king, the people did not know what to do. At
this time there were some people who heard that Yamtarawalla was
not the king's real son. But they could not reveal it because
they were afraid. Also, by virtue of his birth (Yamtarawalla) he
was supposed to be the king. But some people wanted the king's
real son to be the king. The king's son as gained favor in the
sight of the people around and relatives. Some people were say-
ing secretly that they did not want a bastard to rule them. In
all these things the scribes went to seek advice from the mallams,
that was the quaranki (Koranic?) mallams around to tell them and
to advise them about the whole affair.
The mallams told them that they should take two bulls, put
them to each of the boys to slay and from this they would know
which one was the king's true son. The way they would know was
that a true Muslim would never slay any animal without quoting a
quotation from the Koran when slaying the animal and also he
would not slay the animal with its face facing the west or the
north or south but facing the east.
So, these gentlemen were called and the elder was asked to
slay his own. But before he did so the people around put the
face of the bull towards the west. But they did not tell him
anything. Those people that loved the king's son called him
in a private place and instructed him about all the procedures
that were connected with the slaying of the bull.
So now, when Yamtarawalla came he just jumped upon the bull
without even asking any help from the people, and slew the bull
without any reading and with the bull facing west.
When the king's smn came he was told to slay his own. He
then called some people to help him hold the bull and told them
to put the face of the bull facing east. He then read a quota-
tion from the Koran and slew the bull. After he finished this
the people started to shout out that he was the king. He was
made the king in place of his deceased father.
Yamtarawalla now, on losing the position, became angry and
then started packing his belongings to run away. But one mallam
who was a friend of his asked him to stay for that night so that
he may try to find out for him how his luck would be. The next
morning, the man told him that he was to go towards the south in
Biu area and there he would gain favor from the Bura tribe. But
he was told to go there as a hunter. He then took his quiver and
bow, then went to the Buratai area twenty miles from Biu town.
There he began to hunt some animals. He sold the meat at cheap
amounts. Sometimes he would give some people free. Because of
kindness to them they became friends. Bura tai means a place
which was held by the Bura people only and that the Kanuri people
had never conquered it. Tai is a Kanuri word.
He went on hunting and selling the meat to the people until
one time he fell in love with a Bura girl. The people there got
him married to this girl. After staying for some time they made
him king. This was at Ncikwarkir near Bura Tai. His first son
was Mari Virahyel and some other children. When his son, Mari
Virahyel, grew up and saw that his father was old,,tried to de-
throne his father.
Mari Virahyel was known to be somebody with a satanic char-
acter. He was quite different from others. He was feared by many
and also he had many friends. His father, Yamtarawalla, ordered
some people to take him out of the village and kill him. But
these people, because he was their friend and partly because they
were afraid of him, refused to kill him but hid him somewhere.
When they came to the king they told him that his son was killed
as they were ordered to.
Some in the neighborhood began to come to give their messages
of condolence to the king. They knew that the king was the one
who ordered the people to kill his son but the other people around
came to greet the king because they wanted favor from the king;
also they wanted to make the king know them in all angles.
The king was old by the time his son wanted to climb the
throne but I don't know why he refused to give it to him. It
could be because of satanic character that his father thought he
could not lead the people in a rightful way, I cannot tell why.
When some people were passing to the king they met Mari
Virahyel. He told them that when (they) go to his father they
should tell him that his son was not dead but alive. He said
that the people should tell his father that if he had milk he,
the son, had some food to mix with, but if his father had some
food he had some milk so let them meet somewhere for reconilia-
tion. These people were afraid of the king so when they went to
the king they took another way when going home. Some other men
can and he told them the same thing but they could not do it be-
cause they were afraid. Later on some other group of people
came and after telling so many people about this he succeeded in
these people. These people then took his request to his father.
But when he, the king heard it he said the people were mad or
else how can somebody die and live again. Then he cursed the
people that they were to be like the wind and the air of the fields.
This is why even today in Bura area there are some people
who are called people of the wind or air. These people, when-
ever it is close to the rainy season, they would cut the finger
of a dead body and roll it in a black rag and then pass it from
village to village. And the village in which it goes whenever
it is raining, there would be great strm in that village that
even the roofs of huts will be carried away. This in Bura is
called (tsiya mjir shambar), that is, the finger of the hand of
the people of the air or wind. Whenever this happens people
would look round to find it. When they have found it they would
take it to the next village and the same thing will happen. This
will continue until the finger goes back to its own village where
it would be put into a hole inside a baobab tree in the village.
The name of the village is called Kwagu Virahyel.
Yamtarawalla later met his son and he said to him that he
should leave what he was doing. Then he said to his father that
he must be king. Yamtarawalla then told him that if he should
context him he should get ready to do so because what
he asked the people going to his father to tell him was a proverb
which means he was better than his father. He then told his
father whatever the context was, he could do it. His father said
to him that they had to cook stones if he thought he could con-
text his father. They prepared their pots and water with the
stones inside it and then put them on fire, one for the king and
one for the son.
After some time the king told him that he should go and see
if his stones were cooked. When he went there he took a piece of
grass and stuck it into his own pot and brought out the stone and
it was cooked. He then marched to the king eating the cooked
stone. When his father saw that he said that his son was really
serious. He became angry and so he began to sink. Mari Virahyel's
sister saw their father entering the ground so she went to tell
their mother, but the woman did not believe it. She kept telling
the woman until she got annoyed with her; she then went to see
what her daughter was troubling her about. But before she went
to the place the king had already sunk; only his hair remained
outside. Then she quickly cut it off. Mari then went to the
palace and became king, which he later came to Biu town.
I don't know whether those who used to stay with the king
were absent that day that the king sank into the ground. It could
be in the evening when everyone of them had left to his own house
or it could be early in the morning. I don't know anything about
The hair that was cut from Yamtarawalla's head when he was
sinking was used to crown kings. Up to today his hair is still
with the present king. The place where he sank was looked after
up to today at Ncikwarkir. The people there even built a house
upon it and the room is cleaned weery now and then and looked (after)
The stone that King Mari Virahyel cooked is still with one
man called Yerima Dzikwi at Garkida Tawula near Mandargran. Any-
time a new king is made he was bathed in a certain river called
Manda Tsirakumi and then the hair cut from Yamtarawalla's head
was put on his head and then turbanned. /This is done up to today)
Vi This is how the Pabir origin came about in Bura area. These
Pabir people were not many in number but only that they were to-
gether. During those times the Bura people used to catch them
and sell them into slavery.
The Lord Igard came into power when he was governor general
of Nigeria. He came to Biu and the people, because they were
not many, accepted the governor and his soldiers happily. The
Pabir people used the Europeans in their cleverness to revenge
what the Bura people used to do to them. They did this by creating
enmity between the Bura and the Europeans and their soldiers.
When Lugard was going on tour the king would send messengers
to the Bura people saying that the Europeans were going to fight
and not for peace. So before Lugard came with his soldiers the
people were just ready to fight with their weapons. The strangers
were just surprised and they had to use their guns to pit the
people to silence.
Lugard and his men hanged and killed many people in the
Bura area. This was mostly the places where the people were tough,
places like Giraba, Pela Thlabu and Subwang. But Subwang was
the center because they were blacksmiths and so they could make
arrowheads, spears and many other war equipment. Some people
really became tough and they were killed.
After the Bura people were silenced some of them were taken to
Biu and as a punishment they were made to build houses and farm
for the king and his men. Some of them were put to making roads.
Many of the Bura people's goats, sheep and chickens were carried
away. So that was how the Pabir people began to revenge on the
Bura people. The Bura people even nicknamed Lord Lugard (Bata
It was in 1922-23 when some missionaries came to Biu area.
These missionaries were Mr. Kulp and Mr. Helsa. They heard from
the first district officer that there were some people who were
suffering under other people who were occupying their territory.
When they came they stayed in Lake Tila near Biu. King Mari
saw that when they stayed there they would educate the Bura people
which will come to hinder them from cheating the Bura people. So
the king told them to leave Kwaya Tila and put them on the boundary
between Biu and Adamawa; that is, in Garkida. From there the
district head was removed to Kwajaffa. This was because the king
at Biu was afraid the missionaries would influence the district
head and if he should know how bad it was to cheat he would cut
off from the king and his people which would make the king unable
to cheat also.
Name of informant: Yerima Kadabu Age: 90 years
Place of interview: Shaffa
Date: 6/7/73 Time: 7:15 10:00
The origin of Bura was not known because so many people came
from different parts of the area. There were some people who
came from the east, some from the south, some from the n6rth and
also some from the west. And also, it was not known which group
came first. According to other people's reports they said some
groups evolved from others. But I don't know anything about this.
At the same time one will automatically know that there must be
something which made the people to become one. Some of the wars
had helped to unite them, especially when the Pabir people tried
to fight them, starting with the European rulers.
This Bura name came to be applied to the people because they
were tough people in those days when they fought so many wars.
Even before Yamtarawalla came to Biu there were Bura people at
Bura tai and Mandragrau. The group of Bura people were never
conquered by the Kanuri of Borno or even the Fulanis.
This name 'Bura' was obviously a name of a certain group of
ants. These ants were believed to be the strongest among ants.
They could make a bridge of themselves across small waterways.
They could also drive out other ants from their holes and occupy
the area. They were said to be tough and could not (were not)
afraid of other ants. These ants, when they bit somebody, would
never come off quickly, and also it is very painful. This is why
these groups of people decided to call themselves 'Bura'.
I don't know who first suggested this name or even how they
got this name to be applied to the ants. But that should not be
doubtful in our discussion because there are so many animals and
plants with various names, so we have to take this as it is.
There are so many people in this Bura area. These groups
of people were or are not all brothers and sisters in the sense
that they did not all come from the same area. So, these differ-
ent groups of people who came from different places with different
ways of doing things like dressing, tribal mark, and the ways of
marriage customs are having some clan names. This clan name is
applied to each and individual groups that unite into the Bura
These various clans have got their clan names like Balami,
Gwari, Mshelbwala, Msheliza, Mshelia etc. One clan cannot get any
membership into another clan. Even during those days when people
dealt with slavery the slave was still called a slave, even if he
or she was married to a certain group and had family. They were
regarded differently from the members of the clan.
For this particular clan, Mshelia, their special occupation
was blacksmithing. The way this work is done was discussed on p. 8,
typed p. 8. This man also stressed that the members of this clan
were very important in Bura area. He said that during those days
when there were wars people used to go to them for arrowheads and
spearheads for the wars. Even when one clan happened to kill one
member of another clan the members of that clan had to take their
revenge or else they would be regarded as cowards by the unaffected
clans. When this thing happened the people would go to the black-
smith and pay him to make arrowheads for them. Also, the Mshelia
group at Subwang knew the poison used on the arrowheads in which
when an animal was shot it would die in a few minutes and so with
human beings. So these Mshelia group were important to the sur-
The people paid the blacksmith with either a gourd of beer,
some guinea corn or a goat if his work was big and many, so the
price depended upon how much and how difficult it was for the
These Mshelia group were experts also in hunting. It could
be that because they made arrowheads they learned to use them
before others. They hunted and then sold the meat or used it
in their own families. Also, they introduced the idea of going to
hunt in groups in the afternoon and thus were the founder of hunt-
ing in groups as the Bura people do today. Usually the group
hunting was done after the farm crops were harvested and this is
still in existence.
When all farm crops are harvested and the bush is dry people
start to set fire on the bushes around. This burns away a lot
of grass and keeps some areas clear.
Some elders of different areas would cut a branch of a cer-
tain tree called shafa and go to the market with them. Whenever
these shafa braircas are seen the other people in the market would
ask the person bearing the shafa branch and he would tell them
that we are going to so-and-so place on the date. Usually not
many people would go to the market with the shafa branch at the
same time, or even if they did, some would change the day of the
hunt because not many people would go if there are so many places
So now the other people would spread the news to their
fellow men to prepare for the hunt. Sometimes this would be
announced three market days or two before the day of the hunt-
ing. When the day came the people would go out with their
dogs and also their arrows and bows, also some people spears with
them. The people would go all in different directions so that the
animals in that area may not escape. They would come slowly to
the center of the hunting place, and before they finally come to
the end of the hunt many people would have caught a lot of ani-
Sometimes some enemies would see or meet each other and then
a fight would break out. Many people would be injured or even
killed. And if this happens the other group would revenge. This
was because every dead body must have someone to go with or to
die together in order to balance up or else the people who did
not revenge were regarded as cowards. People did not like this.
Sometimes the village heads of the different clans would settle
the matter by themselves. In doing so the clan which did the
more injury to the other clan would pay some things to the losing
clan. This also depends upon what the losing clan asked them to
do. They sometimes paid in goats and or sheep accompanied by
some gourds of beer.
This hunting was introduced because the wild animals used
to destroy the people's crops on the coming of the next wet sea-
son. So when the people hunted them at the beginning of one wet
season they would not do it again until the coming of that parti-
- 35 -
cular season from February to April. When they did this it
really helped them because the number of animals destroying their
crops would be reduced in number.
So still about the Mshelia group; they were the people who
introduced this in Bura area. In these days not many people go
to hunt. And also, people no longer fight in it.
People are losing interest; people in the government are
trying to stop it; also many young men have gone to school and
could not go to hunt because of laziness and also some people
would not be at home by the time this is supposed to be done.
In the early days young men did the best hunting because it
was in the field of hunting that they displayed their manhood.
And if a young man was beaten in the hunt girls would laugh at
him and even refused to marry him because he was regarded as lazy
and coward person.
Sometimes a man would shoot an animal and if it gets the
animal and if another man shot it again, the first man was re-
garded as the owner of the meat and that second person would be
given a portion from it.
Sometimes also the last person would not agree that he was
the last to shoot and this would also cause fights between the
various groups. Sometimes the owner of the hunt was affected in
that he was the one who called the hunt. He then tried to settle
the matter and sometimes he could do it. But when he was not
successful, then the different clans would do it between themselves
In the hunt every big animal that was caught, one of its
thighs would be given to the owner of the hunt. This was observed
since the introduction of it up to this time. Sometimes people
would catch an animal but would quietly run away with it from
the place of hunting.
When an animal was caught the people would climb a tree and
unskin it there. Otherwise some of the people around would tear
the animal into pieces; also the dogs around would disturb.
The genealogy of the people continued:
The origin of the Mshelia clan was from Adamawa province.
,)The first man was said to have come from Song near the Ganda
Area. These people in this particular place, Song, were Fulanis.
S ) This first man to have started the Mshelia clan came out with
*I^ : family looking for grazing area. When he came to this place,
Sj" Subwang, he settled there. He found a lot of grass in the valleys
S 1 so he decided to live on the hilltop.
1 '" Although he was a Fulani man he learned to be a blacksmith
from the Whana people and the Ngwi people who lived in the Song
hills. Even by the time this man came to this area there were
.x '' some of these tribes around the River Haul(Hawul?) all the way
to Lokoja which is about 60 miles from Biu and near Ndirsa.
This man, Oyerima, had two wives. He settled on the hill
which is now called Subwang. This man's children used to go
herding in valleys but the man used to stay at home to do his
blacksmithing. They were called Mshelia because he was the man
Kyerima, the blacksmith. He was the Bulama among his children
and so the people around called his children princes and his
daughters princesses. The word 'mshel' means prince. Lia means
metal. So Mshelia means prince of metal. The daughters were
called kwatandia. This name, Subwang, was given by someone from
one of the man's children.
There was a man passing these boys in the fields and when
he met them he asked for some water. The boys told him that he
should just go a little way before him and that he would get
water. One of them directed him by saying "when you go a little
way you would hear su (which is'something' in Bura language) and
bwang (which was the noise made/by the blacksmith which was heard
by them from afar). This put together subwang became the name
of the village. From then people started to call that place Sub-
wang. There were just many herds by then so almost everybody had
When this man, Kyerima, came with his wives he had two
children and some daughters. His elder son, Yakadabu, became
the Bulama of the village. This Yakadabu was married to two
wives. He got many children which I cannot remember their names.
but his elder son's name was Kaddfir. He then succeeded his
father and became the Bulama. This man, Kadafir was married to
two wives. These two wives got sons each. But his elder son was
Kachalla and his next son was Yadembila.
Yadembila was the younger son but he said that he had to be
the successor of their father; Kachalla, by virtue of his position
in the clan, refused to give him the position. Confusion then
began and the clan was divided into two nyarmbwa, Kachalla with
his own nyarmbwa and Yadembila with his own nyarmbwa. It was here
that the two nyarmbwa were got.
Kachalla was married to three wives and his elder son,
Kanawa, was got by the first wife. He then became the Bulama after
his father, Kachalla. This man, Kanawa got married to two wives.
His elder son, Betara, became the Bulama after his father. After
Betara his elder son, Chadi Wata, became Bulama. After Chadi
Wata his elder son, Yankwar Anj,ili, became Bulama. After Yankwar
Anjili his elder son, Cashaw Chamwasu, became Bulama. After
Gashau Chamwasu his elder son became Bulama. This son was Kacha-
gana and up to today he is the Bulama. This nyarmbwa was for
The nyarmbwa for Diza started with Yadembila who was the
younger son of Kadafir but wanted to succeed their father while
the elder son was still alive. They quarreled and then went to
Diza and settled there. He went there when he was married to
three wives and after his death his elder son, Yamindira, became
Bulama. After Yamindira, his elder son who was married to one
wife became Bulama. This son, Kalambi, died and because he had
no son his brother took his wife and became Bulama. When he be-
came Bulama he got two sons by his brother's wife. But he had
already got his own son. So after his death his elder son, Kina,
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became Bulama. After Kina, who had only one wife and two children,
died his elder son, Yawula, became Bulama. Yawula was married
to one wife also with many children but the number is forgotten.
His elder son, Chimba, became Bulama. Chimba also was married to
one wife; he had four daughters and two sons. His elder son,
Wakil Pindar, became the Bulama and he is still the Bulama of the
These people who succeeded their fathers were honored in the
clan but the most was by the members of the nyarmbwa.
It was when people had disputes that they exercised their
power. Also, sometimes people may have disputes between them-
selves about a land for farming and he, the Bulama, would help
them settle the whole matter. The Bulama also collected the tax
for his own zara, or may ask the people the day that the tax
should be collected and everybody would bring it on the day he
told them. Even during the wet season when the crops germinated
he would go out in the night, usually after supper, and then cry
with a loud voice to the people that the next day every animal was
to be tied. And he who did not do it would be fined. The fine
was usually a goat or any other animal depending upon what the
Bulama told the person to do This fine would be for the Bulama
and that was his only pay. Some people may decide to give him
some of the portions of their harvest, but that was not (a) must.
When the Bulama was not able to settle any dispute he would
take the case to the nearest person to the king at Biu. People
usually did not like to go to Biu but tried to settle the whole
matter in their own nyarmbwa or dur. The Bulama may have some
helpers or advisers still within the clan. These people may be
close to him or they be somewhat his father's brothers. The
people in the village tried to cooperate with themselves so as
to make things somewhat better, things like disputes and also
organizing some things to be done in order to help the clan.
Also at the time of wars they could hold meetings easily and then
went out to do what they discussed in their meetings.
Of all the rulers of Subwang Yakadabu ruled the best. This
was because he was not only regarded as Bulama but also as a
king. He judged the people within the dur and also the people
i ,, in the surrounding villages. Whenever there was a sort of dis-
P agreement or even serious fight they would go to the man and he
would judge them.
In those days people were afraid of him and even the king in
Biu thought that the man would J4400 the kingship from him. This
was because the Bura people preferred to be judged by Yakadabu
than to be judged by King Ali Gurgur who was the king at Biu by
then. The Bura and the Pabir were not on good terms and this
made the Bura clans around pay more attention to their Bura man
and not to the Pabir people who were harsh on them.
When the people first came to the area and because it was
L- the custom of the Fulani people that a son of one's brother could
marry the daughter of the other brother, they were marrying this
way in the clan. Later on they left that and started to marry
from a different clan. When they were marrying from their own
clan they never paid any dowry but just made some entertainments
which I cannot remember.
These people also were experts at witchcraft and the people
around were afraid of them. When they argued with some people
they would do medicine to the people to the particular man and
he would die immediately.
It was then that they started to catch ladies even at market
places. During those days the people of Subwang were the only
people in the area that did circumcision. Because of this the
people around did not like their daughters to marry from their
clan. But because they were good at witchcraft works, whenever
they saw a beautiful lady they would catch (her). The parents
of the girl would never go to get their daughter because they
were afraid. At the same time the other people around would never
marry that lady even if she was able to come home. This was be-
cause they were afraid and also because Mshelia people would
render the lady barren or childless. And if people should marry
her she would never give birth. This was serious because people
would say that man was not a man but he would be categorized in
the group of the women.
During this time almost everybody had cattle and so milk
was plentiful; meat was also plentiful and they were regarded
as the richest people in those days. And they were also proud of
their wealth because they could (get) anything they liked with
their riches. But now, only three people have cattle and also
the population of the people living there now is not up to 2000.
The first man, Kyerima, who came to this Subwang was the one
who brought the Muslim religion. It was he who brought the tree
now called as Mashidu in Subwang. He came with only one tree and
planted it where he and his children used to say their prayers
S' under. Later on he cut the branches of the tree and planted
them in a circular form and they all grew up and they covered
the whole area.
Y \\ It was said that the man put some medicine in the place,
probably in one of the trees there. The medicine was put inside
a certain metal which closed tight inside that it would stay
very long without it getting spoiled. The metal in which the
medicine was put is called pelma in Bura language. This pelma
was said to be guiding the trees. At this time every child was
instructed not to cut any of the branches of the trees or else
the pelma would come out and hit them on the chest and they would
die at the spot.
It was during this time when Lugard sent his men to go and
fight the people under the plan of the king at Biu, that one
Duropean went and cut one branch of the tree and at that spot
the pelma came out and his him on the chest and he died there.
And according to some people they said that his grave is at Sub-
i wang but nobody knows the exact spot. Up to this day people do
not cut these trees because they are afraid. They have grown
in great numbers.
In those days the people used to clear its surroundings and
clean the inside but now it is not cared for as before and also
nobody says any prayer inside it.
Also, in those days when rain refused to come the people
would find a very big and fat bull and sacrifice it by the gate
of this Mashidu and also cook a lot of beer and call the other
people in the surrounding villages to come and drink, also to
eat the meat. The meat would be cut into small pieces and every-
one that wanted it would go and get his portion and roast it
still in the village, even if he was a stranger. The people
would drink a lot of beer and become intoxicated before the
evening. This was because every house would cook this beer.
In the evening then the people would dance. Sometimes they
would do this for three days and the third day a lot of rain
will come. Sometimes they would get rain still that very day
The beer was also distributed to Eery branch of the paths
in the village for the other spirits apart from the spirit head
in the Mashidu.
Normally, when the first rain came the people would never
plant until the Bulama went out in the evening and announces that
everybody could go to his farm to plant that they would do so.
This was to start every work at the same time and when it was
time to tie the domestic animals nobody would ever complain and
if he did not do it he was punished without mercy. And the
punishment was to pay some goats I don't know the number but
it depended upon what the Bulama ordered him to pay. These goats
or any other thing paid to the Bulama for any crime would be
for him. And that was his reward.
The people were very cooperative and as such they observed
the laws of the clan and did all the things the Bulama told them.
These people were just by themselves and even today nobody is
living there who is not a member of the clan.
Name of informant: Ali Gurgur Age: 80
Place of interview: at Shafa in his house
Date: 10/7/73 Time: 1:30 3:15
In the early times the people had nothing like (?) or
cotton to weave and get cloths out of it. During this time they
used skins to cover themselves. Small boys would go naked up
to the age of ten. But when the boys reached the age of eleven
they were given these skins to wear. The skin was made in such
a way that it looked like the clothes of today, only that they
were not big enough to cover the whole body. The big men and
women used the skin and the women also bore their babies with
the skin. They even used the skin for mats and for strangers.
When a stranger went to their homes they would take him the skin
and he would sit on it.
Later on the cotton was got. I don't know(when,how?) it
came but when the cotton came people devised the way of making
gabaka (that was the rolled cloth) out of it. It was then that
the people started making clothes out of it. This gabaka was put
together and sewed, which the women used as jambi. This jambi
was small and the women used to tie round their waist only.
Later on they used japta which was bigger and the women could
tie them from their chests up to the thighs. The quantity of
cotton increased; they could get it easily and by this time they
could make bigger dresses from it. At this time the women used
During all these changes the men wore bengtang and nothing
else. It was later on that they made blankets to tie round
their shoulders. During this time the Hausa people had started
to trade. They came from far places to sell some ornaments and
some cloths(es) which were dyed. People found that they were
good and so they used to exchange the cloths with guinea (corn),
pepper, beans, or groundnuts.
These Hausa people from the north used to come by camels
and donkeys or even horses. Sometimes they came with their wives.
These women who were well dressed made the Bura people in general
to admire them. It was not long after the Hausa people came for
trade that the Bura people began to copy them in the ways of
dress. That is why up to now our women dress like the Hausa women,
so the Bura people are following the traditions of the Hausa people
in the field of dressing. From then also the men got better
clothes and made shirts or bought sewed shirts from the traders
and made themselves better ways of dressing.
About 1900 the Bura people had fine clothes. It was also by
1923 when young men began to go to school at Garkida that they
learned better ways of dress and cleanliness from the mission-
aries. The then missionaries and the first to come to Bura area
were Mr. Kulp and Mr. Helser together with their wives. They
came in 1922-23 when they started to teach people the way of
Christianity and how to read and write at the same time.
During that time both the men and women plaited their hair.
They would plait them just at the center of the head so that even
they carry loads they could not feel the pain.
The women used wrist ornaments and also wore beads in their
necks and also on their wrists. They would tie about ten lines
of beads but those who were just about to marry but did not yet
do so would even wear about twenty lines of beads.
The men and the women had tribal marks also but the women
had more. They would make two streaks on either of the cheeks,
three on the chin and also on the stomach, about ten to twelve
just surrounding the navel scar. Three also onG ch side of the
mouth. But the men would have only two streaks on the cheeks each.
^ T// (//'/I
Tribal marks for men
This was for women.
- 49 -
A woman's stomach with
some small dots in
between the lines.
The type of hair style in the early times
for both men and women, but later on they
differed. The men would use some ornaments
on the hair while the women would make
their own either flat or upwards but this
time not only one but three to four. Later
on the men would shave their hair and the
women would make their own any way they
liked and which they think would attract men.
\ This was for men.
Men from now to 50
( years back. This is
Lt ,1 for old men.
6/ This was for women.
Young men with
no tribal marks.
The women make their
V, own any way they liked.
The reason why hair styles and tribal marks changed or leaving
out of the custom completely was that when the missionaries
came they started to preach to the people that they were God's
created people and as God is mighty and that he makes no mis-
J takes, if anyone disfigured his body it meant he was not satis-
a / fied with the work of God and that was a sort of insult to God.
\ They said it was a sin to make God a liar while he is not.
And for the hair style, they said one has to make himself
or herself holy and clean before God. Therefore, the ways in
which they made their (hair) was not good and that it was dirty.
They berbed barberedd?) the school boys and made their hair fine
and clean that those not in school developed interest in it.
The boys, for their part, refused to accept anything dirty and
so people began to see good things and changed their ways of doing
things, like dressing, washing and trying to keep themselves
clean. The school boys in those days were regarded as Europeans.
Today many girls have gone to school and many are still going
to school and they even keep their hair uncovered although some
don't but many are doing it. People are beginning to leave the
old ways of life and are adopting other people's culture and
Boys and girls no longer have tribal marks only a few, but
those who went to school and have got children would not do the
work of making marks on their children's faces but preferred to
leave them without it.
There are some people also today that are against the idea
of tribalism and by leaving such things like tribal marks would
do better for the rid of tribalism. Some people do not want the
idea of stopping tribalism and so they still make tribal marks.
But these people are only a few; or anyone that has gone to
school and has children would not do it; only those that have
not been to school and do not know the danger of tribalism, but
that they want to identify their clans anywhere either close or
The marks of the men and women did not change with time or
even if it does I do not know, but when I first saw the Mshelia
clan and the stories about them which I heard, it had not changed.
It did not also stop abruptly but slowly. And even today there
are some old people with the marks.
Name of informant: Maina Mshelia Age: 75
Place of interview: In his house
Date: 11/7/73 Time: 2:30 4:00 P.M.
The Mshelia people were Fulani by birth. But the man came
all the way from Song area. The man settled at Jangwala near
Garkida but he did not stay long; he started his journey to the
place called Subwang. These people multiplied and became many
in number. The man had a lot of cattle and also goats and sheep.
When he came to this place he saw that the valleys near the hill,
Subwang, were good pasture or grazing ground, so he went up to
the hill and settled.
When he was coming he brought with him the tree which is
now the Mashidu. He brought only a branch but later on when he
planted the tree it grew and became big with many branches. He
then cut the branches and planted them. They in turn grew in
great number of branches which covered the whole place. They
used to say their prayers under these trees.
This was the first religion in the place even before idol
worship came to the place. Christianity was the last religion to
come to the place, Subwang.
The children of the man who came to Subwang married the
daughters of the people in the neighboring villages. In fact
they used to catch the ladies and not real marriage. These
people were Muslims and also they were the only people who cit-
cumcised. Because of this the other people around did not want
their daughters to marry them. They were also well known in
witchcraft and because of this also people did not marry them
in any way. When ever they caught a lady other people would not
marry that lady even if she ran away. The parents also were
afraid to get their daughter back because nobody would marry her
even if they did. It was believed that Mshelia people would do
some medicine to the woman that she would become barren if she
ran away after coming to the house of the people. If her people
were able to seize her before they reached the man's house, then
she could still marry somebody else. The people used to do a lot
of medicine that even somebody died, they had to investigate the
If the man was caught by a witch as they believed, the witch
would die also after the medicine was performed. If a man died
and swell after one day he was regarded as a witch and people
would not care about his or her death so much. Also the close
relatives around would feel very shameful. But when they found
the dead body as it was after a day, many people would come to
the funeral and also people would dance and also enjoy themselves
through drinking beer. This was mostly done to old men and women.
But when a middle-aged man died, the people would not even drink
beer but feel very sorry for losing a young man from the clan.
They believed that a young man or lady would not die without
serious illness, so whenever a young man or woman died after a
short illness, they had to do the medicine for the witch and if
that young man or lady was really caught by a witch the witch
would die after three days of the death of the young man.
When an old man or woman died the people would call a
drummer so that the drummer would beat the drum at the graveyard
as the people dug the grave. The grave was dug with the outside
round, which one man would enter to dig horizontally for laying
the dead. They would keep on exchanging until the whole grave
was dug. The people would also dig the grave which was just the
length of the dead body. They would measure the length of the
dead and then dig the grave equal to the length measure. They
would also make a sort of bed inside the grave.
In preparing the dead for burial the people would bathe him
and rub him with msa, a sort of red dye which was mixed with shenuts
oil, and then put (him) in a sort of chair made of wood. The
people would then spend the whole night dancing. After one day
the man would be buried. After seven days the people would end
the funeral. It was at this time that the people would prepare
great jars of beer and also kill a goat or two to cook some food
and then give to the neighbors and the strangers coming to end
the funeral ceremony.
The burial of a young man and an ordinary man or common
people in short was quite different from the Bulama. The Bulama
would be buried seated while the common people would be laid down
horizontally. The Bulama was said to be a big man and so should
be buried vertically so that he looked as if he were alive seated.
For small babies, their grave was dug horizontally starting
from the top to the bottom.
In all the graves the cover would be some flat, smooth and
long stones. Sometimes people would go for even half a mile to
find big and wide stones for the covering of the grave.
In the clan when a man died while married, the younger
brother of the dead man would just take the wife or wives of the
dead. This sometimes used to cause trouble because the younger
brother may be too young to stay with many wives. When this
happens he would take one of the younger wives of his brother and
the older one would stay as a widow. If she was not too old to
bear a child she would marry somebody else who should be still a
close relative of her dead husband.
- 55 -
They used to do this because they did not want to lose
their money anything that they spent in the marriage. But when
someone who was a relative to the dead man married the woman he
would not pay anything. If the woman insisted to marry someone
who was not in the clan, then her new husband must pay all that
was spent in the woman's marriage by her dead husband. These
things that he would pay would go to the relatives of the dead.
From here one would ask why was it that when a man caught a
girl from the marketplace people did not like to marry her when
she ran away because she would be barren, what about the olw
woman marrying from a different clan? This was because the woman
had given birth to some children for them and also she was some-
what old, they did not like to do her any medicine to keep her
barren. It was only when the woman was young that they would do
that. This was regarded as a wicked act by the people outside the
clan. But the Mshelia people were pround of it because nobody
would take their wives away from them.
Name of Informant: Musa Mshelia Age: 60
Place of interview: Shaff, in his house
Date: 12/7/73 Time: 3:00 5:00
How and why the population of Subwang decreased.
When the people of Subwang multiplied in great numbers not
all of them were able to get cattle. They started to farm. The
farming profession became the chief occupation of the people later.
They occupied the whole village with various crops and for those
that had cattle, they used the cattle dung as manure and they were
able to get a lot of harvest.
These people worked very hard. Also, because the people were
cooperative they would do what was called mbal psipsi. This was
how one man could cook a lot of beer and invite his neighbors to
work for him on his farm.
The man would first request his neighbors about three or two
weeks before the date of the work. When the people agreed he
would then prepare the drink in great quantity. Before time
came, about four or three days he would remind the people again.
By this time, even if someone had wanted to make a journey he
would postpone it for the work. The man would also invite a
drummer to his work.
When the day came he would then collect the ladies of the
village to carry the beer to the farm. The people would now
line up and someone would be singing some songs for them which
they would repeat after him. The ladies for their part would be
following the young men clapping their hands. The singer would
encourage the people as they did the work and at the same time
the drummer would be beating his drum. When a young man was left
behind the girls would laugh at him and joke at him also.
After sometime when they have worked, they would stop and
start with the drink. By the time they started again they would
be intoxicated and this time they would work harder. Some young
men would meet their girl friends. Some rivals would also meet
there and when this happens each and every one of them would
work hard in order to win the girls' favor. The girls also would
be following their boy friends while clapping their hands. The
work would be finished about 6:00 p.m. and usually started about
After finishing the work they would go home and spend that
night dancing. This used to help them a lot because many of them
were able to get a lot of harvest.
"But after the whole area went old, that is to say, when the
place became exhausted some people went away in search of fertile
land for better yields. Also, those with cattle went to some
places of better pasture. By this time the whole village began
to decrease. (A lot of the young men also went to school, and
after their completion would not come to the village again but
worked els here. Some people also saw that there were advantages
in staying by the roadsides so they went there and left their
original place or village.
There were many people who did that and the population de-
creased very greatly. Some of the farmers went to Garkida also
because of the school there which was started in 1923-24. Some
went to Kwanda and some went to Garkida Tawula near Mandragrau.
Those who went to the roadsides leaned to trade and they could go
far places like Jos, Kano and Maiduguri. In those days they used
to travel on foot with their donkeys or horses.
These people when they came home they began to tell the young
men about the life in the towns and how they could not explain
how good things there wee in the town. These young men developed
interest, so they left home and went to the towns. From here the
village decrease very greatly. Some of the boys or young men
who went to the towns used to come home and get married and then
go to the towns with the women. Many of them went to school and
many of their children grew up there and would never come home
for anything. Some of the young men in the towns also do not
know their own place of origin or home town until they are told.
This was because of the inter-marriage which the other people in
the town did with the Bura people who went there.
There are some people in the Bura area who would not like to
marry someone outside their clan. There are so many reasons for
this: Some say that when the woman goes to the husband's par-
ents they would not understand her and vice versa. Other people
also say when something like accident happens to the man his
children would be carried away to her own place and the children
may grow up without knowing their own home town and this in Bura
was known to be a way of decreasing the population of the clan.
There are many people in Bura even today that are trying to
discourage the custom of inter-marriage. At the same time there
are some people also who are trying to discourage tribalism.
This question of tribalism will hardly be put off. This is
because of the tight relationships between the members of each
clan. A young man may get married, but when he finds things difficult
his father or brothers would help him. When the others enter
any trouble also he would help them and this would continue from
generation to generation. In the clan he who does not do that
was regarded as a useless man. But this system was kept within
the various clans of the Bura people because each of the indi-
viduals would one day or another need help. So this is a very
strong way of binding the people together.
Name of informant: Yankwar Mshelia Age: 75
Place of interview: in his house
Date: 14/7/73 Time: 7:30-10:00 A.M.
The clan Shelia was started by a certain Fulani man called
Kyerima. He came from Song in Adamawa province. He stayed together
with the Hona and Ngwi people in the western part of the Song area.
He had a lot of cattle. Because of this he decided to go else-
where to find some grazing grounds.
After learning the work of blacksmithing from the Hona and
the Ngwi tribes he went away from that place. He came to Kwalamba
near Garkida and settled for sometime. Later on still he decided
to move on to another place. Each time he found nice grazing
lands he would stay for sometime. These durations of stay I do
not know how long but that was how the story was also passed on
to us by our elders.
He finally came to this place, Subwang, where he stayed till
his death. By the time he came he had some children who helped
him in herding the cattle.
This man, Kyerima, brought the Muslim religion to the vill-
age Subwang. He came with a certain branch of a tree which he
called Mashidu. When he planted the tree it grew up with a lot
of branches which he later used the other branches to make a
circular plantation of it. It then became like a fenced com-
pound. The trees grew in great branches and it was here that
they worship their God.
When they first came they settled at the place called Zara
Mashidu(map p. 3, typed p.3). They occupied that area until the
time they became many and could not stay together because of con-
gestion. When some of them moved to the area which is still
part of Mashidu but a bit far, about half a mile away. But
after Yadembila rebelled against his brother, Kachalla, who was
the elder, the people started to be divided into two nyarmbwa.
In the clan, when a father who was the Bulama died his elder
son used to become the Bulama. This continued for many years.
But when it came to the time of Kachalla and Yadembila the sons
of Kadafir, the younger son Yademibla would not allow Kachalla
to be the Bulama. This was where the nyarmbwa started to divide
into two. When Kachalla refused to give Yadembila the Bulamaship
Yadembila became angry so he went to the zara called Diza. There
he formed his own zara and became the Bulama. Kachalla, for his
part, was the Bulama in Mashidu. The two nyarmbwa continued to
grow in number.
Although these people were split into two nyarmbwa, yet they
did not inter-marry among themselves. Before this time they used
to inter-marry because that was the custom of the Fulanis. I
don't know how they came to leave this out. But before, when a
\brother and a sister gave birth to children then the children
could marry among themselves. This is still practised in the
Fulani custom that uncles could still marry each other. Today
this is not so in Bura area. But people from different clans
marry and not people from the same clan.
The Mshelia people as they increased in number they started
to do some farming. They started by working close at(to) home.
They planted guinea corn, maize and groundnuts around their houses.
Also some vegetables like rossebe, okra and jute. Almost every
house had such things around in the yards. Later on they ran
Ehort of land to farm these crops so they began to find some
lands farther away from the village. Some people who had cattle
would use the cow dung as fertilizer. This used to help them a
lot because the place produced a lot of crops. Some people also
because they had some cattle, they did not care for some of the
crops. But most people planted maize and groundnuts and some
guinea corn near their houses. These people drank a lot of milk
from their cattle. Even some of the people who were outside the
clan used to go to them and buy their milk by exchange. The people
would get (give?) either some groundnuts or guinea corn to the
milk owners and they would get milk in return.
They did the same thing also when trading in materials made
by the blacksmiths. These people were said to have helped the
other clans dearly. This was because they had a lot of animals
and could get food easily. Also because they were blacksmiths.
They could make arrowheads, hoes, knives, spearheads and swords.
These things made them well known in the area. Other people used
to come to them for help, especially during the time of wars.
They would come to the blacksmiths so that they could obtain some
war equipment. Because of all these, many people from other clans
made friendships with the Mshelia clan.
Since the Mshelia people of Subwang were the first people
to start blacksmithing one would ask, how did they get the first
metal or how did they get the metals to make many things as that.
Well, they did this by collecting some iron ore in the rivers and
,,i pathways after the rains. After the rains there used to be some
iron-like substances. They are also found in rivers by the sides
of the banks. This is mostly found in a sandy place. These iron
ores can be seen shining when the sun is shining in the afternoon.
It was this that the people used to carry from the pathways and
rivers. They got a lot of them; this may take them a lot of days
but still they could do it.
They would build a big oven with two openings, one for the
air coming from the bellows and the other fbr putting the iron
ore. They used charcoal also. A lot of the charcoal was used.
The man would work the bellows from morning till evening before
the iron would melt. The iron was just put in the place at a
When the ore melted completely the blacksmith would stop
the bellows. After sometime the ore would mold into one. This
big shapeless metal with a lot of impurities would be taken out.
This was put on a stone and another big stone was used to crash
the whole lot. After some beatings the impurities would fall
out but the true metal would just be shining. The shiny part
was the one used to make hoes, spearheads, swords, arrowheads and
Women used knives a lot for cutting vegetables like beans'
leaves, okra, rossebe and even tomatoes. They also used knives
for decorating their calabashes. Even the men that made stools
used knives for decorating them.
It was through the profession of blacksmithing that the clan
got its name, Mshelia. In Bura language, mshel means prince, and
lia means metal. So, Mshelia put together is the same as 'prince
of metal.' That is the blacksmith clan. Only the men are called
Mshelia but the women are called Kwatamdia. Kwatam means princess;
dia was just an additional name made by the people. But the women
were well known in pot-making. Many women from different clans
used to come to them to buy pots for cooking food and also water-
pots. There were some women from neighboring villages who used
to come to the Kwatamdia women to learn how to make pots. There
are many Kwatamdia women who are still well known in the trade.
But many of them also have given up; only a few are doing it today.
These people did not use haptu so much because they came
with their own religion. That was the Muslim religion. Anyhow,
they had some nyarmbwa haptus. I don't know how they came to be-
lieve iilidols again after knowing about Islam.
There were two nyarmbwa haptus in the village, one for
Mashidu and one for Diza. The one Fr Mashidu was with Betara
but now it is with Kachagana. The one for Diza was with Chakata
but now it is with Pindar Mwada. Throughout the history of
Subwang there was no time that the various beliefs were trouble-
some. Each individual person was just busy with his or her work
caring less about the way of religion.
The people only seek God seriously when they entered trouble
or else they would not worry so much. Even the haptu they had,
they had no specific time for consulting it, but anytime some-
thing happened they would go and kill a goat or chicken and then
perform the necessary things involving the work for the haptu.
There was no special way of consulting the haptu also. Only
that the person holding the haptu was the only one allowed to slay
the goat or the chicken.
Whenever somebody within the nyarmbwa became sick the people
from his family would get a goat or a chicken to the person in
charge of the haptu. He would then slay the animal and the meat
would be cooked. The cooked meat would be taken to the sick man
and when he ate it he would be healed. This was believed to be
true but I don't know how true it was.
The nyarmbwa haptu was said to have helped nobody outside
the nyarmbwa even if the person was within the clan he could not
get any help from other people's nyarmbwa haptu. This sort of
limitation made some people to have their own haptu in their homes.
IThese types of people are those that the nyarmbwa haptu had not
' : helped. They thought that they could make their own which would
help them better so they did; and these small ones were kept by
-the head of the family, that was, the man. He would build a small
shrine in the center of the house and then keep the haptu there.
4 V Whenever something happened they would perform their own ways of
consulting their haptu.
It was in 1923-24 when Christianity came that many people
threw away their idols. This was not only within this particular
clan but even in other clans. When the first missionaries came
they settled in Garkida. They built some schools for children
and started to preach Christianity to the people The school
children also started to know that the things that were made of
hand like idols would never help anybody and that people should
destroy them. The missionaries and the school children went out
from village to village to preach the Christian religion. They
started to discourage even the tribal marks and the different
hair styles the people did in those days.
They preached to people that God was the creator of heaven
and earth and that people became sinners but God provided his Son,
Jesus, to be the Savior. God never makes mistakes and that his
works are absolutely whole and holy. From here they went on to
say that since God is the Creator there is no need for the people
- 66 -
to believe in the things they made with their hands.
Again, they said that since God's work was the best why
were the people insulting God at his own creation by making some
tribal marks. This means that God's creation was not good and
that they wanted to make themselves better than God by decorating
themselves more. This the missionaries regarded as sin against
God and that a real Christian would not do that. Many people then
left it and up to now people are not doing it.
Name of informant: Mallam Ali Gashau Age: 51 years old
Place of interview: At Shaffa in his house
Date: 16/7/73 Time: 5:15 7:30 P.M.
There are two stories which I have heard about the founding)
of Subwang. One was from my father and the other was from some-
body else. Both of these people have died.
The one related to me by my father was that the first man to
be the founder of the Mshelia Subwang clan was the son of the
king of Mecca who came by chance when he ran away from home be-
cause of some reason. I cannot tell the name of the king because
nobody knew him but many people were just interested in the story
of the son alone.
The king had many horses and servants. He also loved the son
and also provided him with whatever he wanted. But one thing he
refused him, and that was one of his horses which the king loved
himself. The boy liked the horse also but his father could(not?)
give him. He then became patient with his father. But one
morning when the boy woke up he saw one of his father's servants
was riding the horse. He went to his father and asked him why
he refused him to ride the horse but allowed his servant to ride
it. His father answered him that for him he, the father, would
not send him anywhere, but the servant would be sent anywhere
and any time. And because of this the boy became angry so he
took his sword and cut one of the branches of the trees near his
father's house and went away at night saying that he would never
return to his father and that if he died that was all, but if he
lived all would do him, but he strongly swore that he would
never go back to his father.
He set out on his journey alone and any place he went he
would plant the branch of the tree for some time. And also any
time he leaves the place he would uproot the tree and went away
with it. He did this repeatedly until at last he came to this
place called Subwang. When he came he found some groups of
people just near Subwang at a place called Gwalam. These people
were blacksmiths but not well known to any of the people around.
This man, after meeting someone in his neighborhood, tried to
settle there but he found the condition unfavorable to him so
he decided to leave the place for some time but planned to come
back after some years. It was said that he made seven years on
his journey from Mecca to the place, Subwang.
He then went to Adamawa province in the Son area. It was
here that (he) worked for the Fulani people who gave him some
cattle; also he married their daughters. I don't know how many
wives he married or how many years he did in the Fulani land, but
after getting a lot of cattle and a wife or wives he came back to
Subwang. He decided to live at the present place where the
Mashidu is at present. I cannot recall the name of the man also.
This man had some children and his children learned to do
the blacksmithing profession from the man who was there at his
first coming. They learned to do the job even better than the
man. Their father was also somebody who knew how to do medicine
and he taught his children also. It was when he started to teach
them many things about medicines, those for good and those for
bad, and also how to do them, that the man in their neighborhood
went away because he was afraid of them. He went away but I
cannot tell where he went water leaving that place.
This man and his children then became strong in medicine
and in wealth. From here they became blacksmiths and since the
first man to have started this was not there they were regarded
as the founders of the profession. This was the first history
background of the Mshelia people of Subwang.
The second one was that, the man who first came to Subwang
was a Fulani man from Song area in Adamawa province. These Fulani
people were associated with the Hona and the Ngwi people who were
blacksmiths by occupation. During the time of their stay the man
learned to do the blacksmithing. As Fulani people are always
moving from place to place in order to get good pasture for their
animals he decided to move round with his cattle. He started
his journey all the way from Song and settled on the way many
times with his animals. When the grass around finished he went
elsewhere to stay for some time again. These staying did not
take him long. Some took him only a few days. I cannot tell how
many places he settled or how long it took him to come to the
present place Subwang. When he came and found that the place
was good and that it had valleys full of grass on both sides of
the hilly country he decided to stay there permanently.
He had many children who helped him in the herding of the
animals. The number of goats and cattle or sheep were not known
but only that he had many of them.
It was from the Song area that he brought that tree hiich he
planted as the Mashidu. But one thing I am not sure here is
that this tree which is now in Subwang is never found in the
whole area of Bura. I was at Song sometime ago also and I was
observant to see whether such trees are found there but I could
not find it. Anyway, I hope this is not so important since it
was known that the Mashidu was not there before but was brought
by somebody else from another place.
From the two stories one would see that they are somewhat
similar in one way or the other.
The children of the man increased in number. The man and
his children used to say their prayers under the tree which the
man had planted. He taught his children how to do oral reading
from the Koran which he made to them as quotations. He also
taught them medicines. They could heal some serious wound and
also general diseases and many other sicknesses.
During that time they were the only people who did circum-
cision. Because of this the people around in the neighborhood
could not give them their daughters to marry. The young boys
were still increasing but they did not have some ladies to marry
so they started to catch them, either at marketplaces, dancing
ceremonies or even when the ladies went to the wilds to fetch
some firewood. Whenever a lady was caught by the people the
people of the girl would just leave them because they were afraid
of their medicines. And if the people insisted that their
daughter should be set free which the people never did, and if
the people of the lady were able to come by night to take away
their daughter or catch in the wilds again, then the lady would
never give birth to anything. In short, she would be barren.
Up till now our people are still doing it but this time only
to their beautiful ones. When a woman is very beautiful and some-
one wants to marry her and she agreed but later on refused be-
cause of another guy, then our people will do that to her. But
if the lady refused the man flatly at the first attempt then they
would not do anything to her.
Also, whenever someone wanted to marry and another man came
and took the lady away by night, if the man who stole away the
lady did not report or bring back the lady he would be turned
into mad. But when people advise him to bring back the lady
then our people would forgive him.
Because of their medicine their work of blacksmithing from
which hoes, knives, spearheads, arrowheads and swords were made,
many people began to befriend them. People come from far and
near to buy these things. Many people also buy some of their
cattle. One cow would cost them about four bins or granaries of
In those days, when one single family could have about two
/) hundred cows the people in the family would not farm but sell
some of their cows to get guinea corn and also drink milk. But
those who could not get any cows got some farmland around the /
vilage yards. .....
The only thing that everybody did was the planting of maize.
Every man had it either all round his compound or just behind
his house or anywhere around the house which he thought would do
There are no other clans at Subwang; up to this present day
the people are just by themselves. In the days past people used
to make it as a refuge. Whenever someone from a different clan
killed somebody within his own clan and the rest of the people
wanted to punish him he would run to Subwang. And if he went there
and stayed for few days he would go back to his clan and they would
just leave him. Sometimes the people of Subwang would send some-
one as an escort to the man who came as a refugee.
Many people also thought that when the man went there as a
refugee he would seek for some medicine which would protect him
from the people wanting to kill him. They used to be afraid be-
cause they held the people of Subwang to be people of magic power
and people who could communicate with devils and other spirits.
The relation of the Subwang were craftsmen who made many
things with their hands. The men were blacksmiths and the women
were potters. They made many times of old day war weapons like
arrowheads, spearheads, axes, swords and knives. The people
around then used to go to them to buy these things. Their women
used to go to Subwang also to buy pots and some to buy milk since
they were the only people having cattle in the area by then.
Because of all these things which they traded in they made a
lot of friendships and later on inter-married among themselves.
Before people learned of all their crafts and their medicine
they could not allow them to marry their daughters. It was then
that they used to catch the ladies at market places or at dancing
ceremonies or in the wilds. This was before the friendships.
Today there are no official elders, only ward heads. But in
the past there was a Bulama for every nyarmbwa. Now the people
are just by themselves together without any marked distinction
There was a time in the past when Yakadabu ruled as a king.
He really ruled as a king. Taxes were collected to him but in
those days it was in animals or farm crops. This man was said
to have twenty wives, two hundred horses, two hundred cows and
many servants which I could not remember the number. His two
sons even married the daughters of the then king of Biu. By
that time it was Kuhi Garga who was the king at Biu. This king
at Biu later on became afraid of Yakadabu because he thought he
would win all the Bura people to himself and that would mean a
lot to the king in Biu. It was then that the real confusion
broke out between the Bura and the Pabir people. But this I
cannot tell the story of because I cannot exactly remember it.
I was small. This Yakadabu ruled all the people in the whole
Kwajaffa district. He judged them and settled many disputes.
But when he died his many children divided his properties among
themselves which made them rich and at the same time they became
lazy to do other things.
Because of this the whole situation changed and the wealth
went out. After him his elder son Kadafir became Bulama only
and not as a king like his father. This was because his brother
could not leave him. Even so he just seized the throne but could
not be respected by the rest of the people because the younger
sons could not allow it. He did not stay long in the bulamaship
when he died.
It was after him that the division of the clan into nyarmbwa
came. His elder son, Kachalla, was supposed to be Bulama but the
younger son, Yadembila, could not allow him so they quarreled.
Kachalla went to his father's house to replace him but Yadembila
went to Diza with his family and brothers to stay there. It was
- 74 -
there that two nyarmbwa were got.
Today the ward heads used to direct the person that the L.A.
sends there for tax and other things in connection to L.A. busi-
nesses. He also tells the people when and how to do the things
which the L.A. may ask them to do.
In the whole clan there are only two nyarmbwa and also two
zara; that is Zara Mashidu with their own hyarmbwa and Zara Diza
with their own nyarmbwa. It was not so long that the clan got
divided into the two nyarmbwa but by then my father who died at
the age of 108 was not born.
Today the idea of nyarmbwa and other things to do with the
distinction of the family groups is going out of date. But this
I can say; there is no explanation to it as for me because I don't
know why or how it is doing so.
The present religious denominations are Islam and Chris-
tianity. Islam was brought by the people themselves. But Chris-
tianity came later on. There was a time when idol worship was
in practise but that did not stay. The idol worship was brought
by the women who were married from other clans who were not Mus-
lims before. This was so because whenever someone wanted to
marry and in order to win the lady he would do all that would
please her. So the different women from the different clans
around brought their own ways of worship, and that was the idol
worship. Many people began to believe in the idols and started
to drift away from Islam.
It was later when Christianity came that the people started
to learn about worshipping idols was not the true way of follow-
ing God and that handmade gods would never save anybody from
anything. There was nothing like religious competition or dis-
putes. Every and individual persons maintained their own ways
of doing things and following God.
Today both Islam and Christianity are not followed so seriously.
The question of haptus is out of date completely. There is no
specific reason why the religions are dying out.
In the times past the women wore jambi and jabta. Later on
they wore dambadur. These clothes were made out of cotton which
was woven by the people themselves. This was before the coming
of the Hausa people in the area for trade. But when the Hausa
people started coming with machine woven clothes the women started
to buy white clothes and ornaments like earrings, beads and wrist
Before the coming of cotton into Bura area the women used
skins from animals. The skin was made in a special way in which
women could bear their babies without difficulty. This was called
The men for their part wore the skin also at first as beng-
tang. But at the coming of the cotton they began to use the woven
cloth to make the bengtang. Later on they 1sed wando; that was
It was in the last 50 60 years that the Hausa and the
Kanuri people started to trade in the area. They came on camel-
back and donkeys; also horses. They came with a lot of things
like clothes, ornaments for women, salt and other things. Dur-
ing those times there was no money so the people traded in ex-
change. They may give out their articles and the Bura people
would give them groundnuts or pepper, beans, or cotton wool. They
did not have scales also to weigh things but did everything among
themselves peacefully. The traders and their customers were
very honest to one another. They never cheated anyone although
they could not hear each other's languages. One would put down
his or her articles and when someone came and showed him or her
what he or she had for the article the owner would get it and
the person would carry the thing away. But if the quantity of
the thing was not as required the owner would nod his head or
shrug his shoulder in disagreement and the person would either
increase his own if he really wanted the article or he may decide
to leave it. That was how they traded in those days. There was
not much bargaining because of the language difficulties.
Today many people go to the market to cheat people and
nothing else. That is why the government is trying to set up
committees to check up for the right sales that the people do in
the markets and in their shops. The price control board is work-
ing very strongly against those that cheat people through selling
things at different prices from what is supposed to be sold.
Many traders today are being punished or fined by the price control
boards when they cheat people and they are caught. The fines
used to be heavy so that it may teach others lessons.
For the tribal and hair style refer back to pp.69 and 70,
typed pp. 48 and 49. The marks and hair styles were changed
with time and today not many people are doing any of them, more
especially those that are in towns and schools. Which means the
customs are dying out.
There were six different ways of marriage in Bura area which
began from the beginning of the Bura tribe to this present day.
The first one was the marriage of which when a man went some-
where in which he met a woman was giving birth, and if the baby
was a girl he would take a leaf and throw it through the door
to the woman and the girl would marry nobody else. Everyone
would start to call her the man's wife. If the man was old al-
ready he would say that the girl will come to marry his son.
People used to hold this seriously and would never run after the
girl to marry.
When the girl grew the man would give out some of the re-
quirements in marriage. In those times there was no money so
people married with what was called 'kuntu.' The kuntu was the
ordinary or hand-woven cloth made from cotton wool. But before
that they used only animals and gourds of beer which the people
or the parents of the young man would cook and then take it to
the parent of the lady.
So, they used kuntu which was rolled gabaka. I don't know
gourds? 78 -
how many kuntu and guards of beer that the people used to marry
with but I know the kuntu was the most important thing in marri-
age in those days.
V cA rolled gabaka which is
^ called 'kuntu'
The second way of marriage was when a man went to another
man's house and found a young girl he would say "this girl will
come to marry my son." He would then give something a little
which would be a sign that someone had betrothed her. This is
quite different from the first one. The difference was that,
the first, the man met the woman delivering and that the man went
there with luck. In this one the girl would never marry anybody
else, except the man or his son. In the second one the girl
could change to another man or young man according to her likes.
The third one was marrying a woman whose husband died. In
the various clans when a man died and if he had wives or a wife
his elder son would take his wives to take care of them and make
them his wives. Soem people could not take so many wives so they
either take the younger wife and leave the rest. But sometimes
this created troubles because some men might have many children
with the first wife but only one or two by the young ones. So
in this case the man cannot leave her with her sons. So he had
to take care of the children and also kept the woman as a widow
and helped her with food and clothing. This happened when the
woman was old.
Some young men would not like to marry their father's wives
so in this case the other people in the clan could do the
marriage. When the man who was still from the clan of the de-
ceased marries the woman he would not pay any marriage dowry to
the parents of the woman again. But when a man from a different
clan married the woman whose husband died from a different clan
the man marrying the woman would pay all the things the dead man
spent on her to the people of the deceased. In this way many
young men used to have many wives when they took their father's
women after he died.
The fourth way of marriage was the one which did not involve
any loving. That was the marriage of catching on market places
and ceremony places. This was started by the Subwang people but
later on other clans joined in doing so. This type of marriage
involved the use of medicines. But later on when people began
to learn that that was not the true way of marriage they began
to leave it.
This stoppage was probably stopped when people began to
accept religions and the teachings of the various religions taught
them to do such things as marriage in a better way. Also, many
young men began to associate with the young men from other clans
and this gave them better chances of choosing young girls for
The fifth way of marriage was the one in which the young
man and the lady would start as friends which may later lead to
marriage. This seems to be in the same way as young men do their
marriage today. But this was not so much the same. The man would
take three kuntu to the parents of the girl accompanied with three
guards(quarts?) of beer. The man would take these himself or go
together with his friend. They would go and the father of the
girl would call his daughter and question her three times if
she loved him. The girl would answer that she loved him. The
father would warn the girl that she was the one who chose the man
and as such if anything should happen to them like disputes she
should not come to the parents or blame anyone inthe family. She
would answer "no." The father would then ask her to carry some
beer from one guard and give it to her future husband. She would
then do so. After giving her future husband she would take some
and drink and then she would give to her father also. This means
she and her future husband had invited the father to drink with,
No everyone would know that the girl was now the man's wife.
Every young man around would now keep away from the lady or else
when the husband came and found them with his wife he would fight.
Sometimes the two young men would fight seriously but even if the
husband was beaten he would never report to anyone because if he
did people would say he was coward; so they never reported any-
thing to anyone unless the case was so serious.
This sixth way is the modern one in which many young men are
doing now. Even the one people are doing today, there are three
categories. This depends upon the marriage dowry. For girls
above primary education the dowry is above N100 and for girls who
attended primary education the dowry is from N60 to N100. And
lastly, for those who have never been to school is about N40. This
is not by law from the government but the people just made it that
way./ This money is just a small portion of what is really spent
in the whole marriage because the money spent for clothing and
other engagement materials varies also according to the clan.
For light engagement the every type of women's clothing
are doubled. But for the heavy engagement the clothes bought
in the light is doubled also. And before the whole thing finishes
/ it would take someone some: N300 N500 for everythingn to be
This marriage is becoming more and more costly because some
people when they get a lot of money they would spend it anyhow
and when it comes to the question of marriage they would use a
lot of money because of pride. When other parents saw one thing
had happened to other girls they would like to see the same thing
happening to their own daughters, so they would make the dowry
much and also the clothes will be very many as to fill a very big
Some young men would not like to marry today because of the
heavy cost of living and marriage but less salaries, and so this
makes them unable to marry and they would prefer to use harlots
for thier lusts. Also, this is one of the reasons why harlots are
increasing in numbers.
- 82 -
(cont. from p. 106, typed p. 82)
Name of informant: Yankwar Age: 98 years old
Place of interview: In his house
Date: 17/7/73 Time: 4:30 6:30
Yamtarawala was the son of a Kanuri man from Gazargamu
area. His mother, as I was told, was a slave woman whom the king
went into and Yamtarawala was born. Before he was born the king
could not get children from the women at home already. So now,
when Yamtarawala was born many people thought that he was not
the king's son because many people took the king to be barren
since he could not have children before then. It was not long
after that one of the king's wives was found to have a pregnancy.
The child was born and he was named but I cannot remember the
Many people took Yamtarawala to be a bastard when he was
born. But when the king got another child, many of the people
who took the boy, Yamtarawala, to be a bastard, confessed that
he was the king's son. At the same time, many people were afraid
to call him as the king's son because they were afraid of the king.
They though when they said so it would be a sort of insult for
the king that he pregnated a slave in his house.
These two boys grew up together and they went anywhere to-
gether and did all things. The king's scribes loved the other
boy more than Yamtarawala but at the same time there were some
that loved Yamtarawala. The mallams also taught the boys some read-
ings and how to follow the ways of God as directed by the Koran.
There was one of the scribes who was a true friend to Yam-
tarawala. He taught him well and also advised him in many things.
Some of the mallams learned of this so they started to mock the
man. The man became frightened by their mockery so he left Yam-
The king died in old age and one of his sons was to be king.
Normally, the elder son of a king used to be the king after the
death of their father. But here it was not so. Because most of
the people loved the younger boy they did not allow Yamtarawala
to be the king. At the same time they did not say the other boy
was to be king.
They started to ponder upon the question as to who should
be the king. The people concerned went to consult mallams who
they said were seers. The seers told them that they should get
two bulls for the boy to slay. It was from this that they would
find out who would be the king. He explained to them that the
bulls should be given to them one by one and he who slew the bull
with its face facing the west, north or south would not be the
king because that was not the way Muslims slew their animals but
with its face facing the east.
The people made out the arrangements and called the two boys.
According to the custom, elders were always people who begin things,
so Yamtarawala was called up to slay the bull. He did not know
that people were checking the steps he would do it. He thought
they wanted to see how strong and able he was so as to be the
king. He then went forward without any help and caught the bull,
knocked it on the ground with its face towards the west and slew
it. The people did not say anything. They called the young man.
When he came he asked some few people to help him and asked them
to put its face towards the east. He found for himself some
water also and then took his knife, quote some quotations from
the Koran and then slew the bull.
When they saw this they (knew) he was the king because he
did everything neatly and gently, also systematically. He was
taken into his father's palace where he was adorned as the king.
When Yamtarawala saw this he ran away saying that he would
never go back to his father's palace. In his journey he met a
hunter. The hunter took him to be with him in his work of
hunting. They worked together for some years, which I cannot tell
how many years. He learned to be a hunter also. After learning
to be a hunter he decided to go away, so the man left him to do
what seemed good for him.
By that time there many elephants between Damaturu and Bura
tai. He did not like to stay in the ways of the elephants so he
came to Bura tai where he found the Bura people who were very
friendly to him. At first he stayed in someone's house. He
killed a lot of animals and sold them to the Bura people; also he
used to give them some as gifts.
This made him unselfish and many people liked him and also
became friends with him. They started to respect him. He, for
his part, respected the people, did his Muslim prayers and read-
ings and also taught people how to do good. He won the favor of
the people. He later fell in love with one of the girls in the
village. The people did not oppose it; instead got them married.
He later built his own house.
The people used to go to him for advice and instructions of
doing the things he taught them, and bit by bit they made him as
a king. He could call them, ask them to do many things for him
and also to do what would help all of them.
He married many wives, got many children and also workers
for his farm work. He bought many horses also. But I am not
able to tell how many things he had, like how many wives, horses,
children and so forth. But I knew or have heard that his elder
son was Mari Virahyel.
This, his son, Mari was said to be a sort of person with
a satanic power and that he does things like satan in the sense
that he could make many things into different things; something
like making a stone into something else or cooking some stones into
edible things. He could also escape through the walls of a house.
This boy became well known to the people around., The people
were even afraid of him because of his deeds. When he grew up he
told his father that he should be king although his father was
not dead. The father became angry with him for his request at
that time. He told his son that he would be king after his father's
death. But he said that he would not wait till that time that
his father was dead. He kept on asking his father to leave the
throne for him. He later tried to kill his father himself, but
his father heard about it. The king told the people to take him
out of the city and kill him. He told them to build a house
without a door and then make a grass thatched roof. He was put
into the house and then a fire was set on the roof with Mari in-
side the house. After the house was burned they went to the king
and told him that they have done what he asked them to do.
Many of the people from the nearby villages started to come
to the king to greet him and to bring him messages of condolence
from their village heads who could not come. They went away
after greeting him, but when passing they met Mari by the way-
side. They were surprised but did not tell it because they were
afraid. The next day another set of people were going to the king
and he, Mari Virahyel, said to them that they should go to his
father and tell him that he was not dead but alive and that they
should reconcile. But the people were afraid so they did not
tell the king. The next day some groups came passing him by the
wayside and he told them the same thing. Those people, when they
went to the king, told him about it but he cursed them that they
would be valueless like the air or the wind that blows every dir-
ection; also he said they should be mad or else how can somebody
die and then live again. This is why there are some people who
are called people of the wind in Biu Division today.
The king by then was at Chikwar Kir near Bura tai. He went
out to meet the son. He saw him; he said to him that what he
was saying was not good and that he should wait a little for
sometime. Mari then said to him that what he wanted was to be
The king, Yamtarawala, called all his sons and then put
some stones in a pot and put it on a fire saying that he was
cooking the stone. Many of his sons were laughing at him that
how was it possible for someone to cook stones. He asked his
sons to go and check for the stones whether they were cooked. All
of them went except Mari who went the last, said that there was
nothing like cooking taking place in the pot. When Mari went he
took a piece of grass and then struck it into the stone and was
coming to their father eating it, saying that it was cooked. The
stone is still at Garkida Tawula near Mandragrau.
When their father, Yamtarawala, saw this he was shocked
himself and he got angry and started to enter into the ground.
His daughter saw him entering the ground so ,ae went to their
mother to tell her about it, but the woman did not pay attention
because she said that one cannot really enter the ground or sink.
The daughter insisted on saying it to her, so she went to see
what her daughter was saying. When she went there she saw only
the man's hair was outside but the rest of the body had sunk. She
then cut some of the man s hair and rolled it into a piece of
cloth. A house was built over the place and for the hair, whenever
somebody was going to be king they would take the hair and then
put it on the man's head and put a turban over it.
After the sinking of King Yamtarawala his son, Mari Virahyel,
became king. He then decided to go to the present Biu palace and
stayed there. Many people were afraid of him after learning all
the stories about his escape from burning and how he was able to
cook stones and also the way he ruled, full of power and order.
Whenever he said things people would do it at the spot. It was
from Yamtarawala that the origin of Pabir came, so Bura and Pabir
are not the same people altogether.
I cannot tell the names of the successive kings after Mari
Virahyel to the present day. But I know some of them like King
Ali Gurgur, King Kaigama, and King Karga and the present king,
Alhaji Mustafa Aliyu.