Title: Subwang by Joshua Mshelia (typescript 1973-1974)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00099269/00001
 Material Information
Title: Subwang by Joshua Mshelia (typescript 1973-1974)
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Mshelia, Joshua
Cohen, Ronald ( Compiler )
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00099269
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: Special and Area Studies Collections
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

- 1-

Names of Informants:

Yerima Kadabu
Kuhi Bubwa
Yankwar Angili
Maima Gajeli
Ibrahim Kadaffir
Mallam Ali
Kwatam Mwajim
Ali Gurgur
Musa Mshelia

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.

To Gwalam

Zara Diza


f. .I /





bush path

- streams

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 -

f K


Simon Mwada's house

2 I I

t I I

0 0

S- granaries

children' s

/ / /

This man has g(


man and

A t I

Scale 1" to 8'.
)t only one wife and




some children.



husband' s


This is Inuwa Kadaku's house. He used to prac
blacksmithing but not doing it now.




; 1

- 5 -

Scale of
The huts


oo o

00 0


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

goats' house


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.

6 -

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

- 7 -

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

be potters.

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

are farmers.

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

9 -

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.

- 10 -

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

- 11 -

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

12 -

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

- 13 -

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
Place: Shaffa
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-

14 -

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

15 -

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

16 -

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

17 -

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

19 -

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

the old.

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

more easy.

20 -

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.

21 -

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

22 -

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

23 -

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

24 -

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

25 -

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

26 -

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

27 -

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

28 -

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)

quite often.

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

29 -

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

30 -

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

31 -

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

32 -

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-

rounding clans.

33 -

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

to hunt.

So now the other people would spread the news to their

34 -

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

36 -

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

37 -

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

his own.

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

38 -

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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41 -

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

Diza nyarmbwa.

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

42 -

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

43 -

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

44 -

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

45 -

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

they did.

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

46 -

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

47 -

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

48 -

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.

1/ /,CM

^ 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.



I /

50 -

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

51 -

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

52 -

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

53 -

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

54 -

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

56 -

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

57 -

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

3:00 p.m.

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

58 -

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

59 -

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.

60 -

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

61 -

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

62 -

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

higher elevation.

63 -

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

64 -

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

65 -

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

67 -

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

68 -

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

69 -

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

70 -

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

71 -

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

guinea corn.

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.

72 -

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

between them.

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

73 -

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.

75 -

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

a short.

It was in the last 50 60 years that the Hausa and the

76 -

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

77 -

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

79 -

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

80 -

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

81 -

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

settled. ,^

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-

83 -

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-

tarawala alone.

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

84 -

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

85 -

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

86 -

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.

87 -

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

88 -

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.

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