CULTURE IN RIVERS STATE
Rivers State the treasure base of the nation was found on the 27th of May, 1967 as one of the 36 states of Nigeria split from the eastern region. Rivers State was named after many rivers that bordered the territory when it became one of the Niger coast protectorates. The capital of Rivers state is Port Harcourt. Rivers State is bounded to the south by the Atlantic ocean, to the north by the Anambara, Imo and Abia state, to the east by the Akwa Ibom state and to the west by Bayelsa and Delta states. Rivers State is a Multilingual, Multitribal and Multicultural state with 23 local government areas which include Port Harcourt, Abua/Odual, Ahoada east, Ahoada west, Akuku Tori, Andoni, Asari Toru, Bonny, Degema, Eleme, Emuoha, Etche, Gokana, Ikwerre, Khana, Obio/Akpor, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Ogubolo, Okirika, Ikwerre, Omuma ,Opobo/Nkoro, Oyigbo, and Tai. Each Local Government has its own language, life style, cultural heritage and aboriginal dialectsuch as Abua, Agbirgba, Baan, Biseni, Defaka, Degema, Ekpeye, Eleme, Engenni, Ijaw, Ikwerre, Kalabari, Kugbo, Nkoroo, O’chi chi, Obolo, Obulom, Odual, Ogbogolo, Ogba, Ogburumnagu, Ogoni, Okodia, Oruma, Tee, Ukwanni and Aboh-Ndoni although pidgin English is widely used in radio and television broadcast. Rivers State has so many towns and cities but Port Harcourt City is the capital territory of Rivers state and was christened ‘The garden city’ due to its beautiful layout and peculiar topography.
The Rivers People
The indigenous people of Rivers State are Multilingual, Multitribal and Multicultural are known to be friendly, accommodating and hospitable. The cultural diversity and collective heritage of the people is firmly rooted in the core of tourism in the state and is a key to the narrative of its area since the life and existence of Rivers people revolves around its heritage. This heritage as opulent as is diverse is a fine agglomeration of the customs and cultural practices of the various ethnicities making up the state.
Religion in Rivers State
Christianity is the dominant religion in the south-south of Rivers state Nigeria, but however, there is no doubt that before the advent of Christianity and Islam there was an indigenous religion which believes in the existence of a supreme being, the African Traditional Religion (ATR). ATR played the role of the umbrella religion of rivers people of which till date the rural areas have their cultural values and tolerance embedded in. The Urban areas have embraced Christianity to a maximum and this in turn has had an impact on the cultural heritage and religious activities of the people. Prior to the ‘maximum embrace ‘of Christianity in the urban areas, festive activities have been a major motivation to rivers people who travel far to return home for the festive celebrations where in communities you could find display of various masquerade dance, inter community wrestling, troupes of young men and women etc. Traditional animists also upheld by few of the population, including those who identify themselves as Christians.
CULTURE OF RIVERS PEOPLE
Simply put, Rivers people are the microcosm of the macrocosm, a Nigeria (with all its cultural and ethnic diversity). The major ethnic nationality in Rivers State are the Ikwerre, Ogoni, Etche, Ogba, Ekpeye, Engenni’s, Ibani, Andoni and Okirika. The dominant ethnic groups are Ogoni, Ijaw and Ikwerre. This article can cover only but a few of the diverse in the state but will include them as a part of the description of the dominant ethnic group.
The Ijaw people of Rivers State
The Ijaw are one of the worlds ancient people, they are believed to be the descendants of the autochthonous tribe of Africa known as the ORU, the Ijaw were originally known by this name. They consist of two major groups, the west or central Ijaw (Izon) and the eastern Ijaw (which is not the right term). For the purpose of this article, interest is on the eastern Ijaw, who reside in Rivers State, and called the Kalabari’s who form a major group in the state. They are Abonema, Buguma, Bakana, Degema etc. Others are the Okirika, Ibani (the natives of Bonny, Finima and opobo) and Nkoroo and are neighbours to the Kalabari’s in the present day Rivers State. Interestingly, prior to the advent of Christianity, the Ijaw’s are one of the few people known to practice ritual acculturation. As veneration of Ancestor play a central in their traditional religion. They believe that water spirits are like humans in having personal strengths and shortcomings and that human dwell amongst water spirit before being born. They hold celebrations to honour spirits lasting for days. Men wear elaborate outfits and dance to the beating of drums and manifest the influence of the spirit through the intensity and quality of their dancing.
The Ogoni People of Rivers State
The Ogoni people occupy a large mass of land in the present day Rivers State. The true origin of Ogoni people is not well known by researchers, some uphold the fact that they migrated from Imo river, while others say that they came in boats from Ghana. Believers in this theory points to the name Khana Ogoni people call themselves as the pointer to their Ghana origin. Their groups according to culture are Khana, Tai, Eleme and Gokana; their languages are kana (Khana), Gokana, Eleme, and Ogoi. The Ogoni people have a culture of togetherness. They obviously have a common element of culture and religion with very minor variation with other tribes, researchers have linked it to the Volta people of Ghana, comparing their way of life and farming, the pronunciations of their alphabet, the method of building native hut with mud and thatches are the same. They are an agricultural and fishing community and also an oil bearing community. Their cultural activities include mask and masquerades, human figure representation of the ancestors, their performances are relatively varied, some of long standing and others introduced within living memory. Most of these festivals are mainly held to water spirits to mark planting season and harvesting, fertility of the deity, recognise taking of titles, restore peace in troubled communities, to maintain cohesion between cultural groups and to maintain general entertainment.
The Ikwerre People of Rivers State
The ikwerre nation is arguably the highest ethnic nationality in the present day Rivers State, made up of not less than four major Local Government Area and occupies the largest land mass. The origin of Ikwerre can be contested but several researchers have linked their origin to Igbo in the southern east part of Nigeria. The Ikwerre speak the language ikwerre and are predominantly settled in the Ikwerre, Obio-akpor, Port Harcourt and Emuoha Local Government Area. The Ikwerre people are traditionally farmers, traders and fishermen. Marriages are traditionally polygamous and commonly exogamous with other tribes and the natives of Ikwerre which produced a lot of children and was a source of pride during the farming season as a large family will make farm work and trading easier, although Christianity has undoubtedly led to a great number of monogamous marriages in the region. They worship ancestors, traditional gods and recently a great number of them may have become Christians or Muslims etc. They worship indoors, sacred groves, natural forms such as (trees, hills, etc), in shrines, churches, mosque aquatic spirit bodies. Their traditional activities include egelege (a form of competition between male age groups and inter communities), new yam festival, alikirija and Oboni (a traditional dance).
Exhibition of Rivers Culture
Rivers State is known as the land of a thousand Masquerades with a fine variety of spoken tongues, it is somewhat easy to discern the beauty in the diversity of its people and display of the unspeakable eminence of the richness of their collective heritage. An annual festival called ‘Carniriv’ is held in Port Harcourt, rivers state. The carnival starts few weeks before Christmas and lasts for seven days. During this time, several ceremonial events are held most of which hold some cultural or sacred significance. Community people tend to forget their differences, warring communities put down their weapons and their attention is diverted from war to fun. The Carnival is organised to present different cultural practices, sites and symbols of places and have contributed to the birth of non-mainstream urban identities that have created a feeling of festive moments as a key feature of modern experience economy. It has been therefore an engine of Unity among the people of Rivers State and also promotes socio-economic interaction of various ethnic groups in the course of the festival.
Written and edited
DIKE JENNIFER ADANNE