The Gwandaras been one of the Chadic-Speaking people of Nigeria originated from Kano and later sprayed among states like FCT – Abuja, Niger, Kaduna, and Nassarawa State (and still related places like Kogi, Taraba and Kano State) have lived in close contact with diverse ethnic groups in the Benue basin region and culturally resemble both the Gade, Koro, Yeskwa people and others. They often marry with the Gade, Koro and Yeskwa due to close related culture; however, their dances and religion are similar to those of the Alago.
Most Gwandara are subsistence farmers with their farms located in the bush outside of their villages. Huts are built in a circle to form the compound that houses an extended family. There is only one entrance into each compound because each hut is connected to the next by a corn bin or granary. Each village has a Chief/District-Head who is responsible for handling village affairs and settling village disputes. Gwandara men usually wear Hausa-style gowns. Most women wear cloths, although some wear loose strings around their hips with bundles of leaves hanging in front and in back. Palm oil is important to the Gwandara because of its many uses. Therefore, a fair amount of it is obtained and kept in each village or sold in markets.
Another major product sold in the market is mats. (Each mat takes four days to make.) Beer and tobacco are both important in Gwandara life as history narrated, however, most Gwandara neither smoke pipes nor drink in excess, like many other groups in this part of Africa. Young Gwandara men work on their fathers’ farms until they marry, which is usually around age seventeen or older. Girls are betrothed as young children, but before reaching marriageable age, they have the right to break off the engagement, in which case of the bride price is returned to the suitor.
Ritual dances are important aspect of the Gwandara society. One dance is the “good and evil” dance. Old men sit in a circle and the personification of the spirits of good and evil-concealed under a long sack and wearing a high conical hat-whirl around them. Stepping to the beat of a drum, he tells the elders to get up and follow him. When the personified spirit dances, they all dance, and if anyone is struck by the knob that hangs from the spirit’s hat, evil will surely befall him or his family. Another similar circular step-dance called “Aranga” is also practiced. The rhythm for this dance is made by the ornaments worn on the arms and legs of the dancers while spending seven days of the deceased.
Story by: M.M-Mustapha – Kurudu (CEO: 3M – Links Limited).