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Ethnic Groups in Nigeria – The Kamwe People

In Nigeria about 80 percent of Kamwe are found in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State Nigeria, a substantial number of them are also found in the local government areas of Mubi North, Hong, Gombi, Song and Madagali in Adamawa State. The Kamwe people are also found in Borno State, especially in Askira/Uba and Gwoza local government areas.

Kamwe (or spelt and pronounced as Kamue) is a Chadic language spoken in Adamawa State, Borno State of Nigeria and in northwestern Cameroon. The Kamwe people and language are sometimes called Higi (Higgi), though the Kamwe elders say “Higgi” is a derogatory word and name given to the Kamwe by their neighbours, the Margi. It is considered derogatory because Higgi literally means “grasshopper”, and the Kamwe people perceive it as a mockery, therefore, highly despise the name. The Margi used the term Higgi to show the contempt they have for the Kamwe because of the Kamwe women’s huge appetite for grasshopper.

People and Dialect

Most Kamwe people identify themselves with Mwe-ci-ka (Michika), the ancestral home of all Kamwe people. Kamwe literally means people of the “Heavenly realms” or “people of the Rocks and Hill“. The founder of Michika (Mwe-ci-ka) was said to be one Kwada Kwakaa, a prince from Kuli in Nkafamiya on the hills of Michika. Kwada Kwakaa was said to be a warrior hunter who could hunt lions and leopards just by himself. When his father, who was the King in Nkafamiya, got to know that Kwada was ‘kwa’ ‘kaa’, he mandated Kwada to be the ruler in the present-day Michika.

There are twenty-four active dialects of the Kamwe language. The active Kamwe language dialects include Nkafa, Dakwa, Krghea (sometimes called Higgi Fali), Fwea, Humsi, Modi, Sina, and Tilyi; Blench (2006) however, considers Psikye to be another. Nkafa is well understood by all and is widely spoken, being the main language of administration and commerce, and having a literary tradition. It is natively spoken by the clans of Kwache, Kwaga, Kwabe, Kwaya and Kwaghe. The other Nkafa clans are Kwaha and Kwabuggi. The Nkafa clans are said to descend from brothers (from the same mother), who migrated to Nkafamiya together from Ghye. Other dialects of Kamwe are also divided into clans. For example, Tlowou is spoken by the clans Mbammi, Nyahuo, Nka, Zharawa, Towoo, Ngulvi and Mihalyi.

The Kamwe’s Unique Child Naming System

What is unique about the Kamwe people’s culture is the way the name their children according to the child’s birth from the mother. A first-born male child is named Tizhe, a first-born female child Kuve. The first ten children in Kamwe culture are named as follows: First male child is Tizhe, the female child is Kuve. The second male child is Zira, the female is Masi. The third male child is Tumba, the female is Kwarramba, the fourth male child is Vandi, the female is Kwanye. The fifth child is Kwaji whether male or female. The sixth child is Tari for male and Kwata for female. The seventh child is sini for male and Kwasini for female. The eight child is Kwada for both male and Female. The ninth child is Drambi for both the male and female. The tenth child is called Kwatri for both the male and female child. Subsequently, any other child will have a suffix “hale” attached to the name signifying that the child was born in the old age of the mother. Example is Kuve-hale or Zira-hale as the case may be. Twins or multiple births are celebrated in Kamwe culture.

Other Interesting Facts about the Kamwe People

  • Before the advent of the Western legal system in Africa and especially Nigeria, the Kamwe People had an organised legal system of the King called “Mbege” as the sole adjudicator. Adjudication in Kamwe Language is called “Kita”.
  • To enhance cultural renaissance in Kamweland, annual cultural festival tagged “Kamwe People Annual Cultural Festival of Art and Culture has been staged in Michika Adamawa State Nigeria every First (1st) Saturday in the month of April every year since 2017. It is aimed at reviving the rich culture of the Kamwe people and attracts tourists from far and near.
  • The Kamwe people believed in a Supreme Being called Hyalatamwe Thlamda in Kamwe language (known as Vece Mwe). When the Christian missionaries came to Kamweland, they discovered that Hyalatamwe Thlamda is Almighty God. Therefore, the Kamwe were not pagans even before the coming of Islam and Christianity to Kamweland.
  • The Kamwe people believe in a heavenly God called ‘Hyalatamwe’ though, communication with Hyalatamwe directly is not possible in Kamwe culture. Hyalatamwe is revered and feared. Communication with him has to be through intermediaries called “Da melie or Tchuhye shwa”
  • In the Kamwe culture, caste system does exist as the Kamwe race is broadly classified into ‘Melie and Ka-Ligyi’.

Sources:

Wikipedia

Kwache, Iliya Yame, (2016). Kamwe People of Northern Nigeria:Origin, History and Culture, (Kaduna: Prudent Universal Press).

Featured Image Source: Zira John Quaghe – Youtube

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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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