Ebira Culture

Detailed Comparison of Ebiras and Jukuns

Detailed Comparison of Ebiras and Jukuns

Having carefully examined the possible factuality of the Ebira-Jukun consanguinity theory, it will be of great value and interest if we examine some physical features and advance a theoretical argument to strengthen the validity (at least for the time being) of the Ebira-Jukun blood-relationship theory. In this respect, we should note that the two peoples have come in contact with various tribes of different cultures, adopting the ways of life, etc., of these tribes. Therefore we should give room for possible differences. In this discussion, we shall use the Jukuns as our “control” because they appear more conservative and reserved in their culture than the Ebiras or the Attas of Idah. The latter have completely lost their traditions except those connected with the Atta rituals, which have become somewhat modified.

Evidence of rituals:

The installation ceremonies of traditional chiefs of the two peoples are almost identical. For example, a chief-to-be has to leave his house about two or three days before his “coronation” to prepare himself spiritually for the arduous and important task he is about to assume that of “leader” of a people. Within the three days, the chief-to-be may have sexual intercourse with his queen-to-be. With the Jukuns, the woman concerned is selected from one of the wives of the deceased chief, while the Ebiras select the woman from the family of the chief-to-be. In either case, the woman must be a widow, and the selection is normally through an oracle or “Eva” diviners. The chief reason for having the queen is to direct the chief in the “invisible” world.

Among the two peoples, the installation of their traditional chiefs will be incomplete without the “ekuoba” masquerade. It is interesting to note that the “Ekuoba” of the two peoples have the same “outfit” and religious connotation. Both peoples hold the same view of the immortality of their chiefs and use the same expression to describe the “death” of a chief. “The Chief has just gone or disappeared into the forest.” In highly elaborate installation rites of their traditional chiefs, there should be rain on the “coronation” day – an occurrence conceived to be important for the success of the newly installed chief.

There are, however, some differences in the kingly burial rites. However, the two peoples generally bury their chiefs before the formal announcement of his “death.” (The Ebiras seem to have given this up today. The corpse of deceased Akus and the Attas of Idah were usually buried in the night after being dried. While in Jukun tradition, only one of the wives of the deceased chief is taken by the next chief, in Idah, all the wives of the deceased chief are taken by the next. The Ebers seemed not to have practiced this.

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Cultural hypothesis:

Among the Ebiras and the Jukuns, birth normally occurs inside the house, unlike some “pagan” tribes whose women are usually put to bed outside the compound. There are no ceremonial rites except for twins. The present Ebira Tao (“Ehi”) attitudes towards twins were copied from the Yorubas. The modern Ebiras carry their twins from one place to another for alms.

The Ebers and Jukuns strongly believe in reincarnation and have identical burial and naming ceremonies. The types of graves dug in the past were similar. The Ebers used to dig their graves in two compartments – the first was almost elliptical/rectangular, about three or four feet deep, and a rectangular tunnel was dug over six feet long. The corpse was laid inside the tunnel, and if the deceased was well-to-do, enslaved people, a lamp, and other valuable things were buried with the corpse. The Ebers and the Jukuns placed/place the corpse inside the graves in the same way. Their style of dressing is the same.

Both peoples do not eat in the presence of their women. Meek ( Vol. I:l40) says, “Jukun grown-up men will not eat in the presence of their women at all, and so strict is this taboo, that it has far-reaching effects upon their social life” (The Ebiras have given this up).

Meek (1931:19) Observed That the Jukun grown-up men have to “wear a Characteristic plaited hair lock, and no-one is admitted to any secret enclosure unless he displays this hall-mark” The plaited hair lock is what the Ebiras call ‘Ichocho.’ The Ebira male adult wears this hair-do. Among the Ebira “Ehi” Community, Some elderly men used to have the hall-mark, and one could still see a few Ebiras today who have “ichocho.” The reason for having the “ichocho” is identical to the Jukuns – to have some spiritual powers.

Although the Ebira customers are waning rapidly, the surviving ones are undoubtedly similar to Jukun recorded customs. MackRow ( 1954:50) says, “some Igbirra customs, though now dying out in part, are strikingly similar to recorded Jukun customs. This is particularly true in the domestic field.”

Physical appearance hypothesis:

The major characteristics of the physical appearance of the Jukuns are as follows: They are relatively tall and heavily built. They are markedly dolichocephalic and are light in color. This description applies mostly to the Jukuns of Wukari. The Ebers groups have these characteristics, but the modem Ebiras (particularly Ebira “Ehi”) are lighter in color and shorter than the modern Jukuns. They always claim that their forefathers were taller and darker than themselves. This is to say that a century ago, the Ebiras had all the physical characteristics of the Jukuns. 

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The reason the modern Ebiras now show a different physical appearance from the Jukuns is obvious. They appear to have intermarried with many tribes in their areas of sojourn. In contrast, the Jukuns were more reserved and conceited than the Ebiras; intermarriages between them (Jukuns) and other tribes were rarer. This does not mean that the Jukuns never intermarried; in fact, they have intermarried with some tribes, particularly the Tivs, who have a different physical appearance, but the physical appearance theory cannot by now be exact.

Social life affinity theory:

The two peoples regard wine as “food.” A Jukun householder ensures that there is always “pitto” or wine within reach of his people. To this end, winemaking is intensely carried on almost daily by the people. When a householder is certain that wine is ready in his compound, he will call his friends and other well-wishers to a dinner party, and the wine is drunk to his health. In the past, the Ebiras had the same social lifestyle.

They also had an age group (called “Opa”) whose concern was wine, and they unusually assembled in the members’ compounds in turns to co-ordinate their drinking. This social lifestyle is almost obsolete in the Ebira Tao community, but it is carried out in other Ebira communities – at Etuno (Igara), for instance. What baffled my imagination most (when I was in Wukari in 1971) was the attitude of a Jukun woman when a man was drinking in her presence. 

A woman usually gives a calabash of wine to a man with her two hands and in a kneeling position. As the man drinks, she turns her face in another direction or bends down (so as not to see the man). The man usually leaves some wine in the cup or calabash for the woman, who receives it with great humility and gratitude. This is what Ebira women do.

Linguistic hypothesis:

This section is included here for two main purposes: Firstly, to summarize what has been said so far about the consanguinity theory between the Ebiras, Jukuns, and Igala and the relation between the Igala language and the Yoruba. Secondly, for the linguists to analyze so that a reasonable conclusion could be made on the Ebira-Jukun consanguinity theory from such language studies. Presently the Ebira language has been classified by different authors into different groups C.K. Meek. Places the Ebira language into the “Apa” or “Kwararafa” groups of Central Nigeria. Kwararafa also includes Idoma, Jukuns. Dr. Greenberry places Ebira, Igara (Igala), Nupe, Idoma, Jukun, and Tiv together in one family described as “Niger-Congo” Some divide the “Kwa” language of Nigeria into three Groups.

  1. Cameroon Group
  2. The northern group includes Idoma, Jukun, Ebira, Nupe, and Gwari.
  3. Southern Groups, Which Include Ijaw, Ibo, Edo, and Yoruba
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Thus, the Authors (Linguists) are not so far or consistent in their Clarification.


A young tech savvy man, always interested in bringing Ebira to the Map and shows the world how Rich our Culture is.

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