The Nigerian culture is shaped by Nigeria’s multiple ethnic groups. The country has over 50 languages and over 250 dialects and ethnic groups. The three largest ethnic groups are the Hausa-Fulani who are predominant in the north, the Igbo who are predominant in the southeast, and the Yoruba who are predominant in the southwest.
The Edo people are predominant in the region between Yorubaland and Igboland. Much of the Edo tend to be Christian while the remaining 25 percent worship deities called Ogu. This group is followed by the Ibibio/Annang/Efik people of the coastal southeastern Nigeria and the Ijaw of the Niger Delta.
The rest of Nigeria’s ethnic groups (sometimes called ‘minorities’) are found all over the country but especially in the middle belt and north. The Hausa tend to be Muslim and the Igbo are predominantly Christian. The Efik, Ibibio, Annang people are mainly Christian. The Yoruba have a balance of members that are adherent to both Islam and Christianity. Indigenous religious practices remain important in all of Nigeria’s ethnic groups, these beliefs are often blended with Christian beliefs.
Nigeria is famous for its English language literature, apart from the ‘pure’ English speaking population, Nigerian pidgin (which uses a primary English lexicon) is also a common lingua franca. Roughly a third of Nigeria’s population speak Pidgin English which is a simplified form of the language, for instance “How you dey” would be substituted for “How are you”. Since the 1990s the Nigerian movie industry, sometimes called “Nollywood” has emerged as a fast-growing cultural force all over the continent. Because of this western influences including music, dress and movies can be found all across Nigeria including the Islamic and highly conservative north of the country.
Soccer is extremely popular throughout the country and especially among the youth, both field soccer and professional international soccer, has developed into a cult of unity and division. Supporters of English football clubs Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea often segregate beyond the traditional tribal and even religious divide to share their common cause in Premier League teams. The Nigerian national football team, nicknamed the “Super Eagles”, is the national team of Nigeria and is controlled by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). According to the FIFA World Rankings, Nigeria ranks 22nd and holds the third highest place among the African nations behind Cameroon (11th) and Côte d’Ivoire (16th). The highest position ever reached on the ranking was 5th in April 1994.
Nigerian food embellishes a rich blend of traditionally African carbohydrates such as Yam and Cassava as well as vegetable soups made from native green leaves. Praised by Nigerians for the strength it gives, Garri is a powdered Cassava Grain that can be readily eaten as a meal and is quite cheap. Yam is either fried in oil or pounded to make a Mashed Potato like Yam pottage. Nigerian beans, quite different from green peas, is widely popular. Meat is also popular and Nigerian Suya, a barbecue like method of roasting meat, is a well known delicacy. Bush meat, meat from wild game like deer and giraffes is also popular. Fermented palm products are used to make a traditional liquor, Palm Wine, as is fermented Cassava. Nigerian foods are spicy mostly in the western and southern part of the country even than Indian cuisine but since culture is dynamic some Nigerians do not like spicy food. Some more examples of their traditional dishes are eba, pounded yam, iyan, fufu e.t.c with soups like okra, ogbono, egusi and so on.
The music of Nigeria includes many kinds of folk and popular music, some of which are known worldwide. Traditional musicians use a number of diverse instruments, such as the Gongon drums.
Other traditional cultural expressions are found in the various masquerades of Nigeria, such as the Eyo masquerades, the Ekpe and Ekpo Masquerades of the Efik/Ibibio/Annang/Igbo peoples of coastal southeastern Nigeria, and the Northern Edo Masquerades. The most popular Yoruba wooden masks are the Gelede masquerades.
For a foreigner who might be interested in watching Nigerians films also known as Nollywood should go for Tunde kelani films especially SAWOROIDE or Tade ogidan films. And for modern music with genres of pop, hip-hop or rap, D’banj, P-square, Terry G, Banky W, Tu face, Naeto C should be the artiste to be searching for.
A very important source of information on Modern Nigerian Art is the Virtual Museum of Modern Nigerian Art operated by the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos.