Understanding Nyam

Understanding Nyam

ISBN 978-3-89645-462-1

Understanding Nyam

Studies in the History and Culture of the Ngas, Mupun and Mwaghavul in Nigeria

Author: Umar Habila Dadem Danfulani. Series edited by: Herrmann Jungraithmayr, Norbert Cyffer, Rainer Voßen.

Series: WeStu Westafrikanische Studien Volume 26

145 pp.
3 maps, 8 tables
Text language(s): English
Format: 160 x 240 mm
260 g
€ 39.80

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The Chadic languages belong to the Afro-Asiatic language phylum, the most prominent member being Haussa. The Ngas, Mupun and Mwaghavul belong to a number of ethnic groups who live on the Jos plateau in central Nigeria and who speak closely related West Chadic languages. The three mentioned groups originally lived in the Chad Borno basin, and migrated successively to the Jos plateau between AD 1000 and AD 1750.

The present book studies the history and cultural practices of these relatively unknown ethnic groups, paying special attention to the concept of Nyam and its role in society. Historically, Nyam was the name of a certain place intricately connected with the founding of clans, national development, migration and settlement patterns among the Chadic speakers of the Jos plateau.

Nyam serves as the key in defining one's own identity when in contact with others. It reminds all members of a clan of their common ancestors and therefore offers even remote relatives a certain, defined status in society. Frequently Chadic speakers of different villages share the same Nyam, so that in social meetings these kinship bonds can be recognized and strenghtened.

Nyam places the individual in relation to kinship, clan and ethnic group, while at the same time integrating the individual into the wider community of the Chadic speaking peoples and nations.

Following an introduction and detailing the physical properties of the Jos Plateau, in part one the author anaylses the historical origin of Nyam and of the Ngas, Mupun and Mwaghavul, based on secondary sources and some complementary oral material. Part two draws on field interviews by the author and deals with the indigenous cultural practices, e.g. kinship structure, marriage patterns, economic and political behaviour patterns.


The major contribution of the work lies in its great attention to detailed descriptions of kinship organization and marriage customs. [...] The book is a very useful addition to the growing body of literature o the Jos Plateau and Central Nigeria. It is a valuable and an indispensable volume for students, teachers and the general public with interest in the history and culture of Nigeria and Africa.

John G. Nengel in Afrika und Übersee, 86/2, 2003, 303-305

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