Kanuri: Bornu's most dominant culture

The Kanuri ethnic nationality is a renowned ethnic nationality. A people with regal consciousness.

Kanuri people

Although legend claims that Bornu most dominant culture- Kanuri can be traced to Yemen, but little is actually known of the earliest phases of the Kanuri culture.

What is the Origin of the Kanuri People?

Modern-day Kanuri are the descendants of the Sayfawa Dynasty of the Kanem Empire.

As a result of civil war, rebellion and outright invasion by the Bulala, the Kanuri people people were forced out of Kanem in the fourteenth century and after nearly ten decades of bitter conflict, the Kanuri established a new empire southwest of Lake Chad.

Currently, the majority of the Kanuri live in the Borno province of North Eastern Nigeria, where they are the dominant group.

This empire was and is known as Bornu. They are also located in the countries of Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

Moreover, the region to which the Saifawa moved was inhabited by various peoples about whom very little can be said.

Today they are known collectively as the Sau- reputedly a race of giants.

The Kanuri people can be said without doubt to be the most respected people in the Northern part of Nigeria. They value well their culture.

Kanuri women are distinctively superb when it comes to caring. Their hairstyle and tattoo which is known as lalle in hausa language can only be described as 'Epic'.

Chiefly, a Kanuri man prides himself high; and this makes him despised by other Northerners. They rarely beg. From the sweat their brows they source their bread.

In addition, the Kanuri dance steps are gracious and wonderful. They resemble the magnificent colours of their attire.

What is the religious life of the kanuri people?

The Kanuri became Muslims in the 11th century when Kanem became a centre of Muslim learning. They have remained so till date.

Identically, they are Sunni Muslims.

What is the language of the Kanuri people?

The kanuri people speak the Kanuri language. The language consists of two main dialects namely:

  • Manga Kanuri
  • Yerwa Kanuri (it is also known as beri beri)

Kanuri is a dialect spoken by some four million people as of 1987; in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon as well as small minorities in southern Libya and by a diaspora in Sudan.

The language belongs to the Western Saharan subphylum of Nilo-Saharan.

Kanuri is the language associated with the Kanem and Bornu empires which dominated the Lake Chad region for a thousand years.

Also, the basic word order of Kanuri sentences is subject-object-verb. It is typologically unusual in simultaneously having post position and post-nominal modifiers – for example, "Bintu's pot" would be expressed as nje Bintu-be, "pot Bintu-of".

Kanuri has three tones: high, low, and falling. It has an extensive system of consonant weakening (for example, sa- "they" + -buma "have eaten" → za-wuna "they have eaten"

The Kanuri traditional marriage rites are very simple and in accordance with Islamic injunctions to express 'love' between the couple. Reverence for the 'waliyyi', the giver, who could be her father or guardian is expressed.

Observance of 'sadau', which is the dowry; 'sigga', the act of asking and acceptance between the family of the bride and groom; and their witnesses.

And, the minimum dowry in Kanuri marriage is a quarter of a dinar. So if a dinar costs N10,000 , the dowry will be about N2,500, which can be said to be cheap.

Furthermore, when the Kanuri groom’s family comes with gifts to the bride-to-be, they come along too with many items for the bride’s mother, aunt(s), uncle(s), sister(s), grandfather(s) and mother(s).

In addition, when the Kanuri bride is leaving for her husband’s house, things like the foam from the water used to wash her hair; the 'kaulu', which is used in washing of the hand and feet with palm oil and milk, will all be paid for by the groom’s friends.

Important to realize, all these aims at showing the value and love for the bride.

The main food for the Kanuri people are millet in soups or rice, and corn. Kanuri people do a little hunting for the purpose of what hunting done- meat. They herd cattle for beef. Kanuri people also harvest leaves and fruit to eat.

History is a beautiful thing, and so also are the Kanuri people; and they are regal as well.

But how can this be otherwise when their ancestors were kings and queens?

Indeed, the simplicity and unique lifestyle of the Kanuri people is a sophisticated one. It shows to the world how advanced they are inwardly.

Give admiration to a Kanuri however life present him/her to you; for in truth, they are sons and daughters of royalty.


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