Berom people

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Berom girls in Jos Plateau

The Berom (sometimes also spelt as Birom) are the largest autochthonous ethnic group in Plateau state, Nigeria. A state that has been jocularly described by Nengel as being ‘...notorious for its extreme diversity of cultural and linguistic groups.’ Covering about four local government areas, which include; Jos North, Jos South, Barkin Ladi (Gwol) and Riyom, Berom are also found in southern Kaduna local governments in Kaduna state. The Berom speak the Berom language, which belongs to the large Niger-Congo family of languages. It is not related to the Hausa language (which belongs to the Afro-Asiatic family), or most other Plateau languages, which are Chadic languages (Fwatshak 2002). Interestingly, the Berom, Fulani and Tarok, are linguistically more similar to each other than other groups. In fact, Farooq Kperogi (2016) notes that '...although the Fulani and the Berom of Plateau State see themselves as belonging to the furthest poles of northern Nigeria’s political and cultural divide, especially in light of the recent internecine ethnic conflict in Plateau States, they not only belong to the larger Niger-Congo language family (to which many languages in central and southern Nigeria belong); they actually belong to the same Atlantic-Congo subfamily of the Niger-Congo family.' Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/sunday/index.php/the-arts/4046-language-families-in-nigeria#4pp3m6fVv8TwoarK.99

The Berom people have a rich cultural heritage. They celebrate the Nzem Berom festival annually in March or April. It is one of the major aborigine group in Nigeria (Plateau State) that "totally" looks to or trust God (Dagwi) for its existence, sustenance, and history. Some major festival in Berom land from pre-colonial to the colonial era are as follows,

Festival Span Period of Celebration in the year
Mandiyeng From Precolonial times March–April
Nshok From Precolonial times March–April
Badu From Precolonial times March–April
Worongchun From Precolonial times April–May
Vwana/Bwana From Precolonial times August
Mado (Hunting festival) From Precolonial times October/November
Behwol (Hunting festival) From Precolonial times March–April
Nzem Berom Postcolonial March–April
Wusal Berom (Prayer festival) Postcolonial Monthly

The aim of celebrating festivals in Berom land is primarily related to agriculture and hunting, which have been the main events revolving around Berom livelihood and cosmology.

Mandyeng: Is a major festival celebrated in Berom land to usher in the rainy season. The festivals normally takes place March/ April. In the past the Berom regard Mandyeng/Nshok (they are very similar) the most vital festivals which ensured a good farming and hunting period and harvest. Not all the Berom communities celebrate Mandyeng and Nshok. Those that perform 'Mandyeng' claim their roots from Riyom, they include; Vwang, Kuru, Zawan, Gyel, Rim, Bachit, Bangai, Lwa, Sop, Jol, Wereng Kwi, Gwo, Kakuruk, Kuzeng, Kurak, Kuchin, Rahos and Tahoss. Nshok: Nshok slightly varies from Mandiyeng due to the fact that it also associates hunting with the rainy season farming. It is also held once a year around the months of April and May, to usher in the new season just as the Mandyeng.

In the pre-colonial era the Berom regarded hunting as both an occupation and a sport. Although not economically was not as important as farming, it was regarded as a show of skill and bravery. So much so, that most Berom names are derived from game animals, most importantly duiker, not only because they are smart, fast or strong but because they are beautiful. Names such as Pam, Dung, Chuwang, Gyang, Badung etc. for boys while girls answer Kaneng, Lyop, Chundung, Nvou, Kangyang.These are names for different species of duiker. Other names such as Bot (frog) Tok (fish), Tsok (toad) etc. are names for other animals that are non-domesticated, but not game. These names clearly typify how important game was in pre-colonial Berom society. Nshok was not the only hunting festival in Berom land. Festivals such as Mado and Behwol existed but are not as important as Nshok. (Nyam 2005)

Musical Instruments among the Berom Some of these include: “Yom Nshi”: A two string banjo made of calabash and skin as resonators) "Yom" A straw string instrument “kwag” or "Gwashak": A scraper made from dry cactus played with a stick slid across the sawed body of the dry cactus to produce a scrapping sound "Kundung": A Xylophone made of cattle horns and cobwebs http://www.rogerblench.info/Ethnomusicology/Video%20&%20images/Africa/Nigeria/Berom/Images/fv6.htm

Nzem Berom: the influx of Christianity and western Education paved way for a lot of socio-cultural changes into Berom land. The changes devalued the rich culture of the people bringing serious predicament of a severe social and cultural crisis. In order to avoid the danger of losing the socio-cultural practice of the ancestor and the overall pre-colonial activities such as the Mandyeng, Nshok, Worom Chun, Vwana, ceremonies were brought into a single umbrella festival call Nzem Berom. Nzem Berom festival is held within the first week of April to tally with the period when Mandyeng, Nshok and Badu Festival was held. The Nzem, is a period when different cultural display are exhibited from different part of Berom land, especially in the aspect of Music and Dance, arts and culture.

The Berom have a paramount ruler called the Gbong Gwom Jos. The traditional stool emerged from the realization by the colonial administration of the Northern Nigeria, of completely different linguistic and traditional features between the Bauchi Emirate groups and the ethnicities on the Plateau. This misconception had initially encouraged the formation of vassal traditional heads to oversee the created Jos Native Area, which proved tumultuous due to conflicting views and interests. Through a circular; No. 24p/1916[JOS PROF NAK 473/1916], dated 15 August 1917. The Resident at Bauchi Province was instructed to send potentials from various native authorities including district and village heads to be elevated as chieftains by the His Excellency the Governor General. In response to the circular, the Resident wrote back to the secretary Northern Province Kaduna via a memo No. 24/1916 [JOSPROF NAK 473/1916] dated 27 October 1917, recommended a paramount ruler to superintend the native areas. In the pre-colonial period, the Berom were divided into autonomous political groups based on regions, but the colonial period merged them under the Gbong Gwom to help coordinate the activities of the Natives. The first chief Dachung Gyang assumed leadership from 1935 to 1941. Under Dachung Gyang, the traditional institution was designated as the 'Berom Tribal Council' composing of local chiefs within the Jos Native Area. Its authority then, only included mainly the Berom, and excluded the chiefs of Buji, Naraguta, Jos and Bukuru. However, the government, in a Gazette of 7 February 1918, modified the list to include the Buji, Naraguta, Jos and Bukuru. The emergence of Da Rwang Pam (1947-1969), saw the elevation of the head of the Tribal Council to the Stool of the Gbong Gwom Jos. Since 1969, the stool has been sat by the following Da Fom Bot 1970 to 2002 Da Victor Dung Pam 2004 to 2008 Da Jacob Gyang Buba 2009 to the present

The immediate past governor (2007-2015) David Jonah Jang, was of Berom origin.

References[edit]

Jacobs, C.C & Nyam, S.D. 2004. An Evaluation of the Gbong Gwom Institution from 1935-2004. Jos: Berom Historical Publications

Nengel, J. G. 2001. ‘Subjugation of the Polities of Jos-Plateau and Central Nigerian Highlands to Colonial Domination 1898-1930,’ Mandiyeng; Journal of Central Nigerian Studies. 1 (1), Early Rains.

Nyam, S. D. (ed.). 2004. The Berom Digest. Jos: Berom Historical Publications

Nyam, S. D. 2005 Berom socio-cultural festivals and ceremonies. Jos: Berom Historical Publications

Fwatshak, S.U. 2002. “The Origin of the Chadic-Speaking Groups in the Central Nigerian Area: A Re-Assessment of the Bornoan Tradition.” A. A. Idrees and Y. A. Ochefu (eds.), Studies in the History of Central Nigeria, Vol. 1. Lagos: CSS Bookshop, pp. 51–69