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Idoma area in Nigeria

Ethnic groups in Nigeria

The Idoma are a middle Nigerian people who have 300,000 members

They speak Idoma, an idomoid language. Its neighbouring peoples are the Idibio, the Igbo, the Mama and the Mumuye.


Idoma art in Western collections consists primarily of wooden masks, which are used for funerals and social control, and human-like wooden figures, which are often quite large.


Linguistic evidence shows that the Idoma have lived in their present region for at least four to five thousand years and that their ancestors may have migrated to the area from the north with those of the Yoruba, Bini and Igbo. All these peoples belong to the Kwa language family. Linguists are able to estimate the time since they have lived apart based on the differences between the languages. They separated from the larger ethnic groups in the area at one point and began to build their own culture in relative isolation.


Most Idoma are farmers. Their main products are yams and taro, locally called “cocoa yams”. Autumn is the time of great celebration. Yams are produced efficiently enough to export to their neighbors. They also harvest fruits of the oil palm, which are processed into oil and exported in large quantities to Europe, making it a fairly profitable cash crop. Other important crops include corn, cassava, peppers, peanuts, edible pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Goats, sheep, chickens, and dogs are kept by almost everyone. Although hunting no longer contributes significantly to the local economy, fishing is still very important throughout the region.

Political system

The Idoma live in densely populated villages or in relatively scattered farms. Political traits exist primarily at the community level with the position of tribal leader, whose position is inherited patrilineally. His succession among the Idoma often alternates between two patrilineal structures, weakening the power of the leader to some extent. The leader usually consults a council of elders before making important decisions. In the past, age-graded societies and their associated masking traditions contributed to social control.


In the Idoma religion, there is a focus on honoring the ancestors. Funeral ceremonies among the Idoma are often quite dramatic, the combination of age and prestige deciding the attention given to the member. Large funerals are performed for both men and women to send them on their final journey from their village to the spiritual world across the river. A memorial service or second burial is held for the dead shortly after the actual burial to make sure that the dead person has also made it to the ancestral world.

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