The Kalabari are a sub-group of the Ijaw people living in the eastern Niger Delta region of Nigeria.[1] Originally, they were known as the Awome. The name Kalabari was derived from their ancestor Perebo Kalabari who was a son of Mein Owei.[2] Their original settlement was spelt as Calabar by the Portuguese which was pronounced Kalabari. This settlement (town) was abandoned as the people moved to other fishing settlements. Portuguese settlers continued to maintain the name Calabari which became surrounded by the Efik people of Duke town. When the British came the word Calabari was pronounced as Calabar (Kalaba) instead of Kalabari. At this time the original Ijoid Kalabaris had moved to a new location which became the new Calabar territory since the old Calabar is occupied by different people. Old Calabar became an Efik town with time which has the name Calabar.[3]

Total population
Regions with significant populations
Nigeria Rivers, Nigeria
Kalabari language
Related ethnic groups
Ijaw, Bille
Water spirit head crest (pipligbo)

Elem Kalabari became a large kingdom that has about 35 settlements including Bakana, Abonnema, Buguma, Tombia and others.[4]

The present Monarch is King Amachree XI (Professor Theophilus Princewill CFR)[1], along with his Chiefs, most of whom are royal princes. Together, they form the royal court.

History edit

The Kalabari people are Ijaw speaking settlers who came from the lineage of a man called Mein Owei. The people were originally fishermen before the coming of the Portuguese to the West African coastline.

The Kalabari, like most Nigerian coastline tribes, were wealthy as a result of their interactions with the Europeans. There are some Ijaw who consider the Kalabari as a different ethnic group and vice versa.[5]

Historically Kalabari settlements have always been close to a river, this is because they believed their powers came from deities in the water.[6]

Food edit

There are a variety of traditional dishes (or native food) of the Kalabari, the three popular dishes are Onunu (pounded yam, ripe plantain and palm oil), Tominafulo (fresh fish, prawns, periwinkle and oyster and other local ingredients), Odo’fulo (aka Native Soup made with fresh seafood and other local ingredients).[citation needed]


Kalabari people have one of the cheapest forms of legal marriage in the south-south region of Nigeria, their marriage is cheap compared to the neighbouring cites such as the Ikwerre, Okrika, Ahoada, Ogoni, Bonny , and Opobo. The cheapest form of marriage which is recognized in Kalabari is called "Ari Ibara emi" (meaning she is with me). As the name implies, her parents should not look for her elsewhere, for she is with me.[7] Kalabari tribe has about three types of marriages, the Iya, Igwa, and Waribiobesime. The Iya marriage is said to be the highest and most expensive form of marriage in the Kalabari culture.[8] The Iya is the most expensive form of marriage in Kalabari land. The special thing about this type of marriage ceremony is that, at first, there are some catchy traditions that may seem weird for other cultures or tribes, but all of them are respected and they must be honored in the ceremony. For instance, the marriage cannot be complete until the ceremony of BIBIFE (buying the mouth) is being done. BIBIFE signifies that the potential wife can not eat any food until her “mouth is bought”. There must be a rite in order to “buy her mouth” and only after that, she is able to eat in her husband's house. This BIBIFE signifies the responsibility and role of the man towards his wife that shows his willingness to care and feed her for the rest of her life.[citation needed][9]

List of towns, villages and fishing settlement in Kalabari edit

Abonnema, Abalama, Abisse, Angulama, Aleleama, Atuka, Angalabio, Adumama, Amosama, Buguma, Bukuma, Bakana, Bakana (old), Captain kiri, Cawthrone Channel, Dialafiari ama, Elem Tombia, Elem Kalabari, Elem Ido, Elem Ifoko, Elem Bekinama, Elem Abalama,   Horsefall ama, Harrison ama, Ido, Idama, Ilelema, Ifoko, Ipokuma, Kula, krakrama, ke, Kien ama, Minama, Mbiakafiama, Ngeribarama, Oporoama, Obonoma, Okpo, Owoko, Obuama, Omekweama, Omekwetariama, Ogo ama, Opubenibo ama, Soku, Sama, Sangama, Tema, Tombia, Udekema, Usokun - Degema.[citation needed]

References edit

  1. ^ "Spirits in Steel: The Kalabari". American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  2. ^ "10 Interesting Facts About the Kalabari People". Clipkulture. 2020-04-30. Retrieved 2022-02-11.
  3. ^ "10 Interesting Facts About the Kalabari People". Clipkulture. 2020-04-30. Retrieved 2022-02-11.
  4. ^ G. I. Jones. The trading states of the oil rivers: a study of political development in Eastern Nigeria. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, 2000.
  5. ^ Contributor, Pulse (2022-02-07). "Ijaw Culture: A brief walk into the lives of one of the world's most ancient people". Pulse Nigeria. Retrieved 2022-02-11. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  6. ^ Oral Tradition from the people
  7. ^ Jackreece, Nimi. "KALABARI TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE (IGWA SIME) DRINKS/MONEY REQUIREMENTS". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ "Culture Spotlight: Kalabari Weddings are such a Beauty and Here's Why". BellaNaija Weddings. 2018-10-16. Retrieved 2021-09-12.
  9. ^ "What makes Kalabari weddings unique?". 15 January 2019.

Further reading edit

  • Hlaváčová, Anna: Three Points of View of Masquerades among the Ijo of the Niger River Delta. In: Playful Performers: African Children's Masquerades. Ottenberg, S.- Binkley, D. (eds.)
  • The Culture of Playfulness and of Spirits. In: Slovenské divadlo. Vol. 62, no. special (2014), pp. 60–70.

  • Tempest Masquerades. In: Slovenské divadlo. Vol. 62, no. special (2014), pp. 82–94.