Nupe people

The Nupe (traditionally called the Nupawa by the Hausas and Tapa by the neighbouring Yoruba) are an ethnic group native to the Middle Belt of Nigeria, and are the dominant ethnicity in Niger State, an important minority in Kwara State and present in Kogi State as well in the Federal Capital Territory.[1][2]

Nupe people
Total population
c. 4.5 million
Regions with significant populations
Related ethnic groups
Gbagyi, Igala, Yoruba, Ebira, Kambari, Kamuku, Bariba, Dukawa and others


The Nupe trace their origin to Tsoede who fled the court of Idah and established a loose confederation of towns along the Niger in the 15th century.[3][4] The proximity of Nupe to the Yoruba Igbomina people in the south and to the Yoruba Oyo people in the southwest led to cross-fertilization of cultural influences through trade and conflicts over the centuries.[5]

Population and demography

There are probably about 4.5 million Nupes, principally in Niger State. The Nupe language is also spoken in Kwara, Kogi and Federal Capital Territory. They are primarily Muslims, with a few Christians and followers of African Traditional Religion. The nupe people have several local traditional rulers. The Etsu Nupe (Bida) is not pure nupe, his great grandfather from his father side is Fulani while the family of his mother was complete nupe. His great grandfather from his father side came to rule Bida in the 1806. They have no present capital, although they were originally based at Rabah and only moved to Bida in the nineteenth century.[6]

Nupe part in Nigeria

Traditions, art and culture

The nupe people have various traditions. Many practices have changed as a result of The movements started by Usman Dan Fodio jihad of the 19th century, but they still hold on to some of their culture. Many nupe people often have scarification on their faces (similar to an old Yoruba tradition), some to identify their prestige and the family of which they belong as well as for protection, as well as jewellery adornment. But these traditions are dying out in certain areas. Their art is often abstract. They are well known for their wooden stools with patterns carved onto the surface.[7][8]

The nupe were described in detail by the ethnographer Siegfried Nadel, whose book, Black Byzantium, remains an anthropological classic.

Examples of Nupe art

Music and Entertainment Industry

The Nupe people are lovers of music and are addicted to Nupe Traditional Music which are sung by the Ningba or musician(s) while the Enyanicizhi beats the drum. Legendary Nupe singers of memory include people like Hajiya Fatima Lolo[9] Alhaji Nda'asabe, Hajiya Nnadzwa, Hauwa Kulu, Baba-Mini, Ahmed Shata and Ndako Kutigi.

The prime-movers of the Nupe cinema started film-making since the late nineties into the early 2000s. Great Nupe personalities that birthed the idea of producing, acting and directing Nupe dramas/comedies on-screen are Late Sadisu Muhammad DGN,[10] Prince Ahmed Chado, Late Prince Hussaini Kodo, M.B. Yahaya Babs and Jibril Bala Jibril. They are the people who made the move for Nupe dramas to be on-screen and are the founders of the modern-day Nupe Film Industry [11] known as Nupewood.[12] Nupewood has since produced more than a thousand entertaining movies in Nupe space to the millions of Nupe audiences.

Notable Nupe people

  • Shaikh Ahmad Lemu (OON, OFR), Islamic Scholar (1929–2020)
  • Hon. Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi (OFR, GCON), Nigeria Lawyer and Judge (1939–2018)
  • Mohammed Umar Bago, politician (born 1974)
  • Muhammad Bima Enagi, politician (born 1959)
  • Muhammad Umaru Ndagi, academic professor (born 1964)
  • Shehu Ahmadu Musa, politician (1935–2008)
  • Shaaba Lafiaji, politician
  • Suleiman Takuma, journalist and political leader (1934–2001)
  • Sam Nda-Isaiah, political columnist (1962–2020)
  • Isa Mohammed Bagudu, third republic politician (born 1948)
  • Zainab Kure, politician
  • Abdulkadir Kure, politician (1956–2017)
  • Aliyu Makama, Northern acting premiere (1905–1980)
  • H.R.H. Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar (GCFR), Etsu-Nupe; Traditional ruler (born 1952)
  • Fatima Lolo, musician (1891–1997)


  1. Nadel, S. F. (2018), "The Nupe Creed", Nupe Religion, Routledge, pp. 1–37, doi:10.4324/9780429487446-1, ISBN 978-0-429-48744-6
  2. Yahaya, Mohammed Kuta (2003). "The Nupe People of Nigeria". Studies of Tribes and Tribals. 1 (2): 95–110. doi:10.1080/0972639x.2003.11886489. ISSN 0972-639X. S2CID 158674479.
  3. Mason, Michael (1975). "The Tsoede Myth and the Nupe Kinglists: More Political Propaganda?". History in Africa. 2: 101–112. doi:10.2307/3171467. ISSN 0361-5413. JSTOR 3171467.
  4. Lawal, Babatunde, 1942-. Tsoede, Sango, and the Nupe bronzes. OCLC 57969198.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. Forde, Cyril Daryll. (1955). The Nupe. OCLC 35809832.
  6. Katcha, Abubakar. (1978). An exploratory demographic study of the Nupe of Niger State : the case of Sakpe village. Australian National University. ISBN 0-909150-60-5. OCLC 5021109.
  7. Nadel, S. F. (2018-09-03). Nupe Religion. doi:10.4324/9780429487446. ISBN 9780429487446.
  8. Nadel, S. F. (Siegfried Frederick), 1903–1956, author. (22 August 2018). Nupe religion. ISBN 978-1-138-59670-2. OCLC 1061313933.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. 1946-, Umar, Aliyu. Hajiya Fatima Lolo (traditional singer). OCLC 39524822.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. "Nupe Film Industry".
  11. "Nupe film industry is currently heading for the rocks – Yikangi". 9 February 2015.
  12. Perani, Judith (2003). Nupe. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.t063036.


  • Blench, R.M. (1984) "Islam among the Nupe." Muslim peoples. (ed. 2) Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.
  • Forde, D. (1955) The Nupe. pp. 17–52 in Peoples of the Niger-Benue Confluence. IAI, London.
  • Ibrahim, Saidu 1992. The Nupe and their neighbours from the 14th century. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational books.
  • Madugu, George I. (1971) The a construction in Nupe: Perfective, Stative, Causative or Instrumental. In Kim C-W. & Stahlke H. Papers in African Linguistics, I' pp. 81–100. Linguistic Research Institute, Champaign.
  • Perani, J.M. (1977) Nupe crafts; the dynamics of change in nineteenth and twentieth century weaving and brassworking. Ph.D. Fine Arts, Indiana University.
  • Stevens, P. (1966) Nupe woodcarving. Nigeria, 88:21-35.
  • The Nupe People of Nigeria by Mohammed Kuta Yahaya. Nigeria, 95:1-2
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