I have quite a soft spot for unique hairdos and it does not make a pass without me taking snapshots and getting same done on myself. Of particular interest are the hairstyles done by Ebira women. As a young girl, growing up in the early eighties at Ilorin, Kwara State, Midwestern Nigeria, Ebira women and girls were the choice stylists for our hairs. They were gifted at creating intricate designs of braids and knitted hair. I naturally presumed that all Ebira women were hair makers and usually taken aback if I meet one who does not have the art . My growing skull wore the finest fits of hairdo such as,adimole( typically an Ebira embled hairdo) Shuku,Patewo, koroba and many others.The years have been worn but I have not reliquished the puppy love I have for “Ebira hair”.
Perhaps it is the nostalgic reminisces of my braiding history or my infrequent interactions with Ebira acquaintances that piqued my mind to do a research about this unique people. It was worth it as I made unique finds.
Personally, I conjure that the Ebiras are naturally either beautiful or handsome. I have a number of Ebira as friends, I interact with some of my local women who do my hair, meet their children, seen their folks and just decided that all Ebira men and women folk were created to be looked at, not once but twice. Another intriguing find is the light skinned Ebira, one wonders, “how can an Ebira be light skinned?” Many of them are and beautifully so. I was quite bemused discovering that Ebira people are not Yoruba! I had harboured the conclusion that since they were located largely in kogi state North western axis of the Oyo empire, and also hosted by Kwara in the middle belt,they automatically had their progenitors from the Yoruba cradle. This is not so. Historically The Ebiras (itapa Ane Ebira/Ète Ebira) originated from the Kwararafa confederation of the Wukaris in Taraba State North eastern Nigeria. A dispute arose as a result of a chieftancy title and the confederacy made up of the Jukuns, the Wukaris, Idomas, Tivs and Ebiras disintegrated, with the Ebira Tao which is the largest of these ethno linguistic people moving out to settle among their Igala neighbours at Idah Kogi state. They were led by their founding forebear Known as Haazi. These events are dated to have occured around 1680AD. Other groups of the Ebiras existed at this time as the Ebira koto, Ebira mazum, Ebira panda, Ebira Oje/toto, Ebira Agatu, Ebira Etuno, and surprisingly Ebira Olókó who are found in Oyo and Osun States western Nigeria .
Haazi gave birth to five sons who became the founders of other Ebira clans. Presently, Okene in Kogi State is the administrative headquarters but they are also housed in parts of Nasarawa, Kwara, Edo, Abuja ( Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria) and Oyo State.Their paramount ruler is known as the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland.
Three main festivals threads the Ebira people: The ECHE ANE (The women festival) which features maidens betrothal ,The Eche Ori (new yam festival) which is significant as it ushers in the harvest season, and the Ekuechi which is the festival of masquerades Marking the beginning of a new year. All the festivals features cane wielding masquerades which are symbolic in the culture of the Ebiras. Predominantly the Ebira people are farmers, traditional weavers and traders . In the second part of this write up, I will tell of another exciting aspect of the Ebira life: Their traditionally woven fabric and cultural attire. So many tales in the offing!
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