In Nigeria, culture is manifested in art, dance, language, literature, folklore, mores, music, governance, and even the environment. According to archaeological finds, Nigeria’s artifacts depicting the early life of the people date back to 2000 years. The Nok Culture, the earliest of the finds depicted the early life of the people of the Nok region North of the Benue River. The characteristic features of the Nok culture, which flourished from 500, BC to AD 200 is the terracotta figures associated with it and the extensive use of iron. The source of the knowledge of an iron technology has been attributed to the civilization of ‘Meroe’ in what is today the Republic of Sudan, as well as to Carthage in North Africa.
In Nigeria, diverse and compelling tourist attractions abound. Its many ecological zones provide a wide range of unique cultural heritage-based tourist sites that visitors will find interesting and captivating. Attractions include beaches, game parks, waterfalls, museums, historical relics, cultural and traditional festivals. Other attractions include traditional ways of life preserved in local customs, rich and varied handicrafts and colourful products depicting indigenous art and lifestyle. Nigerians are renowned for their warmth and hospitality. Their legendary kindness and accommodating nature ensure that visitors always feel at home in Nigeria.
National Council for Arts and Culture
The National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) was established by Decree No. 3 of 1975 after the dissolution of the former Nigerian Arts Council. The Council is the custodian of cultural materials for Black and African peoples all over the world. The institution is a vital Center for the study, propagation and promotion of understanding of Black and African ideals and civilization.
National Commission for Museum and Monuments
The National Commission controls the registration and clearance for export of antiquities as well as arts and crafts (even newly made) for Museums and Monuments. There are severe penalties for attempting to export antiquities without a permit issued by the National Commission for Museum and Monuments. Export permits can be obtained at any of the National Museums in the country. The clearance permit serves as a conclusive part that an object is not an antiquity. Permits for export of antiquities should be directed, and with as much notice as possible, to the Director-General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, National Museum, Lagos or to the Director-general, through the Curator and head of station of the National Museum in the state in which the applicant is located.
Walls and Ancient Buildings
City Wall and Moat, Benin City
These are the most impressive city walls and moats in southern Nigeria. At their highest point, the walls were nine metres high and the moat (ditch) nine metres deep, making a total incline of 18 metres. Unfortunately in the past few years, the walls and moats have been subject to extensive soil excavation, used as a source of building materials.
City Wall, Zaria
The Zaria City wall perhaps remains the best preserved among the cities of northern Nigeria. The need for defensive walls has disappeared since the occupation by the British of the Western Sudan at the beginning of this century. Moreover, the rains of over 50 wet seasons have battered down the tall mud walls rampant in this part of the country. The walls of Zaria, which circumnavigate the city, are between 14 and 16 kilometers long and are pierced by eight gates.
Gobirau Minaret, Katsina
This imposing minaret, or tower which originally is said to be some 120 metres tall and which was built of mud and palm timbers, is all that remains of the mosque constructed in Habe times, before the holy wars of Sheik Uthman Dan Fodio. Parts of the 15.25-meter tower are thought to be about 250 years old.
Chief Ogiamen’s House, Benin City
This building is protected under the Antiquities Act of 1953 principally because of its architectural eminence as a fine example of Benin traditional architecture. It has an elaborate system of court yards and altars. It is a chief’s house and was probably built before the 1897 British expedition against Benin. The big fire that gutted the city following the British invasion did not affect the building.
Foot Bridge, Kaduna
This is an interesting example of indigenous engineering before the advent of roads and railways in Nigeria. The bridge was originally erected by Lord Lugard at Zungeru in 1904 and re-erected in 1954 in the Kaduna Gardens.
More on Arts & Culture
Apart from such crafts as bronze-casting, wood carving, leather work, pottery and weaving, a form of artistic expression that has quietly gained a stronghold but has not been given its due recognition in Nigeria is painting. As a medium of artistic expression, painting is not completely new in the country. The two groups of rock paintings in Kano and Bauchi are the most important yet found in the country. The Birnin Kudu cattle paintings and symbolic drawings show affinity to some Saharan paintings.
The coloring of masks monochromatically or polychromatically is also a form of painting that has been in existence in Nigeria for as long as the festivals and ceremonies for which such objects were made. Body paintings and decoration for ceremonial rites and festivals are also a common practice in many parts ‘of the country. The designs and decorations used in body painting possess esoteric connotations and the human body so painted at times in varied contours, visually becomes a really beautiful “living art piece”.
Another form of artistic expression closely akin to painting that has been in practice in the country for a long time is the multicolored decoration of the inner and outer walls of houses with beautiful and elaborate symbols and designs. Some of such designs have their origin in the Islamic influence on Nigerian culture and are popular in the northern parts of the country. The metal works, glass beads and bangles of Bida are familiar articles to visitors to Nigeria. The bead makers in particular preserve their ancient skills as a family tradition. The metal workers were originally the armored of the north. Their art is now applied to the production of skillfully fashioned and decorated trays, bowls and pots rings, bangles and the like.