Itsekiri Culture

The information on this page is provided as an educational tool for both Itsekiri and non-Itsekiri people. Please call or send us an email if you have questions or need more information.

 

The itsekiri people have always been known as a very cultured group of people. Oral and written history shows that in the early days the Itsekiri had very impressive trade, cultural links and relationships, with people of different ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds. These relationships greatly influenced and helped to broaden and enrich their cultural life.

Clothes

There is no denying the fact that the Nigerian women’s dress popularly known as George and blouse (ubuara bi alikun, lelegi) identified with the Delta State had its origin in Itsekiriland. So too for the men's Kemije (Camisa in Portuguese) and the pleated wrapper.

It is not a secret that when an Itsekiri woman dresses in her attire she stands out differently from others who have since adopted the same outfit. 

Authentic Meals & Foods

The itsekiri are known for many variety of authentic foods.

Because of their location as coastal / riverine people a lot of their foods are cooked with fresh water fish, shrimp, cray-fish, and other seafoods.

Click here to learn more about some authentic Itsekiri dishes!

Music & Dance

The Itsekiri people are well known for their very graceful way of dancing. Historians’ record that in the early days, Itsekiri dancers were chosen to represent Nigeria in Europe. A few of their many dances are the omoko, ukawa, highness, ulu omi, alala, ogono, ukpupe, and ibiogbe.

Names (and their meanings)

Many Itsekiri names have special meanings for the respective families. Reference to God is common since the Almighty One is fundamental to the Itsekiri.

Click to see popular Itsekiri names!

Language

Another aspect of the culture, which was greatly influenced by their interaction with other people, is the Itsekiri language. ltsekiri words like oro (gold), sangi (blood), garafa (mug), kidibe (pipe) etc are derived from the Portuguese language.

The relationship with the British also helped influence the vocabulary of these very sophisticated group of people. Itsekiri words like torosi, tapita, woske and several others all came from English language. Their relationship with the Yoruba people and the Benin people also influenced a lot of the Itsekiri vocabulary.

Until comparatively recently Itsekiri as a language was the lingua franca that was used by all Urhobo, Itsekiri and Ijaw - in the Warri area. In fact up to the 1940's, anybody in Warri area, stranger or not, learned to speak Itsekiri, dressed the Itsekiri way and were given Itsekiri names.

Religion

The Itsekiri's early contacts with medieval Europe, especially Portugal, helped to foster a conservative Christian education and civilization in Itsekiriland and the people remain proud of this historical circumstance.