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Why people call Gbagyi people, Gwari and why they never carry anything on their heads.

So we go again! 😁I’ve been itching to cover an ethnic group outside Southern Nigeria especially one that is more unfamiliar to most people. Going to Abuja seemed like the easiest place to do with limited planning. From my research, I’ve gotten a little attached to the Gbagyi people of Abuja and after this trip, I’m even more attached. They welcomed me with open arms and were incredibly happy about this project. The Gbagyi people are the indigenous people of the land our capital city now sits on. In the 1980s, they were relocated to the outskirts of the capital when the government began building Abuja. Today, Gbagyi groups can be found to the north, south, east and west of Abuja. That means they are also in Nasarawa, Kaduna, Niger and Kogi. However, their clothing, food and beliefs are still the same. The Gbagyi people make up about 1 million of Nigeria’s population.

I’ve always been bad at geography, anything science related actually. So, please forgive me if I make any blunders. A lot of us have travelled to different parts of the country but do we really realise how different the topography is in different parts? The difference in topography between the north, central and south of Nigeria is so interesting. Especially how it has affected the food, clothing, housing and general culture of the peoples in each area.

Central Nigeria has a lot of mountains and rocks. In pre-colonial times, a lot of peoples in Central Nigeria used to live on the mountains. It was safer because they could defend themselves easier. What I find really interesting is that they also used to farm on the mountains. The people of Central Nigeria are all great farmers because their land is extremely fertile. The Gbagyi people farm different crops but they are well known for farming a type of yam called Gwari. This is why the Hausa began calling them, Gwari people but their real name is Gbagyi. Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of yam, accounting for over 70% of yam production in the world.

After arriving in Abuja, I travelled about an hour out of the city center to a small village called Ushafa. The Gbagyi people have many strong beliefs but there is one that can be found in all aspects of their culture. They believe that the head is the most important part of the body and should not be stressed with carrying load.

Unlike other African women, you would never see a Gbagyi woman carry anything on her head. Her load would either be on the back of her neck or on her shoulders. As we drove to the small palace in Ushafa, I saw several sculptures and pictures of women carrying load on the shoulders.

Image source: Pulse Nigeria

Most Gbagyi women can large amounts of fire wood on their shoulders. I recently learnt that the American army actually studied Gbagyi women is see how they are able to carry such large amounts of firewood on their shoulders when their soldiers were struggling to carry their traveling backpacks.

How cool is that?



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I am a writer and illustrator from Lagos, Nigeria.


In 2015, I started a company called IheartLagos with the aim of showcasing Lagos culture in a unique and fun way.


That journey took me down an exciting path, discovering and learning so much about Nigeria.

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