Ethnic Irigwe the ancient polyandry practicing people dancers, Miango village, Jos Plateau, Nigeria, 1959.



Ethnic Irigwe (the ancient polyandry practicing people) dancers, Miango village, Jos Plateau, Nigeria, 1959. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for Life magazine and traveled to Africa from August 18, 1959 to December 20, 1959.

Irigwe people are ancient hospitable and friendly Bantu rigwe-speaking people of larger Benue-Congo ethnolinguistic group living in Bassa and Barakin Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State and Saminaka Local Government Area in Kaduna state. The Irigwe, mostly live in Miango, Jos and Bukuru village in Bassa LGA of Plateau State. This people were famous to the anthropologist for its polyandry practice and traditional ritual dance. There are a lot of tourist attractions in the Miango village like water falls, high hills, the Miango rest house etc. Currently there are about 70,000 Irigwe people living Nigeria. As a result of Christianity and anthropologists tagging of Irigwe tribe as "primitive" and "pagan" society for practicing polyandry and the British government that kill many of it indigenes because they were threat to them, most Irigwes do not practice polyandry again.
The following are also Irigwe tribes and can be used to refer to as Irigwe; Aregwe, Idafan, Kwal, Kwan, Kwoll, Miango, Nkarigwe, Nnerigwe, Nyango,Rigwe etc. The Irigwe call their language as rigwe. They call themselves as yirigwe and an Irigwe person (singular) is also yirigwe.

The Irigwe live about 20 miles west of the towns of Jos and Bukuru in euphorbia-enclosed, extended-family compounds that are clustered closely together to form a belt of almost continuous settlement running north and south for about four miles just above the western escarpment of the Jos Plateau, Nigeria.
Irigwe people speak rigwe language which belongs to larger Benue or Niger-Congo family. Rigwe (Irigwe) is a Plateau language of the Central sub-group, spoken by people living in Miango (SW of Jos), Kwall and several other hamlets in Bassa local government, Plateau State and Kauru local government, Kaduna State, Nigeria. According to D.A. Daniel and J.K. Barry, An Outline of Irigwe Phonology and Grammar (1983), data collected from electoral rolls estimates a total Rigwe population at over 60,000. However, Ethnologue (2005) repeats a UBS figure of 40,000 dating from 1985 for the number of Rigwe speakers. The Rigwe language has a very little dialectal variation among speakers.
Although some work on writing the Rigwe language began in 1919, followed by irregular vernacular publications, for example the Katikism /Irigwe Catechism/ (Anon 1935), nine NT books (1935), Irigwe Hymnbook (1986), Alphabet chart (1986), the analysis of Rigwe phonology has remained at best incomplete. A more comprehensive overview of the history of the Rigwe orthography is contained in Reading and Writing Irigwe (2006), a product of the Irigwe Language and Bible Translation Project. This booklet is the main source of current Rigwe orthographic practice although it does not provide proof for its assessment of the Rigwe sound system.
No published reference book has noted the correct ethnonyms of the Rigwe people. These are;
One Rigwe person ƴîɾìgʷȅ
Rigwe people yíɾìgʷȅ
Rigwe language ɾȉgʷȅ

Rigwe has been classified with Izere in the South-Central subgroup of Plateau (Gerhardt 1989) a view reprised in Crozier & Blench (1992). The evidence for this is limited although some comparative data is included in Gerhardt (1983). However, as the present paper will show it has developed a very distinctive phonology. The only other detailed account of a related language is Follingstad (1991) which describes Tyap (Kataf) which has a rich system of fortis/lenis contrasts quite unlike Rigwe.
Rigwe is notable for its extremely rich phonemic system. A number of phonemes only occur once and it is a moot point as to whether they can be described as integrated into the phonological system. The source of this appears to be a combination of the erosion and rebuilding of CV prefixes and pervasive palatal and labial prosodies possibly arising from former pluralisation strategies. In addition, past contact with Chadic languages is probably responsible for both a lateral fricative and low-frequency preglottalised consonants.
Some examples:
Rigwe English Rigwe English
ɾitʃí head ɾitʃiî egg
íɟʲé cliff ììɟê locust
ɬí to sieve,k.o ɬìî k.o. bird

History/Myth (Creation)
According to Sangree (1969) Elders of Rae (Red Earth) recount the following Irigwe origin myth:
"Long ago, Weze, the original Red Earth ancestor, descended from the sun to a spot in the child division (Nyango). A descendant of his first brought forth fire from a hole in the rock by the river that separates the parent and child divisions. A later descendant moved south of the river to what is now the parent division area (Rigwe) and met a man named Audu wandering by. He bore the name Audu, which is an Irigwe nickname for Jarawa, because he had come for the Jarawa tribal group situated east of Irigwe.
The Red Earth people invited Audu to live with them, and he married and became the original ancestor of the most senior Irigwe male section. Audu came bringing as a gift the fruit of the Inhwiae tree, and the Irigwesection he founded is known as Nuhwie in remembrance of this gift. At that time Audu had no crops, his people eating only game, fruits, and berries. The Red Earth people gave Audu crops and asked him to distribute them among his people. They agreed to respect each other as mother and son and as man and woman (which also means husband and wife in the Irigwe language). Then, combining their hunting and gathering and farming skills, they together founded the Irigwe tribe.
With the passing of time the tribe grew to have quite a few sections, some arising from the incorporation of immigrant groups and others being formed by the splitting off of patrilineages from already established Irigwe sections. Then a great migration took place. A man from a junior male section led members of his own lineage, together with offshoots of other male and female sections, to the north side of the river where they formed a new “son” section not far from where the original Red Earth ancestor had descended from the sun. Very soon afterwards the entire Red Earth section followed this new son section to the new settlement. Several other lineages from male and female sections came later. The descendants of all these migrants now comprise Nyango, the child division of Irigwe."
Irigwe Miango Dancers: This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for Life magazine and traveled to Africa from August 18, 1959 to December 20, 1959.
Written history has it that the Irigwe tribe emerged from a close range of the descendants of the Bantu tribes from the Cameroun as a result of the class language spoken by a family of languages between Duala in the Cameroun and Kei river in South Africa, between Barawa in and Omaruru in Namibia, due to the existence of the 84 Bantu groups of Bantu languages divided in some 1600 dialects.
History has it that after the long migration from one point to the other through Yankari, et lal; the Irigwe man settled at Fobur(Jos East). They kept moving in hunt of game and ariable land for farming until they arrived Riti Voh (Dutsen Kurah), and finaly settling at Rigwe(Kwall).

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