Posted on 35 Comments

Gbagyi Woman

Fetching Firewood

Gwari Woman Fetching Firewood

Ushafa Village is popularly known as Bill Clinton Village after former US President Bill Clinton visited the village in 2000. He was given the traditional chieftaincy title of ‘Dan Masanin Ushafa’ meaning ‘the most educated man of Ushafa’ and citizenship of the village


35 thoughts on “Gbagyi Woman

  1. What a wonderful smile on that lady’s face!

  2. A smile with such a heavy load.

  3. This is a great composition. What a very beautiful woman. Her stance speaks of resilience come what may.

  4. This photo is stunning in composition and passionate in content. Love it!

  5. The look in her eyes says so much.

  6. Hi there, great job with all these wonderful photos!
    One thing I found fascinating is the fact that Gwari people carry their loads on the back of their necks, in Yoruba where I am from, we carry all our loads on our heads. Do you know if there is any physical effects on their necks when old? Yorubas don’t shrink from carrying heavy loads, 🙂 just really curious about the effects on the neck. Thanks.

    1. Thank you so kindly Folake, you raise a very good question. I grew up in Yoruba land (Ibadan) and am familiar with women carrying stuff on their heads, I also see men carry heavy stuff like cement and floor bags, bricks etc on their heads. I am unaware of any studies out there on the long term effects of carrying heavy stuff on your head, am guessing there are some side effects.

      Nigeria has one of the most dynamic people on the planet where you have variations in culture. When I relocated to Abuja I became fascinated with the Gwari people and culture. I believe they use their shoulders to support the weight, so there is no unusual pressure on the neck. As with anything done repeatedly some side effects might occur.

      I will do a little field survey and pose your question to the women. Regards Ayotunde

      1. Great, I’d love to hear of your survey outcomes.
        I know that with us (Yoruba) one can end up with a bald patch in the middle of the head if loads are carried on bare head, hence we use osuka (thick cloth) to protect hair.

        While at Ibadan, did you ever have to carry stuff on your head? If not, you should really try one day, a bag of cement will be a nice trial 🙂

      2. Hey, I got my assistant photo & videographer John Amos who happens to live in Ushafa Village, a Gwari enclave, to get the facts of the origins of that tradition.

        He spoke with a few of the elder women and they told him that their people have been carrying stuff on their shoulders for centuries, they relate it to Jesus Christ not carrying his cross on his head but dragging it on his shoulders. For them carrying their burden on their shoulders is related to Jesus walking the cross. They also believe it to be a taboo carrying ones burden on their head.

        I attended private schools while growing up in Ibadan and in that circle you might be labeled for carrying stuff on your head, the acts of laborers, market women and “bush people” lol

        I would love to see a picture of you carrying an article of your choice from Osun (hmm maybe pounded yam dish) with osuka!

      3. Fantastic! I’ve heard about the taboo of not carrying stuff on the head, head controls the destiny kind of taboo, interesting the Jesus related one. Does that mean most of the guys there were Christian?

        Ha, I knew it! you are one of those ajebutter boys! Oh well, I haven’t carried stuff in a long time and trust me it was never pounded yam dish, more like 25kg basket full of palm oil fruit (eyin) or cassava tuber! It was a passage of like, memorable one indeed.

      4. I believe a vast majority of Gwari people are christians. Lol can’t deny it I was an Ajebutter but with an edge as I hung out and still have a bunch of friends in Ibadan interior. As a kid I was fascinated with our various cultures and traditions, and had the privilege of interacting with the many intriguing people in Ibadan including Obafemi Awolowo, Majekodunmi aka King of Boys who lived across the street from Awolowo in Oke Bola, Wole Soyinka, Adelaku, Bola Ige, Adedibu etc.

        Why do I get the feeling you are an Ajebuttter lol. Where in Osun do you live?

      5. No, I am far away from being Ajebutter oh, I didn’t even know how butter looked like until I was 10yrs or so, no kidding! It is just life, isn’t it? To know where I live in Osun you have to keep following my blog lol…You can’t get the village out of the girl so to speak.

        Whao, you have robbed shoulders with Yoruba big men, I take it that you have wealth of knowledge regarding how ‘we’ turned out to be this way. The only person I have met from your list was WS.

      6. Hmm fascinating, would love to know what your breakfast meals consisted of before 10yrs old. I am fortunate to have lived in Ibadan in that era. I believe I took after my dad in terms of my fascination with the Nigerian culture, he drove around the Nigerian countryside in the 50’s 60’s & 70’s shooting everything and anything he could, he also shot a lot of 3mm films. I learnt what it takes to pretty much think outside the box and blaze your own trail from him.

        The most fascinating person I ever met is Fela, I was working on producing a film documentary on his life in 97 when Bamayi and the NDLEA raided his house and the Shrine. I was caught up in the dragnet and jailed in Ikoyi with Fela, they claimed I had brought drugs from America for Fela, I remember him telling me this is what I would go through working with him. He died shorty after he was released.

        Although I am painfully shy I am not afraid to have a conversation with anyone from an Okada man in Molete Ibadan to President Obama in the White House. I am in a special zone when am shooting whatever or learning from people.

        I have spent a lot of time in Osun, how far are you from Ipetu?

      7. Whao, you met Fela…Now I am jealous big time! You see, that is one thing where one truly misses out being a villager 🙂 I only heard bad, bad things about Fela when I was little so when I started working, reading newspaper tells a slightly different story of him that I kind of liked, then at that time he was very sick. One day that I opened the newspaper and saw his bony obituary, I actually cried and at the time I still did not realise how great of a guy he was. Now, that I have listened to quite a few of his music, all that he said then is as true as it was then… what a country indeed.

        My breakfast was mostly eko and moinmoin/akara, healthy, hum?

      8. Very healthy breakfast, I once had a 2 week project in Ilesa and found myself eating pounded yam for brunch almost everyday. If you can resist sleep after then you are good to go for the day. Is your village closer to Ilesa or Ife?

      9. Ilesa folks loved their pounded yam, they’d eat even in their sleep 🙂 Yes, my village is a few miles away from both towns.

      10. So do you now manage your family farm?

      11. Lol. No, I am away from the farm now. Plus as you probably know, farming in SW is subsistence farming so can’t really provide livelihood for extended family.

      12. There are some mega farms popping up in the SW owned by big men lol, My homeboy runs their family farm in Ipetu, I plan on one day resetting my dad’s farm in Araromi Does this mean you no longer live in Osun?

      13. That’s it…big farms is a lot efficient to run. And that is one of our problems in Nig, in Osun alone there are lots of empty land uncultivated but to get hands on them for cultivation is another heavenly wahala!

        I have heard of Araromi…you should do it if its big enough . No, not in Osun full time, not for now at least.

      14. I think one of the problems farmers face in Nigeria is the bad road network which also leaves a big void in the export market.

      15. Bad road network, yes. But realistically we do not produce nearly enough for local people as it is today because our farming needs massive funding for technologies and training re production and preservation.

      16. Having lived in the US where farming is done in industrialized, assembly line and genetically altered way leading to the production of massive unhealthy food. There is a trend now in America of urban gardens, community gardens and people growing their own food. In some counties and Washington DC you are allowed to raise a certain number of chickens.

        You see in Nigerian we grown our food, livestock and poultry organically. I read your story Maggots IN The Brain on your blog about how you grew up on your family farm and how many chickens your father owned, you lived a healthy lifestyle and ate the organic foods you grew. You had no need for butter because it is not part of our staple food. A large percent of 175 million Nigerians live that lifestyle. The mega farms are suppose to serve the mega cities like Lagos and the Ajebutters.

        Unlike in America where there is excess food and the government provides supplemental aid to the poor Nigeria has no such program, this I believe is because we grow organically enough yams, cassava, plantain, sugarcane, palm, cocoa, kola nut, groundnuts, vegetables and all the crops in our staple food locally our. We have lived on basically the same diet for thousands of years. We have a sustainable livestock sector in the North by the Fulani who have been doing this for centuries.

        I believe our way of living should be persevered, and we should speak up against the push by the western world to introduce genetically altered seeds under the guise of disease resistance seeds and contaminate our food source.

      17. You are right, I have never needed butter at all when I lived in the village and even today, it is not part of my diet. And yes, many people lived just like that hence I have never seen it as disadvantage. I know that today, if basic facilities can be extended to the village, many people will be happy living their lives that way.

        No my friend, we are not producing enough for local people genetically modified or not. Locally, in Osun at least most farmers will harvest loads of maize, palm oil, pepper in season etc only to be buying them back at higher prices when out of season. Most of these farmers eat from hand to mouth… that is the problem.

        Our way of living should be preserved by all means but really you should visit these villages and see the reality. Their cash crops such as cocoa, palm trees are dying without replanting. These was sufficient for the family 50yrs ago but with population increase, provision has to be made to improve on farming. I heard Nigeria imports palm oil of all oil? The amount of imported rice is unbelievable, our way of living can be preserved if these farmers were giving basic trainings and government providing funding to help improve on farming.

        In American and many western countries, urban gardens is one way of avoiding the overly chemicals in their foods, unlike in Nigeria where there are plenty of idle land in every state but you will need massive govt help to get the work off the ground.

      18. I have not really noticed food shortage in Nigeria, what I have noticed is the poverty which leaves people unable to buy food. Poverty is also the result of loads of idle farm land. I am not sure if Nigeria still runs cooperative farmingq, the subsidies which the Nigerian government should be affording the farmers is eaten up by corrupt politicians giving way for the Americans to introduce genetically altered seeds under the guise of aid. Framing is highly subsidized in America and farmers get paid not to produce as a way of controlling supply and price. As a farmer what are your ideas for preserving the farming sector. Nigeria runs a big export sector in our staple foods like Gari., pounded yam, amala etc

      19. For the most part there is no shortage of food. Being a farmer doesn’t mean you can plant everything to give you a balanced diet. People are unable to buy the right type of food for adequate nutrition because the price is beyond their reach — hence poverty.

        Ha the Cooperatives – Those guys! We are our worse enemy, I tell you. Long ago, there were cooperative assisting farmers, my father and uncles got lots of cocoa plants from them, which was great. The coop lent them money for the maintenance. The coop collapsed like everything else, however, every yr the coop guys will come to my father for the interest which they religiously paid, but one yr my father demanded to see the document so he knows how much its left to be paid, it was very ugly, no paper work to show any historical payments, my father was the ‘akowe’ of the village and he thought they were being taking for a ride because there was always new person coming and they have being paying interest for like 30yrs! That was the end of that.

        Last yr our sitting governor (Aregbesola) started a new initiative distributing cocoa seeds and assisting farmers, my uncle thought the idea is fantastic as there is hope in the air.

        I think the idea of coop is fantastic but more needs to be done in terms of record keeping. I think the government should open more land for cultivation and give people incentives to develop the land, some Zimbabweans farmers were given land this way somewhere in SE. Given low job opportunity in the country, given trainings and government assisted start fund, lots of young entrepreneurs will be attracted.

      20. Is Cooperative Bank still around? My mom financed her bakery through Cooperative Bank Ibadan. I believe back in the days they were very helpful to small businesses. The Nigerian economy before oil was built on agriculture. The first skyscraper in West Africa Cocoa House was built on cocoa cooperatives. I am curious is Cocoa Research Institute playing any role in the cocoa initiative in Osun?

        Lol on the coop guys, with the discovery of oil most government run agriculture institutions were abandoned for oil money by the politicians and military.

        In the north I believe the coop system is used in exporting some cash crops like soybeans. What do you think about running these coop programs on the local and state level?

      21. Not sure there is any Coop bank in the state anymore, loads of other new bank now occupy their space. I do hope Cocoa Research Institute plays a role with what is going on in the state, I am not sure though as I didn’t ask (:))
        I think running small to medium coop programs will benefit the masses enormously. Banks don’t lend money to small businesses (for a whole lots of reasons) and or rare occasion when they did for people who have houses as collateral, the interest rate starts at 20%.

      22. Yeah commercial banks are highly profit driven and rarely participate in the agricultural sector. The micro finance banks were suppose to fill the void left by Coop banks. States should subsidize low interest loans to farmers and provide better infrastructures, Ondo state built a tomato canning factory to eliminate spoilage due to lack of a good transportation network. Am guessing you are from Modakeke

      23. That’s great, hopefully more states will follow in Ondo steps. I know Osun is trying as well, but the sector has been left out for too long, we still have long way to go…we’ll get there.

        Ha, ha! I told you, you can’t take village from the girl, I am not so discrete about Akoraye, am I?

      24. lol you are not. You had an amazing childhood and I very much enjoy your blog

      25. Thank you. Have a great day and keep taking photos and sharing them o. We all do have a lot to learn from one another within the country.

      26. Thank you Folakemi, truly appreciate you.

  7. […] Gwari Woman fetching firewood in Ushafa Village FCT Nigeria […]

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