Gbari – A language for those who love tattoos or plan to live in Nigeria

Former Nigerian president Ibrahim Babanginda is one of the well known Gbari’s. Gbari is a language that is spoken by over 1 million people in Nigeria. The language is predominantly spoken in Kaduna state and in Niger. The language has 2 different varieties which are considered to be distinct; east Gbari and west Gbari. Speakers from these 2 groups cannot fluently communicate with each other. Gbari can also be referred to as Nkwa or Yamma. Most Gbari’s have a problem pronouncing the letter ‘R’.

Gbari’s are generally known to be peace loving, accommodating and transparent people. The major occupation of Gbari’s is farming. Latin script is used in their writing system. There is a low literacy rate among the Gbari’s. Most Gbari’s dress like the Hausa’s. They grow cotton, which is mostly used to make their traditional clothes. When they are at home most Gbari women tie wrappers around their waists. Gbari’s differ from the Hausa’s when it comes to word pronunciation and even dialect. Some portions of the bible have been translated into Gbari. Several dialects exist in this ethnic group. This includes Gayegi, Kong, Kwange, Botai, Paiko, Kwange, Izem, Jezhu, Kwali and Izem. There is a lot of lexical similarities among the dialects. By 2002, there were 350,000 Gbari speakers.

Body decoration is quite common among the community mainly for aesthetic purposes and also as a mark of honor and respect. Body decorations includes tattoos and piercings on different parts of the body that are normally exposed including hands, legs and the face. Most Gbari’s carry out the body decorations on themselves or they get a professional to do it for them. Both animate and inanimate objects can be used as designs. Some of the most popular designs includes the names of one’s heroes, lovers or family members. It takes 2 to 3 days for one to heal after they have been tattooed. Mostly, the decoration is meant for mature women. Spinsters normally tattooed the names of their would be husbands on their bodies so as to scare away other suitors and to show their commitment to their relationships.

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