The Berom (sometimes also spelt as Birom) is the largest autochthonous ethnic group in the Plateau State, central Nigeria. Covering about four local government areas, which include Jos North, Jos South, Barkin Ladi (Gwol) and Riyom, Berom are also found in southern Kaduna State local government areas.
The Berom speak the Berom language, which belongs to the Plateau branch of Benue–Congo, a subfamily of the large Niger–Congo language family. It is not related to the Hausa language (which belongs to the Afro-Asiatic family) or other Afro-Asiatic languages of Plateau State, which are Chadic languages.
The Berom people have a rich cultural heritage. They celebrate the Nzem Berom festival annually in March or April. Other festivals include Nzem Tou Chun (worongchun) and Wusal Berom. Its one of the major aborigine groups in Nigeria (Plateau State) that believes in a Judeo-Christian God (Dagwi)
Some Berom festivals include:
|Festival||Span||Period of Celebration in the year|
|Mandiyeng||From Precolonial times||March–April|
|Nshok||From Precolonial times||March–April|
|Badu||From Precolonial times||March–April|
|Worongchun||From Precolonial times||April–May|
|Vwana/Bwana||From Precolonial times||August|
|Mado (Hunting festival)||From Precolonial times||October/November|
|Behwol (Hunting festival)||From Precolonial times||March–April|
|Wusal Berom (Prayer festival)||Postcolonial||Monthly|
Festivals in Berom culture are primarily related to agriculture and hunting, which have been the main events revolving around Berom livelihood and cosmology.
The influx of Christianity and western Education paved way for many socio-cultural changes in Berom culture. The changes devalued the rich culture of the people bringing serious predicament of a severe social and cultural crisis. In order to avoid the danger of losing the socio-cultural practice of the ancestor, and the overall precolonial activities such as the Mandyeng, Nshok, Worom Chun, Vwana, ceremonies were brought into a single umbrella festival called Nzem Berom. Nzem Berom is held within the first week of April, to coincide with the period when Mandyeng, Nshok and Badu Festival was held. The Nzem is a period when different cultural displays are exhibited from different parts of Berom land, especially in music, dance, arts and culture.
Mandyeng is a major festival celebrated in Berom land to usher in the rainy season. The festivals normally take place in March/ April. In the past the Berom regard Mandyeng/Nshok (they are very similar) the most vital festivals which ensured a good farming and hunting period and harvest. Not all the Berom communities celebrate Mandyeng and Nshok. Those that perform ‘Mandyeng’ claim their roots from Riyom, they include; Vwang, Kuru, Zawan, Gyel, Rim, Bachit, Bangai, Lwa, Sop, Jol, Wereng Kwi, Gwo, Kakuruk, Kuzeng, Kurak, Kuchin, Rahos and Tahoss. Nshok: Nshok slightly varies from Mandiyeng due to the fact that it also associates hunting with the rainy season farming. It is also held once a year around the months of April and May, to usher in the new season just as the Mandyeng.
In the pre-colonial era the Berom regarded hunting as both an occupation and a sport. Although economically it was not as important as farming, hunting was regarded as a show of skill and bravery. So much so, that most Berom names are derived from game animals, most importantly duiker, due to their perceived beauty. Names such as Pam, Dung, Chuwang, Gyang, Badung etc. for boys are most common, while girls answer to Kaneng, Lyop, Chundung, Nvou, Kangyang. These are names for different species of duiker. Others, such as Bot (frog) Tok (fish), Tsok (toad) etc. are names for other animals that are non-domesticated, but not game. These names clearly typify how important game was in pre-colonial Berom society.
Nshok was not the only hunting festival in Berom land. Festivals such as Mado and Behwol existed but are not as important as Nshok.
Some of the musical instruments among the Berom include:
- Yom Nshi: a two-string banjo made with calabash and skin as resonators
- Yom: a straw string instrument
- kwag or Gwashak: a scraper made from dry cactus played with a stick slid across the sawed body of the dry cactus to produce a scraping sound
- Kundung: a xylophone made of cattle horns and cobwebs (image).
The Berom have a paramount ruler called the Gbong Gwom Jos. The traditional stool was created in 1935 by the British colonial administration of Northern Nigeria. Northern Nigeria was composed of completely different linguistic and cultural features between the ethnicities on the Plateau and the other groups. This ignorance of ethnic differences had initially encouraged the formation of vassal Hausa heads to oversee the created Jos Native Authority, which proved tumultuous with the Berom due to conflicting views and interests.
Through a circular; No. 24p/1916[JOS PROF NAK 473/1916], dated 15 August 1917, the Resident at Bauchi Province was instructed to send potentials from various native authorities including district and village heads to be elevated as chieftains by His Excellency the Governor General. In response to the circular, the Resident wrote back to the secretary Northern Province Kaduna via a memo No. 24/1916 [JOSPROF NAK 473/1916] dated 27 October 1917, recommended a paramount ruler to superintend the native areas.
In the pre-colonial period, the Berom were divided into autonomous political groups based on regions, but the colonial authority merged them under the Gbong Gwom in 1952 to help coordinate the activities of the natives
The first chief Dachung Gyang assumed leadership from 1935 to 1941. Under Dachung Gyang, the traditional institution was designated as the Berom Tribal Council. composing of local chiefs within the Jos Native Authority. Its authority then only included mainly the Berom and excluded the chiefs of Buji, Naraguta, Jos and Bukuru. However, the government, in a Gazette of 7 February 1918, modified the list to include the Buji, Naraguta, Jos and Bukuru.
The emergence of Da Rwang Pam (1947 to his death on 14th July 1969 saw the elevation of the head of the Tribal Council to the stool of the Gbong Gwom Jos.
Since 1969, the stool has been held by the following:
- Da Fom Bot, 19th August 1969 to his death on 1 December 2002
- Da Victor Dung Pam, 17 April 2004 to 7 March 2009
- Da Jacob Gyang Buba, 1 April 2009 to the present