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3 Ethnography: The Search for Cultural Determinants and Patterns

3 Ethnography: The Search for Cultural Determinants and Patterns

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4.3 Ethnography: The Search for Cultural Determinants and Patterns


through a hut zaure that functions like the living room in urban housing. It is also

used for economic gains such as trades, craft, and religious instructions aside

relaxation and visitors’ reception. Next is the forecourt kofar gida where male adult

relations and male adult children live. The cikin gida is the inner court for women’s

accommodation and their domestic chores with a hut shigifa separating these two

sections. The shigifa is used by women to receive male relatives and most times

attached to the house head’s section known as the turaka where he oversees the

compound. The courtyards are used to host gatherings, with the forecourt, entrance

hall, and the outdoor area reserved for the men, while women utilise the inner courts

and their bedrooms to entertain female visitors. Furthermore, domestic animals are

reared within the courtyards. Specifically, flexible domestic building practices of

the Hausa ethnic group echo fluctuating occupants’ composition and needs that

have significant impact on other ethnics residing in the region. Apparently, indoor

open spaces and the entrance hall sometimes appear larger due to cultural values

and activities assigned to these spaces. Typical traditional Hausa layout is thus

represented in Fig. 4.1 and compound views presented in Figs. 4.2 and 4.3,



Fulani Ethnic Group

Aboriginally, the Fulani ethnic group are predominantly nomads supported with

farming and spread across the northern states but concentrated in the north-eastern

states particularly in Gombe and Adamawa states of Nigeria. Their spread results

from movement across the country around the season in search for pastures for their

cattle. As a result of this lifestyle, they live in transient shelters made up of basic

space needs demarcated with impermanent materials which are often renewed as

long as they reside in a given environment. The houses habitually comprise of

sleeping huts, food storages, cooking area and open spaces for drying harvests and

for family relations sometimes usually provided under the shade of trees. Privacy is

enhanced with the provision of fence made from crop stalks and straws which are

renewed after crop harvest. Illustrations to show typical views are presented in

Figs. 4.4, 4.5 and 4.6, respectively.

Successive contact with other ethnic groups, particularly the Hausa ethnic group

as a result of gradual civilisation, led to the embracement of their spatial pattern and

ways of building. For instance in Geirei, Adamawa state in Nigeria, Fulani

inhabitants adopt layout pattern comprising of outdoor living spaces, entrance hall,

fore courtyard and inner courts similar to the Hausa’s housing spaces and distribution. Therefore, it shows the close interrelationship between these ethnic groups

and the appreciable value in the cultured space provisions and hence its adoption by

the Fulani ethnic group due to their proximity with initial Hausa-dominated


In Fig. 4.7, a typical layout of a settled Fulani compound is presented. The

layout is influenced by Hausa compound configuration. Integration with Hausa


4 Search for Cultural Attributes Appropriate for Design Ideals


Source; Author (2015)

Sa’ad ( 1989)

Typical traditional layout indicating major household spaces in core Hausa compound that

relates the cultural distribution of activities and the cultural meaning of the configuration.


A is the oudoor, bussiness and guest reception area. B is the forecourt area housing the male

adults and househead’s apartment. C is the inner courtyard that accommodate women domain.

Fig. 4.1 a Typical Hausa traditional compound layout. b Typical Hausa traditional compound

gamma illustration

4.3 Ethnography: The Search for Cultural Determinants and Patterns


The entrance hall “Zaure” viewed from inside and outside of the compound respectively

Fig. 4.2 Typical Zaure in a Hausa compound

The fore courtyard showing male adult children’s room screened with low fence and poultry house

at an angle of the courtyard

Fig. 4.3 Typical fore courtyard in a Hausa compound

ethnic values extended in the adoption of their compound layout particularly as it

supports the desired privacy of inhabitants. Subsequently, the compound views are

presented in Fig. 4.8.


Kanuri Ethnic Group

Kanuri ethnic group are dominant in Borno and Yobe states of Nigeria and are

identified with embroidery, trading and farming as basic occupations in the traditional settings. A typical Kanuri compound layout consists of outdoor area with

access through kasharaki the entrance hall. Next is the forecourt that hosts house

head’s hut jimfuye and also the overnight guest hut which is sometimes used by

teenage boys of the family. Younger children usually live with their mothers until

adolescent age when girls get married, and boys relocate to the forecourt and subsequently out of the compound to begin their own abode. Huts are made with a

protruding verandah called kafiya for visitors’ reception and outdoor rest. Beside the

jimfuye is the gandi for those that inhabit the forecourt, and similarly, noble families


4 Search for Cultural Attributes Appropriate for Design Ideals

Nomad Fulani compound showing the path way to the compound and outdoor functional area


Fig. 4.4 Typical nomad Fulani compound

Nomad Fulani courtyard showing crop dried in the courtyard and kitchen shed area respectively

Fig. 4.5 Nomad Fulani compound courtyard

dedicate spaces for keeping horses which is called mali. The inner section where

women are domicile is known as ngawofatoye. It is screened with a fence from the

forecourt and accommodates their sleeping huts usually arranged in a row and

distributed among the wives. Meanwhile, the kitchen and toilets are sited at opposite

ends of the ngawofatoye. Huts are usually round or rectangular initially made from

crop stalk matting known as zanna but gradually replaced by mud walls and later

cement blocks. However, the layout is usually maintained with trees occasionally

found in the open spaces to provide shade for relaxation. A typical Kanuri layout in

Borno, Nigeria, showing the configuration is illustrated in Fig. 4.9. Subsequently,

views showing various part of the compound are presented in Fig. 4.10, and the

building materials of zanna and mud used for walling are shown in Fig. 4.11.


Nupe Ethnic Group

The Nupe ethnic group have their settlements located in Niger, Kogi and Kwara

states of Nigeria with communities mostly distributed along riverine areas and

upland settings. They are predominantly farmers but also engage in cloth

4.3 Ethnography: The Search for Cultural Determinants and Patterns


Typical Fulani compound showing food harvest store and tree shade area within the courtyard


Fig. 4.6 Nomad Fulani compound features

A is the oudoor and guest reception area. B is the forecourt area with the househead’s apartment. C is the inner

courtyard that accommodate women domain. LV=Living, RM= Room, V=Veranda, KT=Kitchen, GR=Guest

room, CY= Cuortyard, T=Toilet, AN= Animal pen, EH= Entrance hall, OD= Outdoor area

Fig. 4.7 Layout of a Fulani compound in Geirei, Adamawa, Nigeria

embroidery, craft, weaving and brass works. Typical Nupe house form patterns

consist of outdoor spaces and an entrance hall known as katamba. Compounds are

formed with rectangular or round huts clustered around series of courtyards referred

to as zhempa signifying domains belonging to different nuclear families or different

wives in a polygamous family setting. However, the central courtyard connects the

domestic chores of the entire households living in a compound. Movement is


4 Search for Cultural Attributes Appropriate for Design Ideals

a. Typical view showing the entrance hall and inner courtyard showing women apartment respectively.

b. View showing the house head’s apartment and adult boys’ room in the fore courtyard respectively.

Fig. 4.8 Typical views of a settled Fulani compound

flexible within the compound with privacy restricted to the clusters. Room is known

as kata and usually decorated on outside with used plates imbedded into walls (see

Fig. 4.13), while indoors pots are symmetrically arranged in a rhythm-like perspective. Recent developments made families to create a forecourt for male adults

and to screen the women who dominate the inner apartments. Usually, access into

the compound is through the central entrance hall, katamba. Large compound

consists of other numerous but smaller entrance halls’ opening to other clusters, an

arrangement that aligns with hierarchy and kingship distribution of inhabitants as

shown in Fig. 4.12.

Figure 4.14 shows typical fore courtyards with adolescent children’s room

arranged in a row opening onto a veranda. The veranda is used for outdoor

relaxation, and it further links up with the open courtyard. Similarly, in ensuring the

privacy of women, a narrow path leads to the women apartment as shown in

Fig. 4.15. Outdoor and semi-outdoor cooking activity spaces are presented in

Fig. 4.16 where fixed and movable cooking materials and utensils are placed.


Tiv Ethnic Group

The Tiv ethnic group are essentially found in Benue state, Nigeria, with farming as

their predominant occupation. They are known for yam tuber farming aside other

crops and also engage in cloth weaving. Far back, Gyuse (1979) had found

4.3 Ethnography: The Search for Cultural Determinants and Patterns




A is the oudoor and guest reception area. B is the forecourt area with the househead’s apartment. C is the

inner courtyard that accommodate women domain. RM= Room, KT=Kitchen, HH= House head GR=Guest

room, CY= Cuortyard, T=Toilet, EH= Entrance hall, OD= Outdoor area.

Fig. 4.9 a Kanuri compound layout at Auno village, Borno, Nigeria. b Gamma illustration of

compound layout at Auno in Borno, Nigeria

variations in contemporary Tiv house form which he credited to non-clarity in

cultural needs, nature affection and quest for modern values. However, family

closeness is reflected in spatial configuration of their compound layout. This results

from initial interaction with traditional forms where user’s culture, activity pattern

and social arrangement are reflected. Typical Tiv compounds consist of living

huts placed around a centrally located reception and relaxation hut called Ate.


4 Search for Cultural Attributes Appropriate for Design Ideals

a. showing the entrance hall, entrance into the house head’s section, inner courtyard

b. Shows a small fence screening the women section and the inner courtyard showing laundry section.

Fig. 4.10 Typical pictorial views of Kanuri compound at Auno, Borno Nigeria

Fig. 4.11 Building materials of zana and mud wall use for construction in Borno

The reception hut is designed with several openings around its sides providing

equal access from all parts of the compound. It is symbolic and a mark of honour

for Tivs in receiving their guest. The significance of the Ate to the Tivs made it to be

4.3 Ethnography: The Search for Cultural Determinants and Patterns



Typical Nupe compound layout in Doko, Nigeria

Source: Muhammad and Ismail (2014)


Gamma analysis of the compound, illustrating the configuration structure with enclosed spaces around courtyards

Fig. 4.12 a A typical Nupe compound. b Nupe compound layout in Doko in Niger, Nigeria

adopted for other building forms like restaurant in typical Tiv communities. The

house head’s room referred to as Iyouh i Orya is strategically sited at the entrance

into the compound, and besides, it is the guest hut called Iyough i Mbavaanya and

children hut is Iyouhg i Mbayeev on one side. On the other side of the house head’s

hut is the most preferred wife’s hut Iyough i Pendatyo u Orya, a position which is

usually rotated among the wives. Other wives’ hut Ayough a Kasev follows in

sequence. Although in less affluent home only a single kitchen could be found

however, in larger polygamous families each wife has a small hut for kitchen,

Iyough i Yoron Iwer beside her living hut. A typical Tiv compound layout is

depicted in Fig. 4.17 and views of Ate in Fig. 4.18, respectively.


4 Search for Cultural Attributes Appropriate for Design Ideals

Fig. 4.13 Huts located within the courtyard. Source Muhammad and Ismail (2014)

A typical fore courtyard with rectangular rooms arranged in rows opening into the veranda.

Fig. 4.14 Fore courtyards in Nupe compounds


Gbagyi Ethnic Group

Gbagyi ethnic group sometimes called ‘Gwari’ are located in Niger and Kaduna

states as well as the native inhabitants of the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria.

They are predominantly found in the rural areas and suburban settlements. Like

other ethnic groups, they live an African communal life with extended family

household system. They are popularly known for yam tuber farming aside other

crops as well as the practice of art and craft. Historically, they have persistently

resisted the influence of other ethnic groups threatening their established cultures by

relocating further away from new ethnic settlements. Despite the resistance Gbagyi

4.3 Ethnography: The Search for Cultural Determinants and Patterns


Path to women section in Nupe compound, and traditional raffia matting used to screen

entrance into the room

Fig. 4.15 Entrance to women section in a typical Nupe compound

Fig. 4.16 Outdoor cooking area in a typical Nupe compound

traditional house form, structure and their cultural norms were heterogeneously

affected with modification in house form. This occurred in the course of bracing up

with socio-economic and cultural changes, although they retained significant social

and spatial patterns (Mai 2008). Gbagyi silos and yam barns are referred to as

Dagba and Nubu, respectively, strategically located outside the house they are used

to identify a typical Gbagyi compound. The house form consists of round huts

placed in a courtyard used for living and also around the compound for food

storage. Huts are made from mud and thatched roof habited based on kingship

arrangement with wives and their daughter living together in a separate hut from the

house head’s hut as a core ideal. Large compound with extended families has side

exits consisting of openings in the fence that leads to each family’s courtyard. The

entrance hut Kaba is the formal access into the compound which then leads to the

Duba which is a multifunctional open area (similar to a fore courtyard). Duba is

used by women to grind grains, and animal huts are also located within this space

(e.g. the pigeon huts likukugo are found in compounds with pigeon). Next is the

main courtyard called Kpada which is surrounded by huts with a mud or stalk

prepared fence. The house head’s hut Pidakai Gace is located at the entry into the

Kpada. The wives’ huts are merely identified by their names; otherwise, the rooms

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3 Ethnography: The Search for Cultural Determinants and Patterns

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