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The Dghwede (Nigeria)


The Dghwede are also referred to as ‘Ghwa’a’ or ‘Waha’ meaning mountains in Dghwede (Muller-Kosack 1996). First mentioning of ‘Waha’ is by Zimmermann (1906:462), who relates them correctly to the ‘Seledeba’ (Zelidva), but wrongly to the Margi. First mentioning of ‘Johode, Duhode, Dohode’ (Dghwede) is on Moisel’s map (1912- 13). Also Mathews (1934:4) refers to them as ‘Johode’ or ‘Azorvana’ (meaning ‘I said’ in Dghwede). Mathews (ibid) claims that ‘Johode’ is only the name of the place. Muller- Kosack (1999) informs us that ‘Johode’ is the Hausa version for Dghwede, and that Dghwede is the name of the founding ancestor of the Dghwede. Dghwede was the son of ‘Mbra’ or ‘Ngra’ of Turu. Wolff (1971:72) speaks of the ‘Dghwede’, Buchner (1964) of the ‘Truade’, J. Lukas of the ‘Toghwede’, and Rapp (1966) of the ‘Tghuade’.


The Dghwede occupy the central part of the southern Gwoza Hills, known as Gwoza Central District. Main administrative units are Kurana Basa and Ghwa’a. While Ghwa’a is the traditional name for the oldest settlement of the Dghwede, Kurana Basa is derived from a small ward of the same name. Kurana Basa as large administrative unit is traditionally referred to as Vaghagaya. While Korana Basa/Vaghagaya forms the northwestern part of Dghwede (facing the plain of Gwoza), Ghwa’a forms the eastern part of Dghwede (facing the plain towards the Cameroonian border. For a complete list of all Dghwede settlements see Muller-Kosack (1996).


Muller-Kosack (1996:139) estimates that about 15,000 Dghwede live still in the mountains, while about 5,000 live in Barawa (settlement in the plains to the east) and Hambagda (settlement south of Gwoza in the plain of the west). The census 1963 projects for 1996 about 25,000 ‘Azagvana’ (Dghwede), while the census 1991 projects only about 12,000 Dghwede (about 10,000 in the mountains and about 2,000 in the adjacent eastern and western plains). The population density in Dghwede is quite high, maybe about 150 inhabitants per sq/km in the mountains (Muller-Kosack 1999).


The Dghwede have an ethnic identity as Dghwede (sons of Mbra/Ngra of Turu). In a traditional context the Dghwede-Ghwa’a are considered as first comers, while those of Dghwede-Vaghagaya came later. There are various smaller groups who don’t derive themselves from Dghwede-Mbra, but become Dghwede. Such associated lineages/clans are the Himbe and Gudule, or the rainmaker lineage Gaske (Ske) and the peacemaker lineage Dagha (Muller-Kosack 1994, 1996).

The Dghwede are historically related to the Zelidva. The Zelidva live, like the Dghwede, in the highest parts of the Gwoza Hills (see page Zelidva). Although a large section of the Zelidva speak Lamang (as well as Wandala or Glavda), they don’t see themselves as Lamang, but as an independent ethnic unit of Dghwede descent. The Dghwede too report of Podokwa who formerly lived in the north- eastern parts of Dghwede, but who migrated to the Mora Hills some time ago. The Dghwede also claim close ancestral relationships with the Mandara.


The Dghwede refer to their own language as Dghwede but also as Azaghvana, meaning ‘I said’ in Dghwede (Muller-Kosack 1999). Wolff (1971:11), classifies Dghwede as a language of the Wandala group of Biu-Mandara (Central-Chadic). The SIL website ethnologue classifies Dghwede under Mandara Proper, sub-group Glavda (together with Gvoko, Glavda and Guduf). Blench (1999) classifies Dghwede under the Mandara Group A, Wandala cluster (together with Wandala, Mura, Malgwa, Glavda, Guduf, and Gvoko).


Main ethnographic literature on the Dghwede is Muller-Kosack (1994 to 1999) consisting of some published and unpublished pieces work (1994, 1996 and 1997) and extensive unpublished fieldnotes (1994 to 1998). Mathews (1931) gives a very brief description of the Dghwede. Wolff (1971 and 1974) presents some of his ethnographic material on the Dghwede. Wolff (ibid) also publishes on the linguistic position of Dghwede. Fricke (1978) has published the phonology of Dghwede. Muller-Kosack(1999) plans to write an ethnographic monograph on the Dghwede.

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