Ritual uses of Cissus quadrangularis (Vitaceae) among the Dghweɗe of the Gwoza Hills (NE Nigeria)


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This revised web presentation aims to explore the ritual use of Cissus quadrangularis L. (Vitaceae) among the Dghweɗe, terrace farmers of the Gwoza Hills. The Gwoza Hills are situated in the Sudano-Sahelian zone of NE Nigeria where they form the northwestern extension of the Mandara Mountains. I photographed the plants displayed in this presentation during an ethnographic field visit in 1998 and collected some basic information from my friend and main Dghweɗe informant, Zakariya Kwire, whom I hold in fond memory. Mr Kwire was almost ninety years old when he passed away in 2001. I also would like to thank Thierry Otto and Eric de Garine for pointing out to me in an email discussion that the plants I am presenting are not Euphorbia but Cissus quadrangularis. These plants are well known for their ritual significance in the wider region and beyond though our knowledge of this is still very limited (see F. Dumas-Champion 1991: 'A propos du couple Cissus quadrangularis / Alloe buettneri Berger'). However, my knowledge of the Mandara Mountains seems to suggest that the ethnic groups of the Gwoza Hills have a particularly strong ritual tradition with this plant. The ones I am presenting here appear to be quite "common" types since, allegedly, many more applications are known to Dghweɗe ritual specialists who like to keep them secret. Roger Blench (in the same email discussion) points to Vol 5. of Burkills Useful Plants of WTA (2000) which lists many vernacular names, uses and beliefs from all over Africa. The general Dghweɗe term for Cissus quadrangularis is vavanza. The main purpose for publishing my data in this rough form is to attract further comment and explanation. Each sample consists of a general view of a ritual variety followed by one or two detailed views of the same variety. The slides are accompanied by brief explanations as noted down by me in the field. Please send comments to gmk@mandaras.info. Thank you very much.