Our Culture- Elements of Culture


Culture is the totality of the way of life of a people. It includes the peoples’ beliefs, their mode of worship, their arts and crafts, language, religion, technology, dressing, their way of thinking, dancing, greeting, and eating habits.

Culture varies from place to place. For example, the culture of Hausa is different from that of Yoruba and Efik people, so is that of Igbo people different from that of Kanuri and Gwari people.

A society is known by its culture. People can therefore be identified by their way of doing things. As society changes, the culture of such society reflects such changes. New ideas, thoughts, arts, and ways of life are learned by the people.

Usually, when people from different cultures meet and exchange ideas, values and beliefs with one another, their cultures are affected. People learn their own culture, the culture of where they reside, the culture of the people they come in contact with. This learning and use of other peoples’ culture is called acculturation.


Components or aspects of culture

Culture is made up of two components:

  1. Material culture
  2. Non-material culture


Material culture

This is also called tangible culture. It consists mainly of the products of man’s industry or arts. It consists of the things the society makes to meet the needs of the people. Some of such things are furniture, buildings, sculpture, bridges, and books.


Non-material culture

This is also called the intangible culture. It refers to those aspects of culture that are not visible like language, religion, morality, belief, music, and knowledge.

The major difference between the two aspects of culture is that the tangible or material culture can be seen, touched, and felt, while the intangible aspect of our culture cannot be seen or touched. The components of culture are rules and regulations, guiding people’s behaviour, religion, beliefs, attitudes, values, language, dress style, eating habits, ceremonies, arts, etc.


Features of culture

  1. Culture is dynamic and flexible. It neither static nor rigid.
  2. Culture is learnt over a period of time. It is therefore not inborn in people. It is not what you have at birth. It is what a child learns as he grows and mixes with people of that locality.
  3. Culture is continuous and does not die with people. This means that the culture of the people is passed down from one generation to another, without any break. This is to ensure continuity of the culture of a particular race or tribe.
  4. Culture differs from place to place. This means that every culture is unique to particular set of people.
  5. Culture is universal to mankind and not peculiar to a particular group. Since any culture fits and serves the people who own it, it can be rightly claimed that no culture is superior to the other.

Elements of culture/cultural differences


There are between 250 and 400 ethnic groups in Nigeria. These major groups have their own languages and customs. The natural environment is one of the major factors which produce cultural differentiation. Cultural difference can also be observed in the following areas:

  1. Arts/ crafts: In the forest zones, wood carving is a form of tradition, wood is carved to show ingenuity. We have calabash carving in Oyo, there are Ife and Benin bronzes, the Bida metal work, glass beads and bangles industries. While leather works are produced in Kano, woven raffia is produced in Ikot Ekpene, mat weaving is done at Ipoti-Ekiti, Ekiti State, while pottery is done in Abuja.


  1. Religion: Apart from the African tradition, which is common in Nigeria, the Nigerian also practise two other prominent religions. These are Christianity and Islam. While Islam is mainly practised in the northern part of the country, Christianity takes its roots in the southern part of the country.


The differences in languages are connected with differences in myths, legends, superstitions, and ideologies.


  1. Food: There are different food types in Nigeria, and they vary from area to area. Delicacies like the ogbono soup, okazi soup, and bitter leaf soup are peculiar to the Igbo people while ewedu soup, efo riro, pounded yam and amala are peculiar to Yoruba people and tuwo and kunu are peculiar to Hausa/ Fulani people.


  1. Dress: People from different parts of the country wear different types and colours of clothes, Igbo men wear shirt and wrapper, while their women wear wrapper and blouse. Yoruba men wear agbada while their women wear iro and buba. The Hausa men wear babariga, while their women clothe which covers all parts of the body except the face.


  1. Housing: There are differences in the housing pattern of each ethnic group or culture. These differences are brought about by differences in vegetation and weather, which are prevalent in the different regions.


  1. Greetings: Styles of greetings vary from culture to culture. Each ethnic tribe has a unique way of greeting. These styles range from bending to kneeling down in the case of the Yoruba people, and squatting or kneeling in the case of the Hausa and Fulani people.


  1. Occupation and products: The different types of vegetation and weather in each region also determine the occupation and products of each ethnic groups. This is why the riverine areas of the Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta states are known for their fishing and crude oil drilling, while states such as Edo, Ogun and Ondo States which have thick forests are known for lumbering. The north is renowned for rearing livestock such as cattle, sheep, and goats. The north is also known for the production of grains, onion, yam, and tomato.



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