Introduction / History The Gwandara are one of the Plateau Chadic-speaking peoples of Nigeria, living mainly in the Akwaja, Lafia, Keffi, and Nassarawa divisions of what was the Plateau Province. In 1996 the Nasawara state was created which includes those divisions where the Gwandara live. Traditionally, they were grouped with the Hausa people as inhabitants of the city of Kano.
Gwandara history relates that Islam was introduced into Kano in the fourteenth century. However, Gwandara, the younger brother of the ruling chief refused to convert to Islam. After a warning by the chief to convert or be enslaved, Gwandara took his followers and traveled southward to Gwagwa. Subsequent Muslim attacks led to yet another dispersion farther south.
The Gwandara finally settled in the Jukun territory during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Jukun had become a type of refugee zone for diverse peoples also fleeing their communities for various reasons, with the Gwandara dominating politically in the region for many years.
What are their lives like? The Gwandara have lived in close contact with diverse ethnic groups in the Benue basin region and culturally resemble both the Gwari and Yeskwa peoples. They often marry with the Yeskwa; however, their dances and religion are similar to those of the Arago.
Most Gwandara are subsistence farmers with their farms located in the bush outside of their villages. Huts are built in a circle to form the compound that houses an extended family. There is only one entrance into each compound because each hut is connected to the next by a corn bin or granary. Each village has a chief who is responsible for handling village affairs and settling village disputes.
Gwandara men usually wear Hausa-style gowns. Most women wear cloths, although some wear loose strings around their hips with bundles of leaves hanging in front and in back.
Palm oil is important to the Gwandara because of its many uses. Therefore, a fair amount of it is obtained and kept in each village or sold in markets. Another major product sold in the market is mats. (Each mat takes four days to make.) Beer and tobacco are both important in Gwandara life, however, most Gwandara neither smoke pipes nor drink in excess, like many other groups in this part of Africa.
Young Gwandara men work on their fathers' farms until they marry, which is usually around age seventeen or older. Girls are betrothed as young children, but before reaching marriageable age, they have the right to break off the engagement, in which case the bride price is returned to the suitor.
Ritual dances are an important aspect of the Gwandara society. One dance is the "good and evil" dance. Old men sit in a circle and the personification of the spirits of good and evil-concealed under a long sack and wearing a high conical hat-whirl around them. Stepping to the beat of a drum, he tells the elders to get up and follow him. When the personified spirit dances, they all dance, and if anyone is struck by the knob that hangs from the spirit's hat, evil will surely befall him or his family. Another similar circular step-dance called "joy" is also practiced. The rhythm for this dance is made by the ornaments worn on the arms and legs of the dancers.
What are their beliefs? Among the Gwandara, one supreme god is worshipped and goats and sheep are sacrificed to it. Other lesser gods for each village are also worshipped, usually in open circular spaces inside groves approached through avenues of palms. Each village has two temples, which are essentially mud huts containing the village god.
Many Gwandara believe that they possess the power to turn themselves into hyenas, which supposedly respect the Gwandara.
What are their needs? Unfortunately, the Gwandara have few Christian resources available to them. Much prayer is also needed so that the Gwandara might have a chance to know a real Savior.
Prayer Points * Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to any missions agencies focusing on the Gwandara.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to prepare the hearts of the people for the Gospel.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Gwandara church for the glory of His name! * Pray for translation of the Bible to begin in this people group's primary language. * Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people.