Kalabari tribe

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Total population
Regions with significant populations
Nigeria Rivers, Nigeria
Kalabari language
Related ethnic groups
Ijaw, Bille
Water spirit head crest (pipligbo)

The Kalabari are a sub-group of the Ijaw people living in the eastern Niger Delta region of Nigeria.[1] Originally, they were known as the Awome; the name Kalabari was derived from their ancestor Perebo Kalabari who was a son of Mein Owei. Their original settlement was spelt as Calabar by the Portuguese which was pronounced Kalabari; this settlement (town) was abandoned as the people moved to other fishing settlements. Portuguese settlers continued to maintain the name Calabari which became surrounded by Efik people of Duke town; when the British came the word Calabari was pronounced as Calabar (Kalaba) instead of Kalabari. At this time the original Ijoid Kalabaris had moved to a new location which became the new Calabar territory since the old Calabar is occupied by different people. Old Calabar became an Efik town with time which has the name Calabar.

Elem Kalabari (New Calabar) became a large kingdom that has about 35 settlements including Bakana, Abonnema, Buguma, Tombia and others.[2]


The Kalabari people are Ijaw speaking settlers who came from the Bini fringes of Ijaw land from the lineage of a man called Mein Owei; the people were originally fishermen before the coming of the Portuguese to the West African coastline.

The Kalabari, like most Nigerian coastline tribes, were wealthy as a result of their interactions with the Europeans. There are some Ijaw who consider the Kalabari as a different ethnic group and vice versa.


  1. ^ "Spirits in Steel: The Kalabari". American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  2. ^ G. I. Jones. The trading states of the oil rivers: a study of political development in Eastern Nigeria. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, 2000.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hlaváčová, Anna: Three Points of View of Masquerades among the Ijo of the Niger River Delta. In: Playful Performers: African Children's Masquerades. Ottenberg, S.- Binkley, D. (eds.)
  • The Culture of Playfulness and of Spirits. In: Slovenské divadlo. Vol. 62, no. special (2014), pp. 60-70.


  • Tempest Masquerades. In: Slovenské divadlo. Vol. 62, no. special (2014), pp. 82-94.