Nom Dawo Ham: What You should know about the Ham people of Kaduna State

December 28, 2023

Many become aware of the Nok terracotta or arts from secondary school where we are introduced to various types of art and crafts in Nigeria, but few remember this and even fewer are aware of the tribe that is associated to this art. On various occasions I personally, on being asked about tribe, have come across with light-hearted humour I might add, the reference to the word Ham being the popular part of a meat. Hence in this article, I would discuss the Ham people of Kaduna state.

Who are the Ham people?

It is no new knowledge that Kaduna state is home to various languages, although often met with the misconception that there are a few tribes in Kaduna sometimes. But this is proven wrong by the various and constant clarification of the indigenes of this state, such as the Atyap, Bajju, Adara, Ham and various others, with each ethnic group having their various cultures.

The Ham people are found in the southern part of Kaduna like Jaba, Kagarko and Kachia. The terracotta, an artifact known to be identified with them was discovered in the Nok settlement in Jaba local government.

The ham people speak the Hyam language, which is a cluster of various dialects. Of recent, the ham people have raised concerns and are coming out to strongly protest and show their displeasure at the use of the common word “Jaba”, which is said to be a slur in identifying them. They are majorly known to be farmers and have since the introduction of ginger to the area, continued to raise it as a cash crop, hence rendering them one of the largest producers of ginger in the state. They also produce also cultivate cocoyam and Acha (fonio) amongst many others.

During a Festival

The people of Ham are ruled by a traditional rulerwhom they refer to as the Kpop Ham, and they often conduct an annual occasionof the Tuk Ham festival which takes place in kwoi and is a fusion of twodifferent festivals namely the “Fain” and “Ku” festivals. The Tuk Ham festivalserves as a medium aimed at unifying the people, a farming festival and also toshowcase the rich history of the Ham people. A lot of cultural displays areinvolved within a two day events which is then followed by the beauty contestand another final round of cultural display.

Picture of the Hamattire

Itis always easy to recognize the cultural attire of the Ham people, if one isaware of the terracotta and its origin. The cultural attire is thick cottonthat consists of three different colours which is red, green and yellow, whichsymbolizes different things, the green standing for agriculture, the redsignifying Ham land and the yellow for the Ham cash crop which is the ginger.The women adorn it as a wrapper and head tie, with the terracotta fully ondisplay as adornment on the fabric. Though they are those who often opt for theplain fabric with no design, the colour still stands out. The women mostlyfollow this up with an accessory in the same colour combination.

Whenit comes to food, the Ham people mostly consume in high amount the Acha(Hungary rice). Preparing it in different ways as Tuwo or even Fate (foniopottage), they are also known as consumers of guz guz and Njab ban bar (wakengida) a certain kind of beans.

Thougheven among the Ham people, most speak the Hausa language which is predominantin the northern part of Nigeria, the Hyam language is still very much inexistence among the elders and even some younger ones, though it is recognizedthat a lot will have to be done to preserves the language for the cominggeneration. The Ham people are lovers of greeting and invoking god into their activities.The language is quite beautiful as their women who are known for the glisteningmelanin they possess. It is also quite a romantic language and names are givenuptmost importance for their divine meaning. Some of these names are Funom,Sannom and so many others.


Thisserves like a slogan for the Ham people. Nom Dwo ham simply translates to “Godbless Ham people” and it is a phrase that these tribe hold on to with so muchadoration.

Theham people have overtime proven to be a people that also possess boundlesstalent. Various young ones are growing and venturing into arts that depict andis inspired by the early founding of the Nok art, they are also amazingmusicians and have been to express themselves through songs.



Theham people are known for giving importance to their weddings, of course theywill mostly be a display of culture, even if the costumes are not inattendance. Is it even a Ham wedding or a Ham occasion without the almighty“odire” grazing the occasion? This has become a popular wedding song, and forany other gathering aside weddings too, among the Ham and the beat alone isenough temptation to give into the frenzy dance. I have realized it is bestdanced in the company of friends and family. Next time you get an invite to aHam wedding, be sure to not let the opportunity pass you by.



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