Traditional Houses in Nigeria

Nigerian traditional houses built to meet social, cultural and religious needs of people and whole community. Traditional Nigerian homes were built from natural materials such as mud, wood, palm, grass, wood and other various vegetable materials.

The traditional ‘ljo’ houses are one of the most fascinating and especial architectural objects found in Nigeria. Such type of houses usually built on stilts to accommodate to the humid and swampy area of the Niger Delta region. It is made from wood and bamboo, and roofed with raffia palms. Inside such ‘ljo’ houses are very airy and cool.

Traditional Igbo houses are often designed to blend into the surrounding forests. First Igbo houses simply made from bamboo with vines and mud and covered with large banana leaves. The Igbos houses occupied mainly the eastern part of the country. It needed only a few strong men to dig up the mud and mould it into different huts. Most Igbo houses considered as private houses built alongside other buildings in a family compound enclosed by a large wall. Very interesting fact is that the Igbo men and women tend to live separately from one another. Often Igbo men had not only one or two wives, numerous wives and children. The main entrance was usually a gate. Later the main materials used in building Igbo houses started include not only mud, vines and banana leaves, but also timber and raffia or palm stems which used for the wall support of the roofs walls and roofs construction. There were different kinds of shapes and sizes of buildings and compounds, which most buildings were housed in, including public buildings.

Next traditional type of Nigerian houses is the Mbari. These houses are not intended for accommodation. It concerns to non-residential buildings and could be seen among the communities in Owere region. They are used as shrines to many deities, mostly to the Mother-Earth Ala. The Mbari houses are square structures, with a single story above the ground, and are usually decorated with solid columns and painted with stunning wil uli designs. It contains many life-sized, painted figures, sculpted in muds which are going to appease deity as the Alusi and other deities of thunder and water, and Ala, the earth goddess. Other sculptures of people, officials, craftsmen, foreigners, animals, legendary heroes, unknown creatures and ancestors were also found there. It takes years to build the Mbari houses. Some of Mbari could have from 70 to more than 200 sculptured and figured. Building such houses is considering as sacred. A special ceremony was organized on this occasion. Important city persons usually invited to take part in such ceremony. It is a great honor. After the ceremony completed, entrance or even looking at the Mbari house is considered taboo.

Famous Nigerian novelist and literary theorist, Chinua Achebe, wrote in one of his work about Mbari the following: "Mbari was a celebration through art of the world and of life lived in it. It was performed by the community on command by its presiding deity, usually the Earth goddess, Ala, who combined two formidable roles in the Igbo pantheon as fountain of creativity in the world and custodian of the moral order in human society." In 1961 a cultural center for writers and artists the Mbari Club named was founded in Ibadan.

A great impact on the traditional architecture of Nigeria exerted Muslim culture. Nigerian mud houses built in highly geometrical forms are often decorated with Muslim symbols.

The country has been actively developing today. Many new materials are also started to be used for erecting modern houses and buildings. The Nigerian big cities could boasts new modern buildings made of metals, glass and different other materials.