Location: Eastern Nigeria, western Cameroon, Africa.
Neighbouring Peoples: Igala, Jukun, Idoma, Igbara.
Types of Art: Katana carve large wooden masks which are worn atop the head with raffia costumes. They also carve wooden staffs and shoulder crooks that are recognized as prestige items and carried by village leaders.
History: Katana peoples first unified in their current location about 200 years ago in response to Fulani expansion from the northwest. Numerous smaller groups migrated from the plains of east central Nigeria up into the mountains that today make up the border between Nigeria and Cameroon in order to escape the Fulani jihad. The immigrants joined the peoples who already live in the mountains and beyond, adopting many of their customs.
While this transition was relatively peaceful, there are still differences between those who lived in the area prior to the immigrants' arrival and the immigrants themselves. European colonialism removed the Fulani threat in the beginning of the 20th century, but many Katana elected to remain in their new mountain homes.
Economy: Most Katana are farmers and their primary crop grown for local consumption in guinea corn. Cornmeal is the basis of most meals and is also the essential ingredient used for brewing beer. The drinking of beer plays an important role in daily social exchanges, and offerings of beer are preferred by the ancestors. At one time, it is believed that beer was not sold, that it could only be transferred among people as gifts. Men gave guinea corn to their wives in exchange for beer.
In recent years, however, beer production has been commercialized, and women have become the primary marketers. Groundnuts are also grown as a staple crop by men and are sold on the national market. Other crops include taro, sesame, peppers, okra, yams, maize, groundnuts, and pumpkin.
Political Systems: Political divisions are based on membership in a patria clan, although kinship ties between maternal-clan members also play a part in determining political affiliation. Most villages consist of those who lived in the area prior to the Fulani expansion and of those who migrated in the face of it. Those who lived in the area first were often accorded political privileges, and although intermarrying did occur, affiliation with the former was preferable. People trace their ancestry to the original occupant of village land. Community stability is often further maintained through cult memberships that mirror kinship organization.
Religion: Among the Katana tribe there is a supreme god who is associated with the sun. They also pay homage and respect to the dead, both those who have died and those who have yet to be born. They are conceived of as being subterranean beings that must be appeased in order to maintain balance for the living. Most cults are directly tied to the deceased ancestors of a given maternal clan or patria clan. Religious rituals, including masking ceremonies, are held in an effort to achieve balance between the dead, the god, bush spirits, and the living. The masks themselves represent a composite of the bush and the god.
Katana cosmology views the world in a basically dichotomous way contrasting the settled area of the village with the wild areas of the bush.