5 Abisi Household and “Villages”


Abisi Domestic groups: the kinokirat

People living in the same house are called /kinokirat/, the household or “those of the house” as Abisi say.
This is the exact definition of what sociologist call “domestic groups”, the Latin word “dome” meaning house. They are kin tied by descent and marriages living together.
The kinokirat is headed by a man called the /uyikirat/ the “one of the house”. He is the master of the domestic unit with decision-making authority about production and consumption. It is at this level that the rights to use the land, inheritance and control of offices are transferred.
The domestic group is thus fundamentally a granary group, the people who depend on the same central granary during the rainy season.
In some cases, an entire residential group is the responsibility of a single senior man. In other cases, an elder may retain legal power but economic management may be decentralized and under the control of various combinations of brothers or sons, heads of their own households.

Profiles of Abisi domestic groups.

There are four types of abisi household.

1) The simple household

A man and a woman and their non-married children accounted for only 6% of household. Usually called a “nuclear family”, some individual cases may include additional person such as a mother.

2) The polygamous household

A man, his wives and their non-married children accounted for 9% of household. To be more precise, it should be called a polygynous family since this word refers to the marriage of many women to the same man.
The most frequent types of households are of the extended family types, either joining a man and his son’s families or brothers’ families.

3) The paternal extended household

A father’s and his son’s families, either simple or polygamous accounted for the vast majority of households: 61.8%.

4) The fraternal extended households

Brother’s families living together in the same Kirat were 23%


Abisi Domestic development cycle

Families have a life of their own, they usually start by the union of a man and a woman to which are added children and later on, they also have their own spouses and it starts all over again. This endless cycle is named the domestic development cycle.
The four types of households represent possible phases of the development cycle of Abisi domestic groups.
If we consider as a starting point the most frequent household, the extended paternal household, the cycle can be designed as follows: during the lifetime of the father, the eldest son can settle away and form a new single or polygynous household, depending on the number. He has the right of first born also called “primogeniture right
With the addition of his son’s families, the household will eventually transform into an extended paternal household like the one of his father.
The eldest son can also create a fraternal household if he associates with his brothers usually from the same mother (called uterine brothers). He may also simply replace his deceased father and run a fraternal extended household.
Family transformations are variable as these concrete examples may illustrate.
Case I: Bork is a man of about thirty years old. He has a wife, two boys and a girl. His father, Kurape, was established with his younger brother married to two wives with one boy and two girls. He had three sons and Bork was the eldest.
On the death of Kurape, Bork built a house closer to his bush fields and left his two younger brothers with their uncle, the brother of his father. Here, a fraternal house divided into one new household and left a household headed by an uncle.
Case II: Mato is also a man of about thirty years. He has two wives, Reni (21 years) with one 2-year-old son and Marya (19 years) whose son died at 1 ½ years.
Second son of a paternal household, Mato became head of an extended polygynous household after successive death of his father Bompso and his elder brother Wada.
His mother, one of her sisters, the nine-year-old daughter of his deceased older brother and a younger brother are living with him.
Case III: Walla is a man of about 37 years who lives with a wife, two boys (7 and 5 years), three girls (6, 3, 2 years) and his mother. His older brother took charge of the house when his father died.
Walla converted to Islam, and he said he had to leave because he could no longer live among “beer and pigs”. He settled near other Muslims but his two wives deserted him because they did not want to be home-bound and to lose their annual revenues brought by selling their beer at the market. He then remarried to a widow of a deceased member of his patriline with whom he had two daughters.
The second and third case shows the passage of a paternal household to a fraternal one and to a polygynous and a simple household. In these examples, the death of the father is an important factor in the splitting of the group.
Case IV: Bako has twelve sons and eight are married. Wele, the eldest had chosen to build his own house on the fields he got from his birthright as the first son. The third son had a salary and built his own house. His mother, two young married brothers, two other younger brothers’ sons of his mother also went to stay with him.
Bako’s other sons got some small fields to farm for themselves but they started to neglect working on their father’s farm. They convinced their father to let them separate and he was glad to accept.
For Bako the household management had become too difficult because it had to pay the taxes of every son and manage all individual claims to purchase manufactured goods, often for their wives.
Bako decided to divide the land and let them on their own. Two sons built a central granary in an extension of their father’s house but two younger ones stayed with Bako.
In spite of the separation of his house, Bako still get helps from his sons who participate for a few days in working groups to hoe his fields. He also has other help he pays for.
Case V: Womi was the eldest son of his family. He obtained a share of bush fields of his father and build a house together with his brother Bolum.
The two brothers were associated for over fifteen years without conflict. Their economic partnership ended because of disputes between their two sons, one criticizing the other about their unequal contribution to farm work.
On the other hand, Womi and Bolum quarreled about the product distribution of the collective grain store. One of the wives of Bolum, Lami, began to participate in Bori rituals which require substantial expenditures husband of beer and grain.
Womi did not like this because one of his wives had already left him because of his refusal to provide for such rites. These tensions resulted in the division of the family.
Division does not prevent them from cooperating together in the various labor process. For example, when Womi died suddenly in 1973, his eldest son took charge of the domestic group.
The wife of Womi remarried Bolum according to the rules of /po∫i/ or levirate marriage with the widow of a brother and to help, Bolum sent his two oldest sons to work in collaboration with Womi’s son.
These examples show that an Abisi family is a living entity that changes with its
development cycle

Hamlet “Villages” or Aŋgwa

Local settlements in Abisi are called /ukut or akut/ (sing. or plur.). They are small hamlet or “villages”   named /aŋgwa/ after the administrative Hausa denomination.

An Aŋgwa is a local community of a few kinnokirat living nearby and having a local name.

They were founded when people started to move from the Hill to their farms.

Local settlements in Abisi are called /ukut or akut/ (sing. or plur.) but hamlet are usually named /aŋgwa/ after the administrative Hausa denomination.
In each hamlet, there is a big-man, an important either because he has an administrative title or has a chief office or seen as being “is rich in guinea-corn and animals”.
Nowadays, the hamlet chief is often the tax collector for the administration.
Moving from place to place is a possibility as long as one stays within his section and preferably, with people of his patriline. as this example shows.
Upowon and rigↄcdↄk hamlet (place of a flowery shrub with edible fruits) There were five households and one Janji resident at Upowon.
People were calling us Janji because of him. He was living there but did not do anything in common with us. The Janji left and settled near Karambana.
Two brothers decided to go to /rigↄcdↄk/. Mali was already there with Dago and two sons. They settle there with a man from the same patriline named Kori.
Usman died there but Womi went back to Upowon but did not stay more than a year, he finally settled again at /rigↄcdↄk/.