Shangawa people


Shangawa / Shanga / Tienga

The Shangawa (Shangas, Shongas, Kyengas, Kengas, and Tyengas) are an ethnic living on the banks and islands of the Niger River near the city of Shanga in northwestern Nigeria.

They are surrounded by Hausas, who tend to control political and economic life. Shangawas constitute 85 percent of the population in the Shanga District, part of the Yauri División in Sokoto State.

Shangawa People

The Shanga of Nigeria are numbering 27,500 (, 2024)

They speak Kengawa, a language in the Niger-Benue división of the Niger-Congo linguistic family.

At one time, the Shangawas were a subgroup of the Kengawas. Both the Kengawas and Shangawas claim descent from the legendary Kisra, who opposed Islam until the Prophet Mohammed defeated him in battle. The Kengawas and Shan­gawas were part of the Songhai Empire by the thirteenth century and remained so until the Moroccan invasions of the sixteenth century. During those invasions, the Shangawas relocated to Yauri, and, during the slave raids of the nineteenth century, they found refuge on the islands of the Niger River.



The livelihood of the Shangawa is based primarily upon agriculture. They make their living as farmers, raising vegetables on the river banks and millet and guinea corn in the highlands; they also fish and are known for their commercial skills.

with fishing and trading being of secondary importance. Millet, guinea corn, and along the rivers, a variety of vegetables are grown.

The Shanga district has three seasons. During the cold season, farms and compounds are repaired, and friends are visited. During the hot season when temperatures are over 100 degrees F., very little work is accomplished. During the rainy season, temperatures are lower and the climate is pleasant. During this time, most social events take place. This is also the best time to fish.



Nearly half of all Shangawas are Sunni Muslims of the Maliki school. Traditional Shangawa religión, which revolves around the sacrifice of black animals—oxen, goats, or chickens—is tied to the Kisra legend. Traditional Shangawas believe that such major spirits as Gadakassa, Berkassa, and Gwar- aswa control the key events in people's lives.



While some Shanga marriages are arranged at birth, most Shanga have considerable freedom of choice when deciding upon a marriage partner. Selection often takes place during the inter-village wrestling matches, which are extremely important to the Shanga. A boy will begin wrestling when he reaches puberty and will continue until his first marriage.

Once a wife is chosen, the bride-service can begin. The young man must work with his work team (his wrestling partners) for seven years on the farm of the girl's father. As the service progresses, the young couple will earn more marriage rights. Only, the Muslim Shanga do not perform a bride-service, but instead follow traditional Islamic practices.

Some Shanga men have more than one wife, and a woman may decline marriage to a particular man, if she desires. How much real choice she has depends upon her value, determined by her performance in any previous marriages. To the Shanga, a good wife is one who remains faithful, tends to the fields, cares for the children, and shows proper modesty.

If a woman has been married over three years and has not conceived, she will go to a priest to obtain a magical aid, since children are important in Shanga life. Although children belong to the father's family, sons from the same mother tend to cluster together in play, work, and wrestling.

Ideally, family decisions are made by males; however, women have great influence in family matters. They may exercise that influence directly, or indirectly through adult sons. In Shanga society, great cooperation exists between men and women.



The official classification is Niger-Congo, Mande, Eastern, Eastern, Busa. In other words Shanga belongs to the Niger- Congo branch of languages which includes most of the indigenous languages of Sub-Saharan Africa and is classified with the Mande family of languages. Most of these languages are in the centre or west of West Africa, but Shanga is towards the east, so belongs to the Eastern sub-group. Within that sub-grouping there are two clusters of languages, each cluster having some intelligibility between speakers. The Boko/Busa cluster includes Boko, Bokobaru, Bisa and Busa Illo, and the Kyanga cluster which includes Kyanga and Shanga.

Shanga is not mutually intelligible with the Boko/Busa language speakers and there is only partial intelligibility with Kyanga. Lexical similarity is 81% with Kyanga, and an average of 65% with the Boko/Busa cluster. The Shanga are called Shanga or Shangawa (plural) by the Hausa and they cali themselves Sangá, while the Kyanga at Bakinrua cali them Ssnga. It is probable that the original ñame was Senga and the original ñame of the Kyanga was Kenga. In francophone countries the Kyanga are known as Tienga, while in Boko they are known as K£a