Four Things You’ve Always Wanted to Know about Nigerian Culture

Family History
5 September 2018

Many African Americans have genetic roots in Nigeria. But not everyone is aware of them, nor do many people know about Nigerian culture.

We asked AncestryDNA customer Yemisi Egbewole, whose father is from Nigeria, some questions about Nigerian customs and culture.

Yemisi wearing another outfit sitting inside a car.
Yemisi Egbewole wearing a traditional Nigerian Ankara (dress) and a Gele head wrap.
1 What is Typical Nigerian Food?

Jollof rice is one of the most iconic Nigerian recipes. Whenever I meet people that have eaten Nigerian food, they have eaten jollof rice. Jollof rice recipes vary, but the common ingredients include rice, tomatoes, onions, pepper, and other spices.

Another popular food in Nigeria is Garri, a grain that is ground up and can be eaten as a snack or mixed with milk like cereal. Garri can also be mixed with water to create eba, which is typically dipped in soup.

Common Nigerian snacks include peanuts, and fried plantains (also called “dodo”).

2 What Two Things Will You Find in Nearly Every Nigerian Home?

The first you will notice in most Nigerian homes is art. Sculptures and paintings are very popular and they often allude to cultural or spiritual stories.

The second thing you will find in most Nigerian homes is a big pot, which is frequently used for serving Jollof rice, the dish just mentioned that is served at nearly every meal.

3 What is Traditional Nigerian Dress?

Traditional Nigerian clothing tends to use bold patterns and bright colors. Yemisi said Nigerian outfits are designed to “express and announce yourself before you do.”

Traditionally, garments like Ankaras were made by Nigerian tailors. Yemisi explained that the tailors can create a custom outfit from nearly any material. Ankaras have been recently incorporated into mainstream fashion.

Yemisi wearing another outfit sitting inside a car.
Yemisi wearing another Nigerian-inspired Ankara and Gele.
4 What Kind of Music is Popular in Nigeria?

One of the most popular Nigerian artists is Fela Kuti, whose work recently inspired a Broadway show. Fela is a traditional artist, but pop and rap is also popular. The younger generation has gravitated towards African rappers and pop stars like Wizkid and Davido.

Music plays an important role in other Nigerian traditions, including weddings. One Nigerian song, African Queen by 2Face Idibia, is almost guaranteed to get people dancing.


Yemisi found that she is much more than the daughter of her parents–she is part of a rich heritage that spans generations, continents, and cultures.

Could Nigerian heritage be in your DNA? Take an AncestryDNA test to find out.