Arts and Culture

Nigerian Tradition: Gbolokai Drink Of Kalabari People

If you have stayed or actually visited Rivers State, then you must have heard about ‘Gbolokai’ drink of Kalabari people.

Gbolokai is an alcoholic drink or gin made in the coastal areas of Rivers state by the Kalabari people.

Kalabari People Of Rivers State

The Kalabari people belongs to a sub-group of the Ijaw tribe in Nigeria. They people are ruled in each community by a king whose title is ‘Amayannabo’.

The people are found in communities such as Bukuma, Buguma, Tombia, Degema, Harry’s Town, Tombia, Bile, and so on in Rivers State.

The people lives in compound/polo and are rich in culture and traditions among which is their unique ‘Gbolokai‘ drink.

Gbolokai As A Special Drink Of Kalabari People

If you are familiar with African made alcoholic drinks which are usually distilled from fermented palm tree juice, then ‘Gbolokai‘ of Kalabari people is not far-fetched.

Although there are several other names to drink like this in different part of the country, they still belong to the same family. Ogogoro, kaikai, Sapele water, fono gau, are Nigerian terms related to gbolokai.

People in this part of the world takes this particular drink as part of their culture as it is featured in their ceremonies.

Government might have plans to stop the production & importation of drinks like this but not gbolokai. Some people in Kalabari communities kicks off their day with this alcoholic drink.

Social Significance of Gbolokai

Gbolokai carries cultural and economic significance in Kalabari communities. Just like the area is known to be a coastal area with sea foods, so is the consumption of this particular drink by the people.

It is an essential part of numerous religious and social ceremonies among the people. Gbolokai is used during cultural festivals where the priests takes up huge role in contacting their gods such as ‘Owemenakaso’.

It is also a prominent feature during wedding ceremony. Fathers from the bride’s family used it as a libation by which they provide official blessing to the ceremony.

A Kalabari Traditional Wedding Ceremony
A Kalabari traditional wedding ceremony

Economically, gbolokai along with sea foods such as periwinkles, crayfish, has helped the poor families. Many poor Kalabari families homebrew the drink as a means of economic subsistence, many of whom sell shots of it on city street corners. 

People also consume this gin to have some nice times with their folks. Men drink gbolokai to step down delicacies such as ‘Tomina Fulo‘, ‘native soup’, and other sumptuous delicacies from the area.

Although some homes now make do of foreign brewed drinks, this locally-made gin is still relevant till today. It also gets the nod from the traditional people of the community.

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