Sukur boy - 921812c

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Click for the 2010 film, The 13 Months of Sukur ...

In 1999 UNESCO inscribed the Sukur Cultural Landscape, located in the Mandara mountains of northeast Nigeria, on the World Heritage List. The citation calls it an exceptional landscape illustrating a form of land-use that marks a critical stage in human settlement and its relationship with its environment. The cultural landscape of Sukur is also eloquent testimony to a strong and continuing spiritual and cultural tradition that has endured, while constantly adapting, for centuries.  Click on the UNESCO document to read relevant sections.

The house of the chief 921419

Sukur was an anomaly among World Heritage sites in that, prior to achieving that status, it was virtually unknown beyond its immediate area. In 2017, due in part to the depredations of Boko Haram (see below), the endangerment of its cultural heritage was recognized by its listing on the World Monuments Fund's 2018 Watch List. This "brings international attention to the challenges facing cultural heritage sites and their communities around the globe." Further, "Inclusion on the Watch provides nominators and site owners with an important opportunity to promote sites locally and internationally, to work towards improved site protection, and to build community engagement in their preservaation efforts." It is both sad and ironic that, as of January 2020, the plans for heritage management and preservation outlined in the nomination document and in the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments' 2017-21 Sukur Management Plan are still postponed for reasons of insecurity.

One piece of good news is that the NCMM's management plan has taken up and is now pursuing the idea of an International Mandara Mountains Peace Park extending across the border into Cameroon. See here for more information on this exciting prospect.

 ! ! ! Sukur and Boko Haram ! ! !

In late 2014 Sukur was, like many other Nigerian communities, towns and cities, brutally and viciously attacked by Boko Haram as is described here. In April 2015 the Nigerian military and allies succeded in driving Boko Haram out of Adamawa state (though not from neighboring Borno) and its inhabitants began to rebuild their houses, lives and communities. Their remarkable achievements since that time testify to the resilience and courage of the people affected. Nonetheless, since international and national aid has been limited and focused on the big refugee camps in Maiduguri, Yola, Minawao (in Cameroon) and elsewhere, and since Boko Haram had destroyed much of the economic and social infrastructure, this has been a slow process. However in late August and early September 2016 Sukur was able to celebrate the biennial Ɓər ceremony, which was extremely well attended, with some 200 youths initiated into manhood. Although much remains to be done, including the rebuilding of schools and some World Heritage features, an important page appeared to have been turned despite occasional suicide bombings in Madagali and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, since July 2017 there is more and more evidence that Boko Haram is resurgent. Although Sukur itself has not been attacked again, in August the Margi village of Midlu, five kms from the foot of Sukur mountain, was assaulted with much robbery and destruction and seven of its inhabitants murdered. In early December a much larger assault took place on the town of Gulak, the administrative center of Madagli Local Government Area located on the main Maiduguri - Yola road and less than 15 km WNW of Sukur. After some hours of rapine and desctruction the town was retaken by the forces of order. What this means for Sukur and its neighbors is uncertain, but it is a major setback.

Further information on the Boko Haram insurgency and the response to it is available at and through the Boko Haram Victims Relief website.


The field research upon which this web site is founded was carried out between 1991 and 2008, principally from 1992 to 1996. It was supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada in the form of grants to the Mandara Archaeological Project (1984-2008). Judy Sterner's fieldwork was funded in part by the School of Oriental and African Studies and the University of London. Branwen Hennig, James Wade and Xavier Udo-Utun contributed photographs, and Ekkehard Wolff and Paul Newman provided wordlists of the Sukur language. More recently we have been working with linguist Michael F. Thomas of Washington State University to incorporate his knowledge of the Sakun (Sukur) language. We are grateful to the Nigerian Commission for Museums and Monuments and to their staff for permissions and assistance. Our greatest debt is of course to the late Hidi (chief) Gəzik Kənakakaw of Sukur, to his people and to our Sukur assistants, all of whom graciously received us and made our stays at Sukur the supreme fieldwork experiences of our lives. Hanu vena !

We also thank the University of Calgary for its long term support of the Mandara Archaeological Project and for the hosting of this site.

Copyright notice

The material on this website is protected by copyright. Short extracts and up to five images may be freely used by individuals for personal and educational purposes without permission. More extensive use requires permission and fees are charged for commercial use, with the proceeds less expenses going to benefit the people of Sukur. All such requests, together with any comments, should be directed to Nicholas David at his email address ndemail

UNESCO World Heritage document






Left: the residence of the Hidi (chief) of Sukur in August 1992.








Sukur's location in Africa Sukur map link

CLICK on the map above and a large scale map of Sukur will open in a new screen. You can keep it OPEN and refer to it as needed while you visit the site.



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