Igbo names and spellings for various settlements
Abakaliki is Abankaleke; Afikpo is Ehugbo; Awgu is Ogu; Awka is Oka; Bonny is Ubani; Enugu is Enugwu; Ibusa is Igbuzö; Igrita is Igwuruta; Oguta is Ugwuta; Onitsha is Onicha; Owerri is Owere; Oyigbo is Obigbo... any more will be added.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ogbodo Enyi Female Maskers, A Twist of Tradition

It is extremely rare, unheard of and possibly, barring this instance, virtually impossible to find a masking tradition in west Africa that features a ‘heavy’ aggressive mask that is headed by women. A twist of tradition happened in the Izzi (northeastern Igbo) village group of Nkaliki in 1975 when the community oracle, Uke, asked Nkaliki women to organise and dance Ogbodo Enyi in honour of its work saving them from child-killing evil spirits. A woman in this picture is one of the women maskers of Nkaliki shot by Herbert Cole in 1983 dancing an Ogbodo Enyi mask amidst her female supporters. The mask is originally a men’s mask representing leadership and takes on aspects of an elephant (ogbodo enyi meaning ‘elephant spirit’) and is somewhat aggressive when worn by men.

The Ogbodo Enyi of the women’s society, although aesthetically similar to its male counterpart, is considered to be different from that of the male and the male and female maskers never appear in the same context. The female Ogbodo Enyi is embraced by the women of the community and it is worn by a woman who is selected by the ogbodo, like her male counterparts, through divination and a mask is commissioned by the women. Although a few younger men of the community do not acknowledge it, the female Ogbodo Enyi is well respected by the elders of the community and the male Ogbodo Enyi masker acknowledges female maskers during the males performance, a special occurrence since masks are usually separated from women. This is the only documented existence of a masking tradition headed by women in Igbo culture and probably Nigeria where masking traditions are usually exclusively male privileges from which women are largely barred. — Information summarised from Herbert Cole, Chike Aniakor (1984).

Friday, April 13, 2018

King Oputa of "Ogbekin"

An illustration of King Oputa of "Ogbekin", an Igbo settlement noted to be near the Oshimiri (Niger River) from the book Niger et Bénoué (1880) by the Belgian explorer Adolphe Burdo.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Arochukwu, Shifting from the Slave Trade?

Photo: People at a dance in Ibom, Arochukwu, April 23, 1903 [a year or so after the British invasion.] Charles Partridge. British Museum.
The first Europeans to visit Arochukwu, in 1901, noted with some surprise--since it contradicted what they had been led to expect by their superiors--that the Aro trade in "factory goods" was no less than their trade in slaves, and that in fact "Palm oil seems to be the main export." [W.J. Venour, "The Aro Country in Southern Nigeria," Geographical Journal, 1902] Even Sir Ralph Moor, the chief creator of the myth that the Aro were solely slave traders and brigands, was compelled to admit that "the individual profits of the slave traffic, owing to the heavy tolls exacted on the roads [trade routes in the Igbo area were often tolled by the communities they ran through], together with other market tolls, have not really been great."

— Robert D. Jackson (1975). The Twenty Years War. pp. 32–33.