Original

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.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Women's War British casualty list

Official British record of people, primarily women, killed or injured during the Women's War of the Calabar and Owerri colonial provinces, 1929-30.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Öka man's hair

"Achetefu(?) young man." … "Hairdressing (Ibo) Man of Awka". Northcote Thomas, c. 1911. MAA Cambridge.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Ogboli Origins: A Western Igbo Ǹrì (Ǹshì) People

"Water Side Assaba." The Oshimili (Niger River) at Asaba c. 1889. Pitt Rivers Museum.
At Ani Udo, Edini […] prospered. […] Oral historians believe that many of the Ogboli clans that dot Anioma today were formerly the inhabitants of the original Ogboli community that was founded by Edini in Ani Udo. They also believe that the Benin-Anioma wars played a major role in dispersing the original residents of the Ogboli community, forcing them to abandon their homes at Ani Udo. Some moved closer to Igbuzo, where their new settlement became known as Ogboli-Igbuzo. Some moved to Issele-Ukwu to occupy the Ogboli-Issele-Ukwu quarters. Many more moved to Atuma and Akwukwu, while a large party fled across the Niger river to settle in Ogboli-Onitsha.

– Don C. Ohadike (1994). “Anioma: A Social History of the Western Igbo People”. p. 17.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Ila Elder, Origins

An elder in Ila (Illah) holding an abani or eben sword, present-day Delta State. Photographed by Northcote Thomas, c. 1912. MAA Cambridge.

Illah is said to have been founded by Ala[.] […] One of the traditions holds that Ala’s father, lka, came from Nteje (some informants say he came from Nri) and the mother, Ejini, came from lgalaland. […] While at Omorka, the Anam/Nzam people from the east of the Niger frequently harassed the Illah. Through the assistance of a later immigrant, an Edaiken (Oba's first son) from Benin, the Illah contained the Anam's menace. […] The Asaba and Illah traditions seem to indicate a fusion of Igbo and Igala migrants, and emphasize the age-long relationship between them and the Igala in the north and the Igbo in the east.

– Adiele Afigbo (1992). "Groundwork of Igbo history." p. 335.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The road from Ügwüta to Owere, c. 1909

The road from Ügwüta (Oguta) to Owere (Owerri), c. 1909, showcasing the undulating landscape of the Igbo country.

Whether this is a ‘pre-colonial’ road or not is not specified, but this could be how trade routes were in the past.

Nigeria, 1932 [cropped]. Library of Congress.

The Igbo area is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Relative stability over centuries made it so. Developmentally, it may turn into one metropolitan area, with considerations for nature and the environment.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Women's War: 1930 British Report Map

A map from an official 1930 British colonial government report on the Women's War of the Calabar and Owerri Provinces (1929-1930). The pink dots (enhanced) pinpoint places where "firing took place," the blue dots are Native Courts that were either damaged, burnt, or destroyed.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Government School, Owerri District, c. 1909

Government School, Owerri District, c. 1909.

Colonial Home, Enugwu

Home of a member of the British colonial establishment, Enugu. Staged photo, 1930s(?). The people standing are named, from left: Adebayo, Kanu(?), unnamed person(?), Thomas, two "gardeners," an unnamed person, and a "cook" on the right.

In all contact with the natives, let your first thought be the preservation of your own dignity. The natives are accustomed to dealing with very few white people and those they meet hold positions of authority. The British are looked up to, put on a very high level. Don't bring that level down by undue familiarity.

– WWII instructions given to white troops stationed in West Africa. From the West African Review, January 1943.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Edward Wilmot Blyden

Edward Wilmot Blyden, pictured c. 1851-1860, daguerreotype of a young Edward Wilmot Blyden by Rufus Anson. Library of Congress.

Edward Wilmot Blyden (August 3, 1832 – February 7, 1912) was a West Indian-born writer and politician who described both his parents as being of complete Igbo ancestry.

As the father of pan-Africanism, he was an educator, writer, diplomat, and politician after settling in Liberia and afterwards Sierra Leone. Born in the Virgin Islands in the West Indies, he joined the free black immigrants from the United States who migrated to the region. He taught for five years in the British West African colony of Sierra Leone in the early 20th century. His writings on pan-Africanism were influential in both colonies.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

"Are you a Mason?"

Are You a Mason? A Member of the Egbo, A Nigerian Secret Society, In Costume.
The most important and widespread of the secret societies in Nigeria is the Egbo society, which…may almost be compared to Freemasonry in England. The dress worn by the lowest-grade members is something like a diver’s suit. The man has fringes of black and red grass round his ankles, and, covering his face, is a mask of wood painted white. (p. 774)

– 1909. “At the Sign of St. Pauls.” The Illustrated London News, Vol. 134, No. 3658. Ross Archive of African Images (RAAI).

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Eze Ede

Ndị Ngwa, around Aba, photographed by Northcote Thomas, c. 1913. MAA Cambridge.

In the Igbo area, in southern parts especially (Abia, Imo, Rivers), women who are highly successful in farming cocoyams take on the Eze Ede, king of cocoyams, or Ikwa Ede title. Eze Ede become the spokespeople for women in the community. Women with even larger mkpuke ede, cocoyam stores, are initiated with the title of Ezumezu. In some communities, the title associated with women's cocoyam farming is referred to as Lọlọ Ede.

Exemplarily of the dualistic nature of Igbo society, Eze Ede is the female counterpart to a major title for men, the Eze Ji title, king of yams, given to successful farmers with large yam barns. Other similar titles are the Diji and Duru Ji titles. Yams are traditionally cultivated by men, cocoyams are the spiritual and folkloric female equivalent of yams.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Ikenga and other Igbo ritual items, French Catholic Mission

Ikenga and other Igbo religious items, French Catholic Mission, perhaps from converts, many artefacts ended up in European museums and private collections this way, not directly looted or bought, but given up and sold and collected in Europe. Friederich, R.P (1916). RAAI Yale University.

The missionary is a revolutionary and he has to be so, for to preach and plant Christianity means to make a frontal attack on the beliefs, the customs, the apprehensions of life and the world, and by implication (because tribal religions are primarily social realities) on the social structures and bases of primitive society. The missionary enterprise need not be ashamed of this, because colonial administrations, planters, merchants, Western penetration, etc., perform a much more severe and destructive attack. Missions, however, imply the well-considered appeal to all peoples to transplant and transfer their life-foundations into a totally different spiritual soil, and so they must be revolutionary.

– International Missionary Council spokesman, c. 1938. "The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World," p. 342.

Onye Ọcha

Onye Ọcha mask, Igbo parody of a white man during the colonial era from Amobia, part of a larger play. Apart from more serious ritual masks, a key part of many Igbo masquerading festivals are comedic and satirical masks. G. I. Jones, 1930s. MAA Cambridge. [Consider the photographer.]

Ghost policemen masks, symbols of colonial powers, part of the same masquerade play as the Oyibo or Onye Ọcha mask from Amobia. G. I. Jones, 1930s. MAA Cambridge.

Abiriba School – Mission Schools

Pole Vaulting, Abiriba School, today's Abia State, ca. 1930-1940. "Missionaries first entered Abiriba, an Igbo iron-working area, in the early twentieth century. Agwu Otisi, a priest of the witch-doctors’ society, was keen to set up a school in the village and to learn about the new faith of Christianity, eventually becoming a Church Elder. The school was under the charge of Rev. R Collins." USC Digital Library.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Ukara

Ukara cloth, c. 1900-1950. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Ukara cloths are designed with nsibidi mostly for Ekpe club members to wear and are also used to decorate Ekpe clubhouses. The designs are made by the Igbo people who traditionally used nsibidi widely in society, the Cross River Igbo people, the Bende, Eda, Ohafia, Aro area in today’s Abia State. The designs are taken up to the Ezilo area of today’s Ebonyi State to be resist-dyed, usually with indigo. The dating of ukara is uncertain, but ukara became more common around the late 19th century.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Ebonyi

The Ebonyi River from a photo album made before the 1920s. The National Archives UK.

The Igbo people who passed and lived around the Ebonyi River were part of a great expansionist Igbo group that mostly sprang out of an initial migration over the Imo from the Mbano area. The groups, including the Izi, Eza, Ikwo, and Mgbo, were large militaristic groups who were able to overtake the lands of several Upper Cross River groups over the last couple of hundred years.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Ikenga

The Ikenga, a 1960s luxury GT car, named after an Igbo icon of achievement. Ebony September 1969.

The Western-style school established in 1870s Opobo

Photo: King Jaja of Opobo, The New York Public Library.

The Western-style school established in 1870s Opobo by King Jaja and other Africans before British colonisation.

The aspect of modernization that deeply interested Jaja was the acquisition of secular education, which he considered essential if his people were to profit from their commercial enterprise. Because he could barely read and write he had to employ a private secretary, a Sierra Leonean known as D. C. Williams, who became responsible for maintaining his correspondence with the British. In 1873 Jaja sponsored the opening of a school at Opobo with another Sierra Leonean, Mr. Gooding, as the teacher. Twelve years later the population of this school stood at sixty boys and girls, under the instruction of an American Black woman, Emma Johnson. According to one visitor, the standard of education attained by the children was comparable to that of English children of the same age.

– Sylvanus John Sodienye Cookey (1974). “King Jaja of the Niger Delta: His Life and Times, 1821-1891.”

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Enuani Lady

A young Igbo woman from Onicha Olona, or surrounding settlement, c. 1912-13. Onicha Olona is an Enuani settlement, an Igbo population west of the Niger River. Many of these settlements were founded by migrations from east of the Niger River (Oshimili) hundreds of years ago. These settlements came into much contact with the Edo and Igala. The Benin Empire especially influenced their political structures and even populations, particularly after the conquering 15th century Oba, Oba Ewuare.

Dogs

The other citizens, dogs from the past around the Lower Niger River area, c. 1890s–1930s. MAA Cambridge / RAI / British Museum.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Igbo Landscaping and Architecture

A building photographed in the western Igbo area, filed under Onicha Olona by the MAA Cambridge, but may be another surrounding Igbo town. The trees and shrubs appear to have been planted in an order. Photographed by Northcote Thomas and assistants, c. 1912-13.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A View of the Arọ̀ from Igbere

Before the Europeans came, the Arọs […] main interest in their trade was the purchase of slaves. […] Some of them came as medicine men, […] traders […] agents of Ibìna Ụ̀kpaàbị̀. We called them Ọbụ̄ Arọ̀ bụrụ Ìgbò (He is Arọ as well as Igbo), […] Arọ̀ Oke-Ìgbò, […] Inokun. […]

Igbo Kitchenware

Igbo kitchenware, from Ögbü (Awgbu), in today's Anambra State, taken into the collection of British colonial anthropologist Northcote Thomas, c. 1910-11; Igbo names recorded in his notes as: top left, "okwa mai [ọkwa maị]," palm wine cup; top right, "Ngagis 2 Spoons for eating [ǹgàjì];" bottom, "oku mma [ọ̀kụ̀ may refer to the word for dish, mma meaning fine (as in special dishes).] ... for soup" MAA Cambridge.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Ndị Ìgbò

An unidentified group portrait taken by a Royal Niger Company employee c. 1886 - 1895. Based on other photos, these could be people from the Asaba or Önïcha area. MAA Cambridge.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Ezeani Obidigbo of Neni

"Chief Obudugbo. Ezeana of Neni" [Ezeani Obidigbo of Ugwudunu, Neni?]. Photographed by Northcote Thomas, c. 1910-11. MAA Cambridge.

The keepers of Ani (Ala), the shrine of the Earth Mother, are usually the autochthonous section of a community, a group that can trace their patriline to the original settlers of a community. Ndị nwe Ànà are the highly respected and revered spiritual leaders of a community due to the supremacy of Ani in Igbo society. To keep the Ani is to keep the laws of the land.

Various communities have their own personal Ani because of their unique relationships with Ani and the work in setting up the shrine.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Near Nnewi

Entrance gate and walls with relief of a farmer's compound at Nnewi (noted as "Entrance to a compound of IGBO farmer's house near NEWI"), northern Igbo area, c. 1938. Photo: Edward Duckworth. Pitt Rivers Museum.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Ụ̀banị̀

"Water play Bonny For Oko Jumbo" – Jonathan Adagogo Green (Ibani photographer). 1895-1905. British Museum.

Bonny was a powerful coastal state and major port during the slave and palm oil trade. Bonny, Ibani, known as Ụ̀banị̀ in the Igbo interior, set on trading expeditions into the creeks with dozens of canoes holding up to 120 people each. During the slave trade, a group of Bonny slaving canoes could reportedly carry back up to 2000 people from the interior. The creeks were major highways for trade. The Ụ̀banị̀ people brought European cloth and other goods such as gin, pomade, and other European-made drinks to the traders in the interior.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Igbo Cotton

Cotton thread from the Igbo area donated to the British Museum by William Balfour Baikie in 1856. Photo: British Museum. Many Igbo communities grew cotton in the past, people spun and dyed them locally.

Ụ̀kwà

"At the Akquete [Akwete] Market" by Jonathan Adagogo Green, an Ibani (Bonny) photographer, 1895-1905. British Museum. The Ndoki (which Akwete is a part), Asa, and Omuma area is collectively referred to as Ụ̀kwà, which apparently means wealth.

Before the 20th century, this area was a major market area including the Ohambele, Ohanku, Azumini, and Akwete markets that served as meeting points for Igbo groups and coastal middlemen, especially the Ubani or Ibani (of Bonny Island) who brought up European goods to be traded.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Òmenàlà

Symbol of Ala, the Earth Mother, among the Eda Igbo, present-day Abia or Ebonyi State. P. A. Talbot, c. 1920s.

Most Igbo people in the past did not perceive themselves as belonging to a religion. The split between culture and religion did not exist. All practices were viewed as duty. This view of duty, compulsory rites that place tradition and service and reverence to ancestors over belief itself, still exists in the kola nut rite, ịche ọjị, for example, which could've been classed as a religious rite.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Interview of an Ọ̀kọ̀nkọ̀ priest born in c. 1880s Umuopara

This is likely Nwa Agụ, in Umuahia, the leopard Ọ̀kọ̀nkọ̀ mask worn by high ranking men as the emblem of the society. The costume's chequers represent leopard spots. The masker is signing (nsibidi?). Photo: G. I. Jones, c. 1930s. MAA Cambridge.
Uwaga Okeanya, aged c.90 (an Ọ̀kọ̀nkọ̀ priest), in Ogbodiuumwu [Ogbodiukwu?], Ụmụọpara, 12 August 1972

Saturday, August 31, 2019

John Brown

John Brown (c.1810 – 1876) was born into slavery in Virginia. He said in his life story that his father's father was an Igbo (written Eboe) man stolen from Africa. John Brown’s family was split several times by the time he was ten. He was later sold to people who tortured him for medical experiments, as was often done on many people of African descent. John Brown managed to escape and gain freedom and dictated his life story, published in 1855 as “Slave Life in Georgia: A Narrative of the Life, Sufferings, and Escape of John Brown, A Fugitive Slave, Now in England.”

August 2019 is 400 years since the beginning of the enslavement of Africans in the British Colony of Virginia which later became a US state. Virginia is also noted to have received a large amount of Igbo people during the 18th century.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Agbọọ mmụọ

Agbọ mmụọ, Igbo maiden spirit masks, early 20th century. These masks are worn by men and the design of the costumes incorporate the cosmetics, ornaments, and dress of women in the community. Their outing brings a balance of femininity to masquerade festivals. They play a role in the veneration of the Earth Mother through their appearance at festivals.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Igbo Male Hairstyle

This is the kind of hairstyle worn by young Igbo men around the northern side of the Igbo area. The photo was taken around the 1920s. Young guys grew their hair like this for the same reasons young guys grow their hair today.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Igbo Warfare: Shields

Photo: An Öka (Awka) elder and another man during a war demonstration. Photographed by Northcote Thomas, c. 1910-11. MAA Cambridge.

Large body shields are commonly ọta, dialect depending; smaller lighter wicker shields èkpèkè. Shield: ọta; wicker/straw shield: èkpèkè, egbeje; gun shield: òkoro.

The Ibo warrior also carried shields which were of two types. One was a heavy wooden shield. This was used for home defence when defending a town against attack. It was too heavy to be carried on raids or forays and was then replaced by a light wicker shield made from laths cut from the midrib of the oil palm (Elæis guineënsis) or of the Borassus palm (Borassus æthiopica). These wicker shields are found widely distributed.

– M. D. W. Jeffreys (1956). "Ibo Warfare."

Ọ̀gbọ Agha

Ọ̀gbọ agha. A war demonstration by men whose names do not appear to have been noted, photographed by Northcote Thomas, c. 1910-11. The men have swords/machetes, shields made from either wood or the 'midrib of oil palms', and war hats. The location is given as Awka. Colourised Ụ́kpụ́rụ́ 2019. MAA Cambridge.

Original.

Burial Duties

Duties of the (Igbo) second burial (ịkwa ozu?) according to the European source, early 20th century. This is probably for a very prominent person. The photograph is also likely from today's Anambra State.

Ebiriba Origins

Photo: The Otiri masquerade of Ebiriba (Abiriba), a masquerade, of the Iri Ama festival, that praises beautiful women of the community for gifts. Photographed in the 1930s by G. I. Jones. MAA Cambridge.

Ebiriba (Abiriba) was one of the centres of blacksmithing in the Igbo area. The smiths from Ebiriba were itinerant and had bases outside of their homes in nearby towns like Uzuakoli. The smithing trade was so central to the economy of Ebiriba that ụzụ (smithing) in Ebiriba refers to any sort of long-distance trade.

The settlement of Ebiriba appears to coincide with the general eastward expansion of the Igbo people in the Cross River area. Included in this migration were the Ohafia, Aro, Abam, and Eda and Nkporo people. Like in most parts of the Igbo area, the migrations are very mixed and complex, some moving back on one another. In legend, the Aro, Abam, Ohafia, Eda, and Ebiriba people are said to have links to a progenitor, Eze, who came from Ibeku in today's Umuahia.

The links between Ohafia and Ibeku are well established through a legend recounting Ohafia's departure from Isieke, a village in Ibeku, as well as the rights Ibeku people have in Ohafia as members of the elder settlement and as kin. Customs linking the Ebiriba and other Cross River groups and Ibeku are not as strong. It is, however, likely that these Cross River Igbo groups did migrate from the Ibeku and the general Umuahia area.

The Ebiriba and Aro are linked in tradition as coming from the same migration. All these Cross River Igbo groups backed the Aro militarily during their ascension in the late 17th century; this bond is now popularly known as the Aro Confederacy. The Cross River Igbo groups all have strong connections with non-Igbo Cross River groups.

See: Philip Nsugbe (1974). "Ohaffia: A Matrilineal Ibo People"; John Oriji (1994). "Traditions of Igbo origin".

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Igbo Dualism and Àlà

Photo: Ugonachomma Igbo art piece of a man-woman couple, carved to the average person's height. British Museum.

So, in summary, Igbo cosmology is dualism, the universe is ultimately made up of two complementary and opposing primordial forces, often represented as male and female, it is how everything is equally paired.

It's the philosophy of balance, of the mortal realm and the spirit realm, for example, women's and men's parallel and complementary organisations and initiations, okenye, oke ibiri; daada, deede; ọzọ, ịyọm; ọmụ, obi; places for living and sacred groves for nature, etc.

Nne ahịhịa n'agwọ oke ahịhịa, female plants are antidotes to male plants, and vice versa.

That being said, it's now a question of whether Chi na Eke were seen as ontological concepts rather than deities, if the former, then Chi na Eke (and Chukwu) is not the supreme Igbo deity, Àlà, Ànà, Àlị̀, Ànị̀, the Earth Mother, is the recognised supreme Igbo deity in general.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Omu Okpanam

The Omu of Okpanam, whose name was not recorded, photographed by Northcote Thomas in 1912. Okpanam is an Enuani Igbo town near Asaba in Delta State, Nigeria today.

The Omu are titled women who control markets and are spiritual protectors to the Obi, the king, in Igbo communities west of the Niger River, typically among the Enuani, and in the past in Onicha (Onitsha) and Osomari on the east bank of the Niger River. There is one Omu in each community with the institution.

The Omu work closely with diviners performing rites for the community and are the authorities over the opening of markets and resolving disputes within the market. The Omu depending on the community and period take titles typically reserved for men and also dress like men, as a consequence women who are post-menopausal are preferred for the role because such women in Igbo society could achieve the same status as men. As is custom in most communities, the Omu was not allowed to be married to a man, Omu were known to marry wives to assist them and have children for them.

Colonialism greatly reduced the power of the Omu in the market and over society in general due to gender bias in the indirect rule system, colonialism was also partly the cause of the disappearance of the institution in some Igbo communities. Today there are many Omu who are still active in their roles.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Igbo hair

Women's hairstyles from different Igbo groups sketched by P. A. Talbot in or before the 1920s.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Bende Ekpe Club House

Interior of an Ekpe society house in Bende photographed by P. Talbot around or before the mid-1920s.

Ọ̀gwa - Igbo shrine hall

An ọ̀gwa, an ancestral meeting and reception shrine hall of household patriarchs photographed by P. Talbot around or before the mid-1920s in reference to Ogwashi Ukwu. Ogwa Nshi Ukwu means the great ọ̀gwa of founding Nri-Igbo migrants.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

18th c. Ụ̀banị̀ Ìgbò vocabulary

Ụ̀banị̀ Ìgbò, the Igbo spoken on Bonny Island in today's Rivers State, recorded by the slave trader Captain Hugh Crow from the late 18th century, from "Memoirs of the late Captain Hugh Crow of Liverpool."

Bèkê seems to have been recorded here which brings the theory that it originated from the Scottish explorer William Baikie into doubt. Westermann, Smith, Forde (1932). Oxford University Press.

Bonny Island was one of the largest slave ports of the Atlantic slave trade era, especially in the late 18th century. Hugh Crow describes the predominance of Igbo captives on the island, most going to British colonies. "Memoirs..." p. 198.

This led to a large amount of Igbo people in the British Caribbean in particular, in places like Jamaica where this early 19th century description was made. John Stewart (1808). "An Account of Jamaica, and Its Inhabitants." p. 235–236.

Could some of these words have been recorded from some of the ancestors of people now in North America?