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.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Ìbe Nne

Photo: The hairstyle for a new Igbo mother, according to P. A. Talbot, 1926. Musée du quai Branly.

Due to exogamy, women are able to manoeuvre between lineages in Igbo society, for this it appears that women were barred from positions to ‘secure’ the patriline. In most cases women are not directly in charge of ancestral veneration of male community founders in rites associated like breaking kola in the case of addressing the patriline (umunna), and masquerading. Men competed for land and resources and in most cases became the establishers of communities; in the case of Ohafia where women played the key role in establishing communities, rights to land can be traced through mothers.

Inheritance and land ownership are related to this idea of ‘preserving’ the patriline from women who are perceived as being able to bring in competing patrilines. Men negotiate bride money as it is the negotiation of a citizen, a women, being uprooted from one patriline (‘nation’) to another. A child born out of the official adoption of a woman (marriage) stays with the patriline they are recognised in, that of her father’s.

Wives are still recognised members of another patriline as can be seen by the various associations of daughters and the burial of deceased wives in their father's homes; wives can return to their patriline on divorce and daughters are potential adoptees of another patriline.

It’s no surprise that women’s institutions like that of the Omu, the Otu Odu, etc, are primarily women’s trade unions, because trade is one of the areas in society Igbo women could dominate since it was mostly a free domain outside of the structure of lineages.

Many Igbo women were the main income earners for their households, but this money was put towards the upholding the patriline of husbands represented in gestures such as the buying of titles for men, this also served to shield the economic power many wives had. Women are left with handling the issues of women and other issues outside of anything that may challenge the overall structure of the patriline which in past represented the sovereignty of the nation.

Gọ̀ - be in-lawed, ọgọ̀ - in-law, ngọ̀ - bride money? Ngọ̀, the in-law maker, is a symbol of the mixture of two families and the recognition of the adoption of a daughter into her husband's patriline, as she keeps hers (what may be termed her children’s ibe nne, matriline).

The matriline in reality is also very important, the matriline is the refuge for people who came to be adopted in it. Many rites, including burials, require the participation and recognition of the matriline in Igbo society.

Names like Nneka and Nnebuisi hold the Igbo view towards mothers. There is a reason why nwanne and umunne on a personal level are the main Igbo terms for siblings and kin.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Ahaba or Onicha woman

A photo of a woman taken around the Niger River, likely Ahaba (or Asaba) or Onicha (Onitsha) [partially cropped]. Photographed by Henry Crosse with the Royal Niger Company, c.1886–1895. MAA Cambridge.

[Probably onye Ọ̀nị̀chà.]

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Owere Creation Story

Photo: Mbari votive shrine in Percy Amaury Talbot (1926). "The peoples of Southern Nigeria." Vol. II, fig.13. via the Musée du quai Branly.

Creation of the days from the Owere (Owerri) area:

Chineke created four people [...] and put those four people inside the house in four rooms. Eke, Orie, Afo, Nkwo. These are men, and he also put women in a separate room. Then Eke suggested it would be a good idea for Ala to exist. The land just came out, and existed before we met it. The land and the sky are the same. [...] No one gave birth to them. Then Chineke called in all the gods and fixed a time for creating the days. Chineke asked, "Which of you knows the days?" Agwushi [god of divination] said he knew. "This is Eke, the next is Orie, then Afo, then Nkwo. These are the four days of the world." Chineke took Agwushi and gave him to all [...] to feed them....Then Chineke told Agwushi to go to man and leave part of himself [...] [Eke, Orie, Afo, Nkwo], and also to [...] every god—Amadioha, Ala, and all the others.

– The artist Ugo via Herbert Cole (1982). Mbari.

According to this record of a creation story from the Owere (Owerri) area, the days are four men put into four rooms, but there's also mention of women, although their number and relation to the men isn't substantiated, it's plausible that they are also four. Could the Izù ukwu, the eight day week, be a pair of four male and four female primordial entities making eight in total?

Also, it's interesting how the name for week or group of the days is ízù, when the entities are said to congregate in various Igbo creation stories, like ìzù, a meeting or council. Even the nsibidi signs for the four (or eight) directions is similar to the nsibidi sign for meeting or congregation, which is also similar or the same as the four and eight rods.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

'Fishery in the Lower Niger'

Image: 'Fishery in the Lower Niger' c. 1890 engraving from the travels of the officer of the French Foreign Legion, Antoine Mattei.
[...] I had before observed below Onitsha, along the shores, rustic sentry boxes, supported on six poles about 12 feet above the ground, and had taken them to be stations for guardians of the river. They are stations, but for the fishermen. They perch themselves up in these watch-boxes, whence they can command the neighbourhood. A large oblong net, a sort of seine, with a basket in the middle, made of vegetable fibres, is suspended over the water. By the aid of a long rope of the same material, the fisherman lowers or raises his net. Near at hand, in a canoe moored to the shore, two negroes, silent and motionless, are on the look-out. As soon as the net is raised the canoe comes up and the catch is thrown into it ; the sentinel, who does not move from his eyrie, then again lets down the net into the river. This method appears to answer very well, for I have seen the natives thus catch a large quantity of fish ; they swarm there, and they are as fine as they are abundant. This does not prevent them from also using harpoons and fish-hooks, which they manufacture themselves. [...]

– Adolphe Burdo (1880). "The Niger and the Benueh." p. 174–175.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Asaba Jewellery

Asaba, turn of the 20th century. Igbo jewellery [cropped].

Model of Igbo Cosmology

Some of the ideas are theoretical like the placement of the days. Some of the structure and ideas are partly via Obiakoizu A. Iloanusi (1984) and from the Kongo cosmogram.

The sun is an analogy, if that's the right word, for a person's life through the mortal (elu ụ̀wà) to the spirit (Àlà mmụọ), a person may be reincarnated with a unique Chi and the Ekè (characteristics) of their ancestor, and may pass through morning, afternoon, and evening.

When the person has a complete mortal cycle (reaching ụ̀wà mgbèdè, the evening of one's life), they enter the spirit realm awaiting burial, a second burial guiding them to ancestorhood, and then ancestorhood awaiting reincarnation.

The Chi and Ekè duality is repeated, or represented, in or by several other principals of the universe, the numbers 2, 4, 8, as alluded to in another post, are important numbers.

(The circle, the path, may be likened to, or represent the Igbo allusion to ụzọ̀.)

Saturday, April 13, 2019


Consider this made up example of a scenario:

The Igbo people were invaded by the British and the British met a people who tapped and drank wine from palm trees. The British found this strange and abominable and so they condemned what they came to call 'palm-winists' who practice 'palm-winetry.' The Igbo people where confused by the idea of palm wine being bad or them being defined as 'palm-winists' and wondered what was wrong with palm wine, but the British officers and leaders of the church and mission schools kept reiterating the idea of 'palm-winetry' and that they were better because they didn't drink palm wine but rather they drank tea. Over time this was built into the psyche of Igbo children and they decided to abandon the abominable practice of 'palm-winetry' and insisted on only the finest British tea.

An Igbo man climbing a palm tree for palm nuts photographed by G. T. Basden, early 20th century.

Over the generations, however, a new generation rose up to counter what they considered misinformation by the British and they started what they felt to be a renaissance and a revitalisation of the culture that the previous generations had abandoned because of colonialism. One of the first things they wanted to attack was the idea of 'palm-winetry' and that Igbo people were 'palm-winists.' They insisted that the Igbo people, contrary to earlier colonial reports, were not drinkers of palm wine but that rather the Igbo people only took a sip of palm wine to check whether a palm tree was ripe enough for its palm oil to be harvested. The palm oil was the real target, according to them, not palm wine; Igbo people did not drink palm wine! In fact, Igbo people were the original drinkers of coffee and it was the British who drank other kinds of wines. Further more, the Igbo people were the original growers of tea leaves.

The story is a long winded analogy to challenge manipulative colonial-era language which introduced ideas such as 'idolatry,' 'paganism,' 'heathenism,' and the like, the suggestion is that instead of attacking a particular classification of indigenous practices, perhaps it would be wiser to take a wider look at what these classifications are and why they exist in the first place. If 'palm-winists' and 'palm-winetry' are replaced with 'idolators' and 'idolatry', what would justify the absurdity of the condemnation of palm wine as abominable that also wouldn't justify the same for 'idolatry', that is, outside of the worldview and frameworks designed by the inventors of such classification? In other words, what was the word for 'idolatry' in Igbo before colonial education?

Igbo worship is 'pagan,' 'pagan,' according to Western tradition, usually refers to religious practices outside of Abrahamic beliefs. The idea in this post isn't to challenge being labelled 'heathens' or 'pagans,' the idea is to ask what makes being 'pagan' bad for example and how can this manipulative language impact how people handle and evaluate their own worldview.

In other words, 'pagan', 'fetish', 'idolatry,' etc, are words and ideas from the European Judeo-Christian worldview and tradition, they are ideas that were solidified by them without the input of Igbo people for example, so these ideas cannot be used to judge or evaluate the Igbo worldview which is a totally different tradition and worldview.