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.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Palm-winetry

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 abandoned 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.

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