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 Nri (Nshi) 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.

Ogboli Origins: Isele Uku

The earliest ancestor of Ogboli village in Issele-Uku, was one Oke who like Edini, the founder of Ibusa and Odaigbo the founder of Ogwashi-Uku, came from Nshi or Nri in the East Central State.

– Lawrence N. Okpuno (1968). “A Short History of Eze-Chima”. p. 12.

According to Issele-Uku oral tradition, the Ogboli had long settled at the present town of Issele-Uku before the arrival of Ise who founded the Chima section of the town that claims Benin origin. In the past Nri people controlled kingship; it is not therefore [surprising] that up to this day Ogboli of Issele-Uku are the king makers [Onishe].

– M. A. Onwuejeogwu (1972) “An outline account of the dawn of Igbo civilization…” Ọdinani: The Journal of the Ọdinani Museum, Nri vol. 1. p. 37.

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.

Initially, when people in present-day Nigeria came into contact with British people, they were usually upper and upper-middle class. This gave the impression that all Europeans were of this background.

Comparisons were made between the peoples of what became Nigeria and some of the wealthiest and most privileged people in British society.

It was the manners, speech, etiquette, etc., of upper-class British people that many European educated Africans strived to imitate. Devout missionaries also influenced the image of the European in West Africa.

European educated Africans were surprised when they travelled to Europe and saw that not all Europeans were of a certain class and that not all Europeans were as pious as the missionaries.

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.

In Liberia, Edward Wilmot Blyden was an advocate for indigenous African people and their culture and was largely opposed to the encroachment and domination of Western culture through the small ruling Americo-Liberian population made up of former slaves and descendants of ex-slaves from the Caribbean and United States resettled on the coastal areas of Liberia.

The Americo-Liberians largely saw Western civilisation as superior to the indigenous African cultures; Blyden sought to integrate the two populations in Liberia leading him to campaign for the independent state to be taken under Britain as a protectorate in the belief that the British would not interfere in the indigenous societies of the hinterlands as he believed the Americo-Liberains would. Ultimately, the plan to put Liberia under British governance gave way leading to his expulsion to Sierra Leone where he spent his last days.

It was through these actions and the essays he made on African identity that he became known as the 'father of pan-Africanism', in his case he was an African culturalist, decades after his life, his ideas, however, were realised in the form of African ethnic nationalism.

See: Judson M. Lyon (1980). "Edward Blyden: Liberian Independence and African Nationalism, 1903-1909."

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.
A performance in the Northern Ibo village of Amobia was opened by a hooded character called “Government”. He had no face and was crowned with a Homburg hat; an elephant tusk horn, symbol of authority, was laid on the ground in front of him and he read in ghostly gibberish from an important-looking document. He and his acolyte withdrew and were succeeded by a parade of ghostly policemen and court messengers wearing imitations of police and messenger uniforms and with cloth masks over their faces and head. They performed a spirited guard drill before being posted by their commander to their stations to control the crowd. Their followed a supercilious white-faced sun-helmeted figure in white drill jacket and trousers called Oyibo (White Man), who inspected the audience and then took his seat amongst the places reserved for the distinguished visitors who had come to watch the play. After him came a succession of characters, some white-faced, representing female spirits, some black or multi-coloured fierce and masculine creatures with masks that combined animal and human features; others again, mainly harmless or comic or benign, representing antelopes, or other animal spirits or characters drawn from village life. Each had his or her special role to play and having acted it withdrew to the secret enclosure or sat on seats at the ringside waiting to repeat his performance. [...] [A] large concerted display which included characters contributed by all the local societies.

– G.I. Jones (1984). "The Art of Eastern Nigeria." pp. 59-60. [Quote via 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.

As late as 1942 [missionaries] controlled 99 per cent of the schools[.] [...] The mission school was an instrument [...] for the rapid Christianization (and hence Europeanization) of the youth of Nigeria. […] The schools taught young Nigerians to aspire to the virtues of white Christian civilization. They consciously encouraged the emulation of European culture, and unwittingly fostered disdainful feelings toward the "heathen" brothers of their students. Consistent with their preconceptions regarding African culture, the missionaries tended to ignore "African" forms of education because they considered them either evil or nonexistent. The African was treated as a tabula rasa upon which could be written a completely new civilization.
With a few notable exceptions, education in Nigeria was based on learning to read, write, and calculate in the English language. [...] As African history was considered either nonexistent or unimportant, the great men who were studied in the schools were the kings of England and the early white empire builders who came to Nigeria with a new and superior civilization. [...] In literature, Shakespeare and the Bible held the stage. Even today, it is not uncommon to find a semieducated Nigerian working as a steward who can name the principal English cities, quote the Bible, and recite Hamlet, but who has little knowledge of the geography, the proverbs and folk tales, or the prominent leaders and outstanding events in the history of his own country.

– James Smoot Coleman (1958). "Nigeria: Background to Nationalism.” pp. 113–115.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


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


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.

Mgbo children photographed by Northcote Thomas, c. 1913. MAA Cambridge.

The Ogu Ukwu, as they are collectively called due to their large farm tools, were more remotely related to the other Igbo area with a strong warrior tradition, the Abam-Ohafia-Bende area in addition to the Aro area in today’s Abia State. This northeastern Igbo area that mostly makes up today's Ebonyi State was the last to be conquered by the British.

Culturally and linguistically, this area is quite different from other Igbo areas, for example, ọfọ ritual staffs are not generally found in this area and the horse title took precedence; horses are especially important in this area for ritual use; a lot of the horse trade went through here, salt was a major commodity in the Uburu market. The people of this area are generally expert rice cultivators.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Ikenga

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

Expatriate photographer’s dream car stirs GT auto design world in Great Britain
At 29, David Gittens [...] has gained recognition [...] as a member of the growing colony of black Americans who are “making it” abroad[.] [...]
[...] Gittens will probably make the transition from the ranks of the comfortably well-off to those of the wealthy [...] because of the futuristic Ikenga, a car which had its origins somewhere in the mind of a nine-year-old Brooklyn boy two decades ago. [...]
[...] Gittens’ Ikenga (named for a mythical two-horned animal representing man’s life force in the culture of the Ibo tribesmen of West Africa) began to take shape in sketches on a roll of photographic paper in his studio. It was to be a luxury car of the GT ( grand touring) class.

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.”

Canoe of King Jaja of Opobo, c. 1882. Museum Volkenkunde.

King Jaja of Opobo was the first king of Opobo, founded in the 19th century. He was sold as a slave from the Igbo hinterland to Bonny where he rose up as a prominent member of the Bonny houses. King Jaja went on to break from Bonny to found Opobo, becoming a wealthy coastal merchant king whose dominance became a threat to Opobo’s rivals, including Bonny, and the British who were closing in on the Niger Delta during the palm oil trade. King Jaja was captured and exiled to the Caribbean by the British. He died en route back to Opobo in 1891.

Deeply attached to traditional religion, he was hostile to missions, but not to education. He sent one of his sons to Glasgow to be educated, and set up a secular school in Opobo, under the tutelage of a remarkable black American, Emma White. Emma White, born in Kentucky of slave parents, left the States to settle in [Liberia], ultimately coming to Opobo [where she was also hired to write King Jaja’s commercial correspondence], where she changed her name to Emma Ja Ja.

– Elizabeth Isichei (1976). “A history of the Igbo people.” p. 98.

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