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.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Yọ́k Òbòlò of Andoni

Objects of the shrine of Yọ́k Òbòlò of the Andoni, Agwut Obolo, present-day Rivers State. By A. A. Whitehouse who led a raid on the shrine, 1904. British Museum.

Andoni was difficult for missionaries to penetrate. Yọ́k Òbòlò was condemned by figures like Ajayi Crowther, who led the destruction of its offshoots in Bonny, for its role in the resistance to Christianity in the area, especially in the case of Jaja of Opobo who was in dispute with Crowther and Christian missions.

Bronze and copper sword from Alama, also known as Alabie, known as Allabia to Europeans, Agwut Obolo. Looted by Whitehouse and company from the shrine of Yọ́k Òbòlò. Now at the British Museum. Photo: British Museum.

King Jaja was given land by the Andoni in 1869 to found Opobo with the condition that he venerated Yọ́k Òbòlò in the form of objects given to the divinity annually, a requirement of all under the influence of the divinity. The king also wore a ritual necklace of the divinity.

Traditional religion underpinned autonomy and inspired resistance while Christianity was used as pacification. This gave rise to the colonial regime's policy of destroying shrines and major oracles.

Bronze leopard skull from the shrine of Yọ́k Òbòlò, Alama, also known as Alabie, Agwut Obolo. Photo: British Museum.

The shrine of Yọ́k Òbòlò housed sacred bronze and ivory objects as well as the skulls of the adversaries of the Andoni, this was how it came to be known as the 'House of Skulls'.

Bronze seated figure from the shrine of Yọ́k Òbòlò, Alama, also known as Alabie, Agwut Obolo. Photo: British Museum.

Yọ́k Òbòlò is the tutelary war and justice divinity of the Andoni. Later a collective of multiple divinities, Yọ́k Òbòlò is regarded as a king of the Andoni, a deified soldier, and, traditionally, the Andoni regard themselves as the followers of Yọ́k Òbòlò. Already active before the 18th century, Yọ́k Òbòlò was thought to forbid the Andoni from starting wars, but sanctioned punitive actions against the Andoni's aggressors. Yọ́k Òbòlò also forbade civil wars in Andoni or the killing of Andoni by other Andoni, punishable by impalement.

The bronzes in the shrine of Yọ́k Òbòlò are of unknown origin, believed by some scholars to be the work of itinerary smiths, placed within the class of bronze sculptures studied collectively under the title of the Lower Niger Bronze Industry.

Copper object (manilla?) from the shrine of Yọ́k Òbòlò, Alama, also known as Alabie, Agwut Obolo. Photo: British Museum.

Although officially ‘destroyed’ by the British in 1904, and many of the bronze shrine pieces looted and now in the British Museum and National Museums Scotland, like many major shrines and oracles ‘destroyed', it was merely moved or reinstated shortly after. The influence of Yọ́k Òbòlò continues. A drum sacred to the shrine was not captured by the British. Later Christian missionaries were more affective in diminishing African spiritual autonomy.

Sources: Nkparom C. Ejituwu (1995); Monday B. Abasiattai (1990); Joseph Miles Davey (2015).

Friday, February 14, 2020


"The Inokon Society, Creek Town, Calabar." Postcard from c. 1910s-20s. Ụ́kpụ́rụ́ Collection.

Inokon or Inokun may be related to Okon, a founding figure in the history of Arochukwu. It is the name the Aro people are known by in the Cross River area.

The Aros are often called Inokuns. Authorities disagree as to the difference between these names. It is stated that the Aros are the aristocratic or freeborn caste of the Inokun tribe, that there are sixteen Aro towns, each presided over by a chief of its own, and that these chiefs in united council used to govern the whole Inokun tribe. Of these sixteen towns, all in the near neighbourhood of the "Long Juju," the principal is Ibum [Ibom]. The Assistant District Commissioner used to live down in the town itself, but it was found to be damp and unhealthy, so the station was moved to the top of a hill about one and a half miles outside, previously occupied as an outlying farm of the township. Ibum is marked "Aro Chuku'' on the map, and the Government residence stands about midway between Aro Chuku and Obagu. From this hill one looks down upon the Aro towns, indicated in the densely wooded valley by the columns of blue smoke overhanging them.

– Charles Partridge (1905). Cross River Natives. p. 54.

The articles exposed for sale were of the common produce of the country, with cloth and other European goods imported into Calabar and Bonny. Those latter are brought across the country by the people of Inokun, a town or district of Ibo, who travel among these tribes, making trade in every commodity they can get sold—slaves included. Their women are distinguished by the tasteful and elaborate mode in which they dress their hair. Their scanty clothing—merely a loins' cloth—gives little scope for displaying their desire for personal adornment, but they are at great pains to secure this in their hair-dressing. We do not often see such ornamental heads in Calabar; but the women of Gaboon have an elaborate mode of producing them. It is said there that it occupies a day to dress a head, but one dressing will suffice for a fortnight.

– Hugh Goldie (1901). Calabar and Its Mission. p. 287.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Àbọ House

"Eboe House", a drawing on the map of the Niger River by the Lander Brothers while on their expedition of the Niger River in 1830. via archive.org.
The little we could see of the houses with which the shore is interspersed gave us a very favourable impression of the judgment and cleanliness of the inhabitants of the town. They are neatly built of yellow clay, plastered over, and thatched with palm-leaves; yards sprucely fenced are annexed to each of them, in which plantains, bananas, and cocoa-trees grow, exhibiting a pleasing sight, and affording a delightful shade.

– The Lander Brothers, 1832. From Journal of an Expedition to Explore the Course and Termination of the Niger. Vol. II, p. 210.

Àbọ Canoe

"Eboe Canoe." An Abö canoe via the Lander Brothers while on their expedition of the Niger River in 1830. via archive.org.
An hour or two after this, or about midday, one of the Eboe men in our canoe exclaimed, “There is my country!” pointing to a clump of very high trees, which was yet at some distance before us; and after passing a low fertile island, we quickly came to it. Here we observed a few fishing-canoes, but their owners appeared suspicious and fearful, and would not come near us, though their national flag, which is a British Union, sewed on a large piece of plain white cotton with scallops of blue, was streaming from a long staff in the bow. The town was yet, we were told, a good way down the river. In a short time, however, we came to an extensive morass, intersected by little channels in every direction, and by one of these we got into clear water, in front of the Eboe town. Here we found hundreds of canoes, some of them even larger than any we had previously met with. They are furnished with sheds and awnings, and afford commodious habitations for a vast number of people, who constantly reside in them; perhaps one of these canoes, which is made of a single trunk, contains as many as seventy individuals.

– The Lander Brothers, 1832. From Journal of an Expedition to Explore the Course and Termination of the Niger. Vol. II, p. 210.

Igbo Runaways

Igbo 'runaways' in Jamaica on a page of The Royal Gazette, a 19th c. newspaper. Runaways escaped slavery for freedom. This is from a list of those caught c. 1826. These people were born in the Igbo country and taken over the Atlantic to the West Indies. University of Southampton.

The British abolished the slave trade in 1807 and slavery in their colonies in 1833, gradually taking effect after August 1, 1834. Formerly enslaved people over the age of six were apprenticed for some years until this system was abolished in 1838.

Thursday, February 6, 2020


"The Aboh Creek", drawn from an 1841 visit during the British government's Niger Expedition.

Abö (Àbọ) was the most powerful mercantile state on the Lower Niger before European incursion into these hinterland areas around the Niger.

Located directly on the western bank of the Niger River, near the Forcados and Nun rivers from which the Niger runs into the Atlantic, Abö controlled trade on the Niger from the delta areas up to Asaba, with its influence reaching Ida, the Igala capital and main trading rival of Abö.

Only with the establishment of a European trading and mission station in Önïcha in 1857 did it come to stop being the controller of much of the goods that were previously being brought from the delta states to Abö to be distributed into the hinterland in exchange for produce.

Europeans saw Abö as the 'capital of the Igbo country' and the Obi of Abö as the 'king of the Igbo'. They also regarded Abö as the most important Igbo settlement. Abö was one of the first Igbo towns to receive Europeans when the hinterland was largely unknown to them.

Abö men and women were involved in long-distance trading on armed canoes. Because of their reliance on trading hinterland produce, particularly palm oil later on, Abö people also settled on parts of the Imo River to the east, in places such as Akwete, Owerenta, and Mbaise.

Abö reached the peak of its influence and its largest extent under Obi Osai who became Obi sometime in the 1820s until his death in 1844. His was the last era in which the Lower Niger’s trade was controlled by Africans.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Igbo Compound Tower

"An [Igbo] chief’s compound, with war-tower and inner wall; natives listening to phonograph; Azia, Onitsha district." A. E. Kitson, published 1913.

Each house stood in a compound surrounded by a high mud wall. There were small loop holes in the walls at equal distances, through which a gun could be fired in the event of an enemy attacking the town. In each compound also there was generally at least one high tree with a platform in its branches, from which a good lookout could be obtained. We noticed also two large, square watch-towers, three times the height of ordinary houses.

– T. J. Dennis (1899). Itineration in the Ibo Country. p. 780.

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