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, March 8, 2020

Òtù Ọdụ

"Rich Women. Onitsha. (church members.)" G. F. Packer, 1880s. Pitt Rivers Museum.

These women are likely part of the Ndị Ọdụ, Òtù Enyi, or Òtù Ọdụ society, the ivory society, the elite women’s socio-political and economic organisation of the Önïcha (Onitsha) ministate made up of wealthy members who either bought the rights to the title or whose relatives bought the rights to either wear ọdụ aka, ivory bracelets, or ọdụ ụkwụ, ivory anklets, or both.

Before the 1890s, the Ọ̀mụ Ọ̀nị̀chà, the female counterpart to the Òbi, the overall leader of Önïcha, the last being Ọ̀mụ Nwagboka, wielded great power over society, particularly women, and the Òtù Ọdụ and was the head of commerce and trade. Ọ̀mụ Nwagboka, initially resistant to Christianity and the church, later became a catalyst for the growth of church attendance among women after encouraging them to attend services which brought many women, including quite influential ones, to the Anglican mission.

Ọ̀mụ Nwagboka was initially a traditional practitioner before converting to Christianity, at least, formally. Her change in attitude to the religion may have been due to pressure from missionaries and her European trade partners who worked as two arms of European imperialism in the area, traders later becoming invaders and subsequently forming a colonial government. Indeed this may have been the case for other women traders, the most successful of whom would have no doubt been Ndị Ọdụ.

Pressure to convert also came from their children trained in mission schools; although older generations may have been resistant towards conversion, the mission school attendees eventually came to take the position at the top of society in politics, in the courts, and in what was termed ọrụ or ọlụ bekee or ọrụ oyibo, civil service and other jobs introduced by the British Empire that formed a decade after the last Ọ̀mụ Ọ̀nị̀chà. While there hasn’t been a woman appointed by the Òbi Ọ̀nị̀chà to the position of Ọ̀mụ for well over a century now, the Òtù Ọdụ society is still quite prominent.

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