Reformed spellings for Igbo Settlements
Abakaliki is Abakaleke; Afikpo is Ehugbo; Asaba is Ahaba; Awgu is Ogu; Awka is Oka; Bonny is Ubani; Enugu is Enugwu; Ibusa is Igbuzor; Igrita is Igwuruta; Oguta is Ugwuta; Onitsha is Onicha; Owerri is Owerre; Oyigbo is Obigbo; Port Harcourt is Diobu; Ogwashi-Uku is Ogwa Nshi Ukwu... any more will be added.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Omu Okpanam

The Omu of Okpanam, whose name was not recorded, photographed by Northcote Thomas in 1912. Okpanam is an Enuani Igbo town near Asaba in Delta State, Nigeria today.

The Omu are titled women who control markets and are spiritual protectors to the Obi, the king, in Igbo communities west of the Niger River, typically among the Enuani, and in the past in Onicha (Onitsha) and Osomari on the east bank of the Niger River. There is one Omu in each community with the institution.

The Omu work closely with diviners performing rites for the community and are the authorities over the opening of markets and resolving disputes within the market. The Omu depending on the community and period take titles typically reserved for men and also dress like men, as a consequence women who are post-menopausal are preferred for the role because such women in Igbo society could achieve the same status as men. As is custom in most communities, the Omu was not allowed to be married to a man, Omu were known to marry wives to assist them and have children for them.

Colonialism greatly reduced the power of the Omu in the market and over society in general due to gender bias in the indirect rule system, colonialism was also partly the cause of the disappearance of the institution in some Igbo communities. Today there are many Omu who are still active in their roles.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Igbo hair

Women's hairstyles from different Igbo groups sketched by P. A. Talbot in or before the 1920s.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Bende Ekpe Club House

Interior of an Ekpe society house in Bende photographed by P. Talbot around or before the mid-1920s.

Ọ̀gwa - Igbo shrine hall

An ọ̀gwa, an ancestral meeting and reception shrine hall of household patriarchs photographed by P. Talbot around or before the mid-1920s in reference to Ogwashi Ukwu. Ogwa Nshi Ukwu means the great ọ̀gwa of founding Nri-Igbo migrants.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

18th c. Ụ̀banị̀ Ìgbò vocabulary

Ụ̀banị̀ Ìgbò, the Igbo spoken on Bonny Island in today's Rivers State, recorded by the slave trader Captain Hugh Crow from the late 18th century, from "Memoirs of the late Captain Hugh Crow of Liverpool."

Bèkê seems to have been recorded here which brings the theory that it originated from the Scottish explorer William Baikie into doubt. Westermann, Smith, Forde (1932). Oxford University Press.

Bonny Island was one of the largest slave ports of the Atlantic slave trade era, especially in the late 18th century. Hugh Crow describes the predominance of Igbo captives on the island, most going to British colonies. "Memoirs..." p. 198.

This led to a large amount of Igbo people in the British Caribbean in particular, in places like Jamaica where this early 19th century description was made. John Stewart (1808). "An Account of Jamaica, and Its Inhabitants." p. 235–236.

Could some of these words have been recorded from some of the ancestors of people now in North America?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Les Békés

A woman from Guadeloupe (apparently en route to Montreal, Canada). Photographed by Augustus Frederick Sherman.

The word for white men in the French-speaking Caribbean island of Martinique and to a certain extent Guadeloupe is Béké presumed to be from bèkée in Igbo meaning the same. These islands were the disembarkation points for many Igbo people during the forced Atlantic migrations from the 16th to 19th century. Igbo is the main component of English Caribbean creoles and, as may be apparent, has influenced French Caribbean creoles.

Some of the Ubani (Bonny) Igbo recorded by slave trader Hugh Crow.

The popular folk etymology of the word bèkée in Igbo says that it was derived from the Scottish explorer William Baikie who had contact with Igbo people, however, what seems to be a word used in the same way as bèkée has been found in the memoirs of Captain Hugh Crow, a slave trader out of Liverpool who had close contacts with the Igbo speaking middlemen of Bonny Island in Rivers State today. His voyages largely took place in the 18th century and he died in 1829, Baikie was born in 1825.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Peopling of Ikot Ishie, an Igbo Diasporic Town of Calabar

Photo: "The Calaba and Opobo people at the show, Lagos," 1909 postcard.
[Ikot Ishie, Calabar] was named after Ishie Offiong Okoho, an Igbo ex-slave of Chief Offiong Okoho of Archibong House in Duke Town[.] […] Oral tradition maintains that Ishie, an Igbo slave, was bought as a youth and grew up in his masters' household. He was adopted and acquired the name Offiong Okoho from his master, Chief Offiong Okoho. […] Having served his master faithfully, Ishie Offiong Okoho was manumitted and was allocated the whole expanse of land (consisting of Ikot Ishie area) to live and prosper on his own.

[Apparently, Ishie Offiong Okoho also became a wealthy trader during the slave trade era, obtaining his slaves from the interior of the Igbo area to his domain of Ikot Ishie.]

Photo: "Government Hill from Duketown, Old Calabar," 1903 postcard.
Beside the present Bassey Duke, Bedwell, Chamley and Nelson Mandela axis, Ikot Ishie has the highest concentration of Igbo community in Calabar. [...] [N]inety percent of traders in the Ikot Ishie market are of Igbo extraction, and [speak] Efik [...] though they have not lost contact with their original homeland, the Igbo at Ikot Ishie have been, and will remain, part of Archibong House.
[Edit: Chief Ishie Offiong Okoho apparently died in 1901 according to the recounting of the Ishie House's genealogy in a court case over land disputes in 2000 involving his descendants.]

– Winifred E. Akoda (2005). “The Socio-economic Impact of Stranger Communities in Calabar: A Study of the Igbo and Hausa Since 1900.” In: “History and Citizenship: Essays in Honour of Okon Edet Uya.” University of Calabar Press. pp. 160–161.

The forced human migration is a long and complicated history which can be attributed to the nature of slavery, more like indentured servitude, in the interior of the Bight of Biafra itself which, outside of Atlantic expulsion, resulted in the absorption of servants into a household resulting in a population today that is largely descended from a mixture of both masters and servants. (And this indentured servitude system seems to have survived in the form of houseboys and housegirls today.)

Friday, May 31, 2019

Ase, Ndị Osimili

"Assay Chief & wife." P A Mc C. British Museum. Ase is an Ndị Osimili settlement on the Ase River which connects to the Niger River, now in Delta State. It is an Igbo-speaking settlement with a mixture of Isoko and Ijo ancestry as it is near the border of these three cultural areas. In the late 19th century, British traders established a trading post in Ase, such posts were used for imperial expansion, as in the case of the bombardment of Patani in 1882 for its attack on the National African Company's factory in Ase.

In Assay village (Ejaw) some of the women were busy making fishing nets, whilst others were engaged in preparing the evening meal. Many of the girls had heavy bands of ivory around their ankles and wrists. They seemed to serve the same purpose as the bracelets of our English girls. As it was the dry season the river was very low, many sand banks being visible. On a number of these, fishermen had pitched their grass huts. I could not help thinking of them as Arabs in the desert resting by the wayside. Pitched on the golden sand in the middle of the river, they looked most picturesque.

– R. Hope (1906). “With Pen and Camera in Nigeria.” In: “Journal of the Manchester Geographical Society.” p. 130.

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