Original (correct) names/spellings for Igbo City's/Towns/Villages
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.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Heavy wood door from Igboland, 19th-20th Century

This entrance door, ḿgbó èzí, likely comes from the Nri-Oka (Nri-Awka) area in northern Igboland which has a strong tradition of highly elaborate carved gateways for enclosed compounds, particularly of titled men. The patterns on the doors combine the visual elements of ichi facial markings and appropriate and masculinise conventionally feminine uli designs. Their size and artistic decoration reflected the grandeur of the òbí, the central male meeting building of titled men and thus the status, wealth, and social influence of the family head. Such doors often protected shrines visited by travellers hoping to obtain success and good luck. Highly skilled professional carvers are responsible for crafting doors; those working in Awka are the best known where they are made by men of certain umunna, patrilineages, who also make wooden panels, shrine imagery, and other ritual objects. The Nigerian-Biafran war heavily disrupted Igbo arts, before the war ḿgbó èzí were much more numerous. Ḿgbó èzí can be seen in some museums around the world including the British Museum, and in use at the Igbo farmers house installation at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia. — Nancy C. Neaher (1981) “Igbo Carved Doors”; San Francisco International Airport Museum.

An Igbo man from Achala, p.d. Anambra State, photographed by British colonial government anthropologist Northcote Thomas, 1910-1911. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge.

Igbo Compound Entrance

An entrance in a compound in Nimo, p.d. Anambra State. Photographed by Northcote Thomas, 1910-11. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Names in Igbo folk religion

A few examples of Igbo folk religious names primarily found as peoples surnames today.

Christian influence from the early 20th century altered many of these names and encouraged the proliferation of ‘Chi’ names, ‘Chi’ roughly means a life source but missionaries took it for the Christian God; a name like ‘Chioma’ which originally meant ‘good chi’ – ‘lucky’ became ‘God is good’. With Christian influence more names became centred on ‘God’, in the past names were related more with philosophy, dates, and circumstances at birth.

Àlà names

Names dedicated to the Earth Mother Àlà / Ànà / Ànị̀ are very numerous emphasising the importance of Àlà in Igbo society as the chief spiritual force on earth after the high God and derivatives. [Interestingly, most ‘Chi’ in names like Chiedozie, Chinyere, Chiemeka, Chijioke, Chika today can be substituted with Ani / Ana / Ala like Aniedozie, Aninyere, Alaemeka, Anijioke, Anika.]

Àlà / Ànà / Ànị̀ - The Earth Mother (deity)
Ájáànà / Ájáàlà (f) - Ala, the earth mother
Ànàzọ́nwụ́ - Ala protects from death
Ànị̀àgolu - Ala has obtained / provided
Ànị̀ẹ̀mẹ́ká - Ala has ‘done’ beyond our wishes
Ànị̀kà - Ala is greater
Ànị̀gèkwú - Ala will speak [for the meek] / carry out her divine will [in our favour], Ala will vindicate her followers, Ala will embarrass detractors
Ànị̀ékwénáńsí (Ekwensi) - Ala protect from poison / witchcraft / evil
Ànị̀èdózíé - Ala has protected, restored, repaired
Ànị̀ẹ̀mẹ́ná - Ala has done it all / answered our wishes
Ànị̀yẹ̀mézè - Ala bestowed leadership on me
Ànị̀chèbé (Achebe) - Ala guard us
Ànàgọ̀zíé - Ala bless us
Ànị̀gbòọ̀gụ̀ - Ala has prevented a fight [Perhaps by the birth of a child a fight over a woman’s fertility was avoided.]
Ànị̀wètà / Ànị̀wètàlụ̀ - Ala brought [this child]
Ágwụ - The deity of divination
Amádíọ̀hà - Ágbàrà of justice, lord of lightening
Ányánwụ́ - The deity / power of the sun
Chí - Soul, providence
Chíọ́má - Good chí, lucky
Chímà - Chí knows, a resolute compass of providence (chí).
Chíkà - Chí is great, an infallible compass of providence (chí).
Èjìọ̀fọ́ (Ejiofor) (m) - Righteous, wielder of the staff of divine authority / justice (ọ̀fọ́) [ọ̀fọ́ were usually held by male heads of the family obtained from the naturally fallen branches of a special tree and were used as a staff of authority that could be sworn on.]
Èjìogù (m) - Righteous, swearer to the face of divine justice (ógù) [Somebody who is innocent and swears to ógù (íjí ógù) has divine backing over an accuser and an accuser may be harmed (ị́bà ùrè) if their name is called upon.]
Ígwé - The sky deity, or leader
Íkéǹgà (m) - The cult figure of the right hand
Ìwúányánwụ́ - The law of the sun (deity)
Kámálụ́ / Kámánụ́ / Kálụ́ / Kánụ́ - Amadioha, ágbàrà of justice, lord of lightening
Ńdígwé - Heavenly descendants, heavens favoured.
Ǹjọ́kụ / Íféjíọ́kụ - Ágbàrà (deity) of yam, agriculture, and fire [who the new yam festival is partly dedicated to.]
Nwágbàrà / Nwágbàlà - Child (devotee) of an Ágbàrà, under divine grace.
Nwányánwụ́ - Child (devotee) of Ányánwụ́
Nwàlà - Child (devotee) of Àlà
Nwádíbìà - Child of a dibia (diviner)
Nwágwụ - Child (devotee) of Ágwụ
Nwáḿụ́ọ́ - Child of a spirit
Nwáǹjọ́kụ / Nwáíféjíọ́kụ́ - Child (devotee) of Ǹjọ́kụ
Nwígwé - Child (devotee) of Ígwé, or descendant of a titleder

Woman of Öka (Awka)

A woman of Öka (Awka) photographed by British colonial government anthropologist Northcote Thomas, 1910-1911. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge.

Mgburuichi - Bruchee - Breechee

An mgburuichi, an Igbo person with ichi marks associated with Nri. Northcote Thomas, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge. Igbo people were the largest group among people who had escaped enslavement on plantations in Jamaica, mgburuichi were known as 'Bruchee.'

"They were respected throughout Igboland. We have facial marks (ichi) that distinguish us from other Igbo people, and this served as a passport, enabling us to travel unharmed at a time when human beings were essential commodities. People with ichi marks were regarded as Nri men, and were not enslaved. It was probably because of this that some parts of Igboland started to wear ichi."
A 'runaway' advertisement from Jamaica, requesting the capture of escaped enslaved people for a reward in return, noted is an "Eboe man, with the Breeche cut on his forehead," this is an mgburuichi, an Igbo man with ichi marks likely from today's Anambra State. From a compilation of 18th century advertisements for escaped enslaved people in Jamaica. There are over 100 Igbo (Eboe) people listed.
The fact that Igbo "Breechee" show up in Jamaica among runaways from 1777-1793 is significant. It is a concrete sign that the trans-Atlantic slave trade had reached all the way to the Nri heartland in the Anambra valley of northern Igboland, and that by the 1770s (if not earlier) the social violence wrought by slaving and the agawhu (merchant-warlords) was violating even the ancient sacred authority—and the personal safety—of titled "Nri men," who no longer were preserved from capture or kidnapping and enslavement.
– Douglas B. Chambers. "The Igbo Diaspora in the Era of the Slave Trade."

Boy of Mgbakwu

A boy of Mgbakwu, p.d. Anambra State, photographed by British government anthropologist Northcote Thomas between 1910 and 1911. The pictures were taken as part of colonial studies on African people in order to find the best way to rule over them, a crucial study for the implementation of indirect rule. MAA Cambridge. (The original picture is black and white, this is a digitally coloured copy by Ụ́kpụ́rụ́, 2018).

To see this picture is to see one of the first ‘Nigerians.’ Aged around 7 or 8 maybe, with this photo taken between 1910 and 1911, presuming that he lived a long life past his 70’s, this doe-eyed boy of Mgbakwu may have seen the invasion of his town by the British Empire’s West African Frontier Force. Igbo settlements were still fighting back imperialism at this time. His whole world, or at least, that of his parents are about to change forever. He may have heard the word ‘Nigeria’ for the first time around the time this picture was taken. He would have gone from simply an onye Mgbakwu to a ‘Nigerian.’ Just three or four years after this picture was taken was WWI, and the amalgamation of the Northern Protectorate with the Southern Protectorate, where his home is. He may have been one of the first people in his family to be Christened, he may have gone to a mission school. He may have been given a European name. He would have seen the rise of warrant chiefs, the other invasion of ‘native authority’, that is the rise of ‘His Royal Majesty’s’ and ‘His Royal Highness’s.’ He may have eventually heard about the Women’s War of 1929 and heard about and witnessed some of the terrorism which occurred under the colonial regime. Eventually, he may have even casted a vote for a man named Nnamdi Azikiwe, his age mate. He would have gained greater knowledge of peoples far across the Niger and a river named Benue, people who had also ‘become’ Nigerian like him and by no choice of theirs now had linked destinies, he may have even travelled to live amongst them. If he lived long enough, he would have seen the independence of Nigeria. He may have seen the war.

Lady of Igbariam

This is a cropped and coloured part of a larger picture of a young woman from Igbariam, photographed by Northcote Thomas, a British colonial government anthropologist, with brass and ivory jewellery.

With the unreformed colonial-era style education system and general thought, art is considered a frivolous endeavour, learning is completely tied to acquiring capital, and the local economy is neglected (everything’s imported). All of these factors have contributed to the loss of a few indigenous forms of craftsmanship and their markets. What also gets lost with the death of a particular kind of indigenous art form or craft are the ancient motifs, techniques, and design and technology associated with them.

In the Igbo worldview, art is the physical expression and embodiment of the spirit. Technical knowledge of a particular craft or art form was passed on from generation to generation under tutelage and mentorship. One art which seems to have disappeared in the Igbo area is jewellery making, indigenous blacksmithing in general is also in danger of disappearing.

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