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.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Igbo Landscaping and Architecture

A building photographed in the western Igbo area, filed under Onicha Olona by the MAA Cambridge, but may be another surrounding Igbo town. The trees and shrubs appear to have been planted in an order. Photographed by Northcote Thomas and assistants, c. 1912-13.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A View of the Arọ̀ from Igbere

Before the Europeans came, the Arọs […] main interest in their trade was the purchase of slaves. […] Some of them came as medicine men, […] traders […] agents of Ibìna Ụ̀kpaàbị̀. We called them Ọbụ̄ Arọ̀ bụrụ Ìgbò (He is Arọ as well as Igbo), […] Arọ̀ Oke-Ìgbò, […] Inokun. […]
The Arọ people exerted a tremendous influence over our people's culture. For instance it was through them that cassava, coconut and maize came to Igbere. They also introduced the […] gun here. […] They were feared because they were cunning as the tortoise. They fought their enemies by sending other people to fight for them. I was told that the Arọs were not answering 'Arọ' before. […] [T]he people wanted to know the name of their spear which appeared strange[.] […] They uttered 'Arọ’. […] The name Chukwu was attached to it because of the mysteries of their deity called Ibìna Ụ̀kpaàbị̀. […]
[F]rom the Aro people […] Igbere people learnt the kind of writing known as ǹsìbìrì. Ǹsìbìrì was used by members of the Ekpe secret society and could not be read by a non-member. […]
The most powerful influence came from their religion, which was feared in every land. […] In the Ibìna Ụ̀kpaàbị̀ lay their power […] people who went there never came back. […] They travelled and traded with many people in many places and we used to call them Arọ̀ enwēghi ụlọ̀ (The Arọ have no homes).
It was when the white man destroyed their oracle that the Arọs ceased to be a fearsome people.

Interview of Madukwe Anyankụ, aged 75, in Agbo, Igbere, July 10, 1973, U. O. A. Esse (1977).

Igbo Kitchenware

Igbo kitchenware, from Ögbü (Awgbu), in today's Anambra State, taken into the collection of British colonial anthropologist Northcote Thomas, c. 1910-11; Igbo names recorded in his notes as: top left, "okwa mai [ọkwa maị]," palm wine cup; top right, "Ngagis 2 Spoons for eating [ǹgàjì];" bottom, "oku mma [ọ̀kụ̀ may refer to the word for dish, mma meaning fine (as in special dishes).] ... for soup" MAA Cambridge.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Ndị Ìgbò

An unidentified group portrait taken by a Royal Niger Company employee c. 1886 - 1895. Based on other photos, these could be people from the Asaba or Önïcha area. MAA Cambridge.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Ezeani Obidigbo of Neni

"Chief Obudugbo. Ezeana of Neni" [Ezeani Obidigbo of Ugwudunu, Neni?]. Photographed by Northcote Thomas, c. 1910-11. MAA Cambridge.

The keepers of Ani (Ala), the shrine of the Earth Mother, are usually the autochthonous section of a community, a group that can trace their patriline to the original settlers of a community. Ndị nwe Ànà are the highly respected and revered spiritual leaders of a community due to the supremacy of Ani in Igbo society. To keep the Ani is to keep the laws of the land.

Various communities have their own personal Ani because of their unique relationships with Ani and the work in setting up the shrine.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Near Nnewi

Entrance gate and walls with relief of a farmer's compound at Nnewi (noted as "Entrance to a compound of IGBO farmer's house near NEWI"), northern Igbo area, c. 1938. Photo: Edward Duckworth. Pitt Rivers Museum.

Sunday, October 27, 2019


"Water play Bonny For Oko Jumbo" – Jonathan Adagogo Green (Ibani photographer). 1895-1905. British Museum.

Bonny was a powerful coastal state and major port during the slave and palm oil trade. Bonny, Ibani, known as Ụ̀banị̀ in the Igbo interior, set on trading expeditions into the creeks with dozens of canoes holding up to 120 people each. During the slave trade, a group of Bonny slaving canoes could reportedly carry back up to 2000 people from the interior. The creeks were major highways for trade. The Ụ̀banị̀ people brought European cloth and other goods such as gin, pomade, and other European-made drinks to the traders in the interior.

Bonny was settled by people coming through the Ndoki area; the Ibani and Ndoki people maintain a close relationship. Ndoki Akwete cloth is the main cloth used by Bonny's monarchy and for coming-of-age ceremonies and weddings in Bonny. The settlers of Bonny Island eventually moved towards the estuary, founding Okoloama (Bonny town), meaning curlew town. The estuary was apparently widened for Portuguese ships through a sacrifice by Asimini, a king of Bonny, of his daughter, Ogbolo, to the sea around the late 15th century. And so Bonny came to the forefront of the Trans-Atlantic trade as the first to receive the Portuguese.

As early as the 1490s, Europeans were describing the large size of canoes around this area. From around the 18th century, Bonny's war canoes were equipped with European-made cannons in their prows. Many old cannons can still be found in Bonny.

Bonny developed a sort of complex because of their success. Igbo people involved in direct trade with Bonny named their children Ubani and Nwaubani after Bonny as a symbol of wealth and prosperity.

Bonny were arbiters of taste for people in the interior when it came to foreign cloth and other European products. The fashions from here influenced what many consider their traditional dress today.

Bonny had several trading rivals, including Old Calabar (Calabar), New Calabar (Elem Kalabari, or Owome), Brass (Nembe), Andoni, Okrika, and during the oil palm era, Opobo (also Ubani to the Igbo) which split from Bonny to Egwenga or Igwenga in Andoni under Jaja of Opobo.

See: E. J. Alagoa. "The slave trade in Niger Delta oral tradition and history..."

Friday, October 25, 2019

Igbo Cotton

Cotton thread from the Igbo area donated to the British Museum by William Balfour Baikie in 1856. Photo: British Museum. Many Igbo communities grew cotton in the past, people spun and dyed them locally.

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