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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


An Igbo girl photographed in Nibo and noted as ‘Nwauko’ in Northcote Thomas’ photographic register, c. 1910-11.

Monday, January 28, 2019


"Old Abakaliki" from an photo album made before the 1920s. The National Archives UK.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

1699 Map of New Calabar

1699 map in French of the New Calabar River, a major centre of the slave trade. The map locates the “Ville du Nouveau Kalabar” (New Calabar or Elem Kalabari), “Ville de Bandi” (Ubani > Bonny), and "Ville de Doni" (Andoni), and some other places. Via slavevoyages.org

A Young Man of Öka

A young Igbo man from Öka (Awka) photographed by Northcote Thomas, 1910-11. Coloured by @ukpuru 2019.

Akenta Bob

"AKenta Bob (Ibibio) in her wedding dress New Calabar [Elem Kalabari]" – Jonathan Adagogo Green, late 19th century – early 20th century. British Museum.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Fighting in Nigeria, The Navy And Army Illustrated, January 3, 1903.

A European describes tactics of invasion and suppression of indigenous people in what became eastern Nigeria.

Early in November a disturbance among the tribes in Southern Nigeria was reported at Opobo, and a force of Hausas was sent to restore order. These little frays seldom attract much attention in the Press, yet they are of frequent occurrence, the condition of the country being very unsettled, even at the best of times. The particular offence this time was raiding, a common form of amusement with the natives, but on more than one occasion truculent tribes have closed the mail route and threatened to kill any white men and soldiers who appeared. When this happens somewhat stern repressive measures have to be taken; but for raiding a couple of hundred men and carriers nearly always suffice to restore order, for it is seldom that any serious opposition is encountered. Generally, however, in order to make sure of the quarry, the officer in common makes a couple of forced marches (or more, of course, if necessary) and comes upon the marauders suddenly and unexpectedly.
TREE-CLIMBING EXTRAORDINARY. | The way natives of Nigeria "shin up" a tree."
The destruction of native villages is a great factor in the punishment, but tender-hearted folk at home need not cry about “methods of barbarism!” As one of the accompanying illustrations shows, the houses in these parts are very loosely and easily put together, and the punishment does not consist so much in having the home destroyed as in having to build a new one, for niggers in Nigeria are, despite the good old proverb, as lazy as can be found anywhere, and hate work of any sort, Sometimes as many as twelve “towns" will be razed to the ground by one expedition, and yet the total of casualties will not exceed a score and a-half.
A NATIVE CLEARING. | Plenty of these are to be seen in the vicinity of the villages."
Last week news was received that a further Ju-Ju had been discovered [the Igwe ka Ala oracle] and reported at Oweri, more ancient even than the famous Long Juju which the Aro Expedition suppressed twelve months ago. The expedition reached Oma Nahah [Umunneoha] on the morning of November 17. Sharp fighting ensued, the chiefs sending back a most defiant message to a demand for a palaver. The Maxim which the force had with them did good service, but the enemy kept well out of sight. Fighting lasted altogether for nearly six hours, but only slight wounds seem to have been received by the British troops. As there did not appear to be much chance of getting food and water, the force retired, and further preparations were rapidly made for the effectual suppression of the rebels. In order that the whole tribe should be captured, it was decided that Oma Nahah should be attacked from two sides, but up to the time of writing the results of the movements of the force have not been reported.
READY TO MARCH. | Men of an expedition leaving a dismantled village."
Officers of the West African Frontier Field Force do not, unfortunately, get very much spare time for writing, or they could send home some strange stories of life in the Hinterland. The tale of the massacre of Mr. Phillip’s party at Benin and the subsequent disposal of King Duboar is now old history, but it is history which is repeating itself on a small scale every two months or so. Wholesale murder is not perhaps quite so rife as it was at that time, but life is by no means comfortably safe in certain parts, even in these enlightened days. The increase of trade, however, is rapidly improving the condition of affairs, and what was once the worst human shambles of Africa is becoming to a certain extent civilised. There can be no doubt that this is due in a great measure to the various men who have gone out there both in military and civil command of affairs, and to the wholesome fear the natives entertain for the Hausa troops.

– Fighting in Nigeria, The Navy And Army Illustrated, January 3, 1903

Friday, December 28, 2018

Trees in Igbo Society

Photo: Bread Fruit Tree Ikorofiong, Calabar, Nigeria, ca. 1900-1910, Unknown photographer.

Trees are important in Igbo spirituality as symbols of life and channels to the earth force. Trees are symbols of life and channels to the earth force and are often at the centre of shrines.

In Igbo tradition, a child’s umbilical cord is buried with a newly planted fruit tree (ili alo); this becomes the child’s tree of life (nkwu alo) which secures lands, confirms the child’s blood relation to the patrilineage, and forms a bond between the child and the Earth Mother, Ala. Many settlements were named after plants and trees, such as achara (bamboo), uga (Anacystrophyllum opacum), and ahiara (giant leaf grass), many of these settlements started at the base of large trees or with some of these plants as their main natural feature. There are so many trees which ritual symbolism in the Igbo area, the ogirisi often used for the deceased, the abosi, the ngwu tree which is a symbol of wisdom (where the term okongwu comes from) and from which okpesi ancestor statues are sometimes carved, the agba tree, the ogbu (fig tree) often used for the living, and so on.


Akpu is a sacred silk-cotton tree which is a way to the unseen world of ancestors and spirits, it is where spirits of children stay and sitting under this tree is said to increase the chances of pregnancy. This is different from cassava which was introduced by Europeans from the Americas in the last 500 years, the akpu’s leaves resemble cassava leaves, so it’s possible the name was loaned to cassava when it was imported.


Oji, most commonly known by the Yoruba name Iroko, is a very large tree considered to have mystical powers like many trees. The oji was planted near shrines to give the same impression as a cathedral. Oji also stands as a metaphor for strength, nobility, and resilience. Its wood is used for titled men’s stools, compound doors/gates, and large ikoro slit drums, as well as other important ritual items.


The achi is noted for its size and the amount of shade it provides, it has similar symbolism to the oji (iroko) tree in terms of spirituality and ritual, but it is mostly prized for its fruit. Like many large trees, it houses spirits and is a portal for the ancestors. It is a symbol of resilience, strength and virility.


Uburu, or ubulu, is a totemic tree which was central to many Igbo settlements and has lent its name to several such as Ubulu-Uku (Igbo: ’the big ubulu’) in p.d. Delta State where the tree is revered and the original one which the town is named after still stands in the middle of this town from where the first families spread out from hundreds of years ago.


The ofo is the tree from which the staff of justice of the same name is hewn from, it is generally forbidden to cut or place a knife against a living ofo tree or use its branches for firewood, so the ofo branches had to naturally fall off in order to be used as a staff of justice, such sticks would have to be consecrated through a ritual known as isa ofo. The ofo serves as a connection between the living and the ancestors and the spirit world. A family’s ofo staff is entrusted in the care of a first son of the family whose father has transitioned, additionally there are ofo for organisations and deities. These trees also serve as shrines.

Other crops and trees that were introduced in the last 500 years in addition to cassava (yuca) are maize (corn), plantains, potatoes, pineapples, tobacco, papaya (pawpaw), most of these from the Americas.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Ishi Nwa Njọkụ

Photo: Shrine with human skull at Obieni, in today's Cross River State, probably the revered head-pieces of deceased family heads, from Charles Partridge (1905). Cross River Natives. p. 64.
Around [the yam title, by the yam title society Ndi Eze Ji] is the theory that certain male and female children called Njoku and Mmaji respectively, may be born only to members of this society. ... As the human representatives of the yam deity, Njoku and Mmaji are entitled to privileges. They have a right to any yam they may demand from the Oba [yam barn].
Wherever they occur, Njoku claims the bride-wealth of Mmaji no matter who the mother may be. ... Mmaji must be the first wife of her husband [and] the only [Mmaji].
Their heads may not touch the ground at death. At burial, there is a raised platform to which a solid receiver is attached ... in order to collect the head as it falls out after decay. The head is then ritually dug out, washed, put away in a box which is placed on a raised platform for the purpose.
Njoku or Mmaji heads ... are loved as "status objects" but hated for the problems they create on their death. ... No member of the family may eat yam until they are ritually buried; a very costly affair. A Njoku or Mmaji ... must find a female or male opposite to marry.

– Victor C. Uchendu (1964). "The Status Implications of Igbo Religious Beliefs." The Nigerian Field vol. 69. p. 32.

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