Original

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.

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

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

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.

Achi

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

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.

Ofo

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.

Ögbü Compound

Ögbü (Awgbu), p.d. Anambra State, what was described as a store house by Northcote Thomas, tower in the background, May 1911. Part of Thomas’ British colonial government backed anthropological tour of the north-central Igbo-speaking area.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Ágụ́ is the Leopard

A 'lost-wax' cast vessel in the form of a shell surmounted by a leopard. Igbo-Ukwu, 9th century CE. National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Dirk Bakker.

The leopard is the prestige big cat in Igbo tradition and that of most southern Nigerian cultures. It is the king of the forest, noted for its wit when hunting and avoiding traps and for its dexterity, it is the latter that had inspired the nsibidi mimetic movements of the Ekpe leopard men's society (ekpe means leopard in Efik and some Igbo dialects). While the lion is the symbol of power and authority in other cultures, in Igbo society this position is held for the leopard, in fact the lion is nowhere near as significant in Igbo folklore as the leopard. The particular species of leopard found around the Igbo area is the West African forest leopard (P. p. leopardus), the reverence of leopards could be down to the greater prevalence of leopards compared to other bigger cats, especially the grassland-dwelling lions.

It is common for leopard skins to be collected and displayed in the homes of high-ranking individuals in society, titles were also given to those successful in leopard hunts which were regarded as no mean feat, this is reflected in names such as Ogbuagụ, leopard killer. Conversely, leopards were revered as a cult symbol in some communities and their killing expressly forbidden, certain lineages were believed to possess the 'medicine' (ọgwụ) enabling human-to-leopard metamorphosis (ịhi agụ), in such communities, hunting a leopard could be seen as good as hunting a potential kinsman.

The use of agụ as a praise name or compliment further goes to show the reverence the leopard and its nature has in Igbo society, calling someone agụ or agụ nwanyị denotes that the person exhibits the abilities and attributes of the most admired, valued, respected and revered animal in Igbo folklore.

Originally posted on Facebook August 29, 2017.

Men and Mask

Masquerades from different cultural regions of the Igbo area photographed by G. I. Jones in the 1930s.

Masquerades representing fierce animals and mythological beasts, and often a mixture of human and animal traits, emphasise humanity’s connection with the animal and natural world which also serves to tap into the primal animal energy existing within people. The imitation of women also serves a similar purpose as both a way to tap into a specific personal trait and to police and monitor that particular section of society and nature. By appropriating the virtuous aspects of animals, the masker defines the bounds and limits of the manifestation of animal energy in the community and in people, the masks work to have that energy directed to where and when it may be useful like in times of warfare, or to prevent animal attacks. By representing women, men enforce the power to channel female energy as they feel appropriate, at the same time acting out on curiosity and out of admiration of women all while being hidden behind a mask.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Isuochi man

A man who may possibly be from Isuochi (as the album was labelled). Photographed by G. I. Jones, 1930s.

Isuochi people

People who may be from Isuochi (as the album was labelled). Photographed by G. I. Jones, 1930s.

The ùrì body art of women who may be from Isuochi (as the album was labelled) [cropped].

Isuochi man

A man who may possibly be from Isuochi (as the album was labelled). Photographed by G. I. Jones, 1930s.

Ifogu Nkporo

"Ogu wooden face mask," part of the Nkporo people's Ifogu masquerade at Elugu Nkporo in p.d. Abia State, photographed by G. I. Jones in the 1930s.

Nkporo initiates

Young male Nkporo initiates dancing masks with tall fibre extensions, eastern Igbo area (p.d. Abia State), 1930s. Photo: G.I. Jones.

Igbo male hairstyles

Igbo male hairstyles from the northern area and one (bottom left) from Igbuzo. The photos were taken by Northcote Thomas in 1910-11, and G. T. Basden before 1921.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Okpu Agha

An Igbo elder of Öka (Awka) wearing an okpu agha, or "war hat" as noted here by Northcote Thomas, 1910-11. Northcote Thomas' album, MAA Cambridge.

As a defence against ... weapons the Ibo had devised fibre 'crash' helmets or okpu agha. Those ... are entirely plaited out of the coarse fibre in the stems of Colocasia antiquorum. Dalziel remarks: 'The Ibos use caps or helmets and a kind of armour woven from the fibre got from the petioles.'

– M. D. W. Jeffreys (1956). "Ibo Warfare." Man, Vol. 56 (June, 1956). p. 78.

Agulu Igbo man

North Thomas' notes on an Igbo man from Agulu: "Side fringe[?], man. 1910-11. " This style appears on a number of Igbo men and may have some significance.

Northcote Thomas' album, MAA Cambridge.

History and Origin of Igbo Israel

1710 map by Herman Moll with description of "White men" in West Africa who "keep the Sabbath."

Many Westernised Africans before the 20th century regarded West African history and culture as inadequate for countering the Western narrative of African inferiority. European imperial powers relied on the bible as a historic and scientific source and drew from it the Hamitic theory, the theory of conquering Asiatic white people who left their traces among ‘darker races,’ in order to legitimise their conquest. Europeans at the time searched for any tenuous links that could be made between African cultures and the Levant to find ‘Judaic influence’ in a particular area, without any evidence from indigenous history itself.

The Hamitic theory, in the minds of Westernised Africans, proved to be a literal redemption for Africans and their history. The newly Christianised black people, living during and after the abolishment of slavery in Britain, looked towards the ‘racial uplift’ of black people in order to challenge the characterisation of black people as a savage race without a history. Many people who followed this movement adopted the Hamitic theory and in line with European perceptions, they regarded contemporary Africans as existing in a degraded state, contrasting with their past glory in Asia. Olaudah Equiano alluded to this in “The Interesting Narrative… ,” an 18th century slave narrative and abolitionist piece, when he compared the ‘Eboe’ (Igbo) to the Jews. He writes on page 7 of “The Interesting Narrative…” of 1794 “[a]s to the difference of colour between the Eboan Africans and the modern Jews, I shall not presume to account for it. It is a subject which has engaged the pens of men of both genius and learning, and is far above my strength.” As can be gleaned from his last statement, his comparison of the Jews and ‘Eboans’ came from a source which was likely connected to Western scholarship at the time. Olaudah Equiano’s views on Igbo Israel could not be articulated from the little Igbo folklore that he managed to salvage, for example.

Philip S. Zachernuk writes: “The Hamitic model was attractive because it was authorized by imperial writing, and because it could support an historical identity acceptable to an aspirant colonial élite. … [Africanus] Horton [or James Beale, a medical surgeon of the British Army from a prominent Krio family of Igbo descent in Freetown, Sierra Leone] squares off against … proponents of … African inferiority, … he argues that the Igbos' religion showed clearly that they were one of Israel's lost tribes. This fact vouched for their potential. …”

Westernised Africans used Western and Asian cultures as a barometer for success and potential, African cultures’ value in their minds was not based on an evaluation of their ethics and achievements, but by their proximity to civilisations held in high esteem by Westerners. The view of African cultures on their own however, Philip S. Zachernuk writes: “... like his African-American and European peers, Horton believes that West Africa's history added little to his defence of his race. … West Africans [according to Africanus Horton] had until recent European contact lived generally in a state of 'utter darkness' and 'barbarism'. They had no history since their migration because without a written language 'events once out of sight are for ever lost; they pass away like spectres in a phantasmagoria, leaving no other trace behind them than a dreamy collection of some distant circumstances that had taken place’."

What is often overlooked in these sources proposing an Igbo-Israel link is the extreme racism and stereotypes that are often the core beliefs of the writers, whether Westernised-black or white. This includes the allusion to Igbo culture being a ‘negrofied’ and, hence, degraded version of Hebraic customs. Some contemporary proponents of the Igbo-Israel link accept these racist views and point out that ‘barbaric’ customs that link the Igbo people with their neighbours is as a result of the original (white) Hebrews ’soiling’ themselves, their customs and their heritage by intermingling with Africans and borrowing their customs, and therefore breaking a covenant with the Hebrew supreme deity which has led to the misfortunes (slavery, war) that has befallen the Igbo people.

Anthropologists and missionaries who alluded to a supposed Jewish link with the Igbo people were going along with the prevailing European colonial narrative at the time, Britain and other European nations were happy to see evidence of past ‘Eurasian’ influence on ‘darker peoples’ because it validated and reaffirmed their presence as part of an ancient rule of conquering white people from Eurasia. Philip S. Zachernuk:

G. T. Basden, writing as a missionary who 'enjoyed the privilege' of the Igbos' 'intimate confidence and friendship', … suggested like Horton that their favoured groups had racial affinities with ancient Hebrews … insisting that their West African groups were not remote primitives but vestiges of a higher culture.

The flag of colonial Nigeria notably has a hexagram similar to the Star of David which may be a hint to the Hamitic theory of civilising white Asiatics. The area that is now Nigeria has been under this speculation by Europeans for centuries, in a 1710 map by Herman Moll, the annotation for Guinea, which today is the area between Ivory Coast and Cameroon, reads: “I am credibly informed, that ye Country about hundred Leagues North of the Coast of Guinea is inhabited by white Men, or at least a different kind of People from the Blacks, who wear Cloaths, and they have ye use of Letters, make Silk, & that some of them keep the Christian Sabbath.”

The work of Olaudah Equiano, Horton and so on were, at their time, with their understanding, their way of improving the image of African people, an image which at the time of Equiano meant the difference between the continuity of the emptying out of Africa of people for European colonial plantations, or abolition. For Horton, his separation from his parents culture and his patriclan and the lack of any material countering Eurocentric views no doubt influenced his view about Africans; Igbo society, for example, is structured and therefore dependent on not only the knowledge of generations of ancestors, but also the history of how each family came to be in the community which in turn affects their standing as a voice in the community. Today there is enough evidence from different sources including Africans living in their culture today to show that West African cultures, including the Igbo culture, are capable of standing on their own as a testament to African ingenuity, sophistication, and humanity.

See: Philip S. Zachernuk (1994). Of Origins and Colonial Order: Southern Nigerian Historians and the 'Hamitic Hypothesis' C. 1870-1970. pp. 444, 436, 453.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Agukwu Nri

A woman and child from Agukwu Nri, photographed by Northcote Thomas, 1910-11. Colourised Ukpuru 2018.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Azu Anya Mmuo

Photo by Northcote Thomas in Öka (Awka), 1910-11. MAA Cambridge.

Azụ anya mmụọ, the 'eyes of the spirits,' a wooden openwork panel that stays in the shrine area in front of an obi in the north-central Igbo area. The panels represent the presence and protection of ancestral forces. They can be seen outside from the front of an obi facing the compound entrance from which the spirits protect against and ward off any encroaching evil. In turn, the spirits on the altar in front of the azụ anya mmụọ gain access to the outside world through the holes in the panels.

The rest of the buildings and the walls of the compound elaborate on the designs of the obi. In front of the azụ anya mmụọ, in the interior of obi, lay religious objects such as ọfọ, okpesi ancestral memorial statues, Ikenga, title-staffs of ancestors such as ngwụ agịlịga and alọ, and carefully packaged horse skulls and other sacrificed animals, these animals may also include those specially sacrificed by an ancestor, for instance, in a title-taking ceremony.

The obi as the main abode and meeting place of the patriarch of the compound is the site of the main ancestral shrine, the handling of such shrines throughout the Igbo area, regardless of the presence or absence of azụ anya mmụọ, is the exclusive right of patriarchs whose fathers have passed away and are therefore in the spiritual world, before then a son usually relies on a patriarch who is the direct son, and subsequently the closest male descendant to the ancestors, to handle ancestral work.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Ten Circular Structures at Ugwu Uto, Nsude

A together, ten pyramid-like structure photographed by G. I. Jones in 1935. MAA Cambridge.
In the neighbourhood of Ngwo, Nsude and Agbaja [Ọwa] in the Udi Division, at intervals, the people construct quaint circular pyramids. Clay is used for the purpose. The bases are about sixty feet in circumference and two to three feet in height. Then another section is laid about forty-five feet in circumference and so on until the pinnacle is reached. They are erected to the honour of Ala and to indicate ownership of land.
G. I. Jones in front of the structure, 1935. MAA Cambridge.
Two rows of five are built parallel to one another which means that 'Ala' gives children with the right hand and the left. The god (or goddess) dwells in the pinnacle and, thus, is in a position to detect any person committing evil. Such a person will be caught by the god and secured with shackles; these are represented by small sticks inserted in the clay near the tops of the pyramids.

— G. T. Basden (1912). Among the Ibos of Nigeria. p. 109.

[There were other pyramids, sometimes larger, in other areas of Igboland such as around the Abam. The ten Ugwu Uto pyramids no longer stand, although it seems as though their original site is known.]

If you look closely at the shape of these mounds, they look somewhat like stylised breasts with prominent nipples at the top. It is also interesting to note that the ten mounds were aligned five-by-five in two rows, so each was paired up. There is an established Igbo tradition of using mounds to represent feminine divinities like Akwali of Öka, could these pyramids actually be elaborations on the mound, along with the other supposed pyramids in other Igbo areas?

"Two rows of five are built parallel to one another which means that 'Ala' gives children with the right hand and the left."

Mgbe Worker

[An Igbo] spirit worker painting the walls of an mbari nearing completion. Note the double Mami Wata images at left. Photo 1930s, [Near Owere]. - Herbert Cole, 1988.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Green Sahara Event Map

This is a chronological map for that completely conjectural Green Sahara migration theory. The dates are all of real events, one date about the supposed Sahara migration to the Igbo area (5000 BP), is also estimated, and the 5500 BP date of migration to the east is also a theory. All these 'coincidentally' happened around the end of the Neolithic Subpluvial, or when the Sahara went dry.

In this theory, Megachad, the original size of Lake Chad, is probably the heart of the Sahara population.

More information about the theory see The Wet Sahara: A Practical Approach to the Question of the ‘Origin of the Igbo people?’

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Iji Ogu

Igbo shrine house photographed by Gustaf Bolinder, 1930-31.

Ogu is divine retributive justice in the Igbo world view. In many communities iji Ogu is the act of holding ọmụ (tender palm fronds) at a sacred place whether at a woman’s hearth for instance or a shrine and declaring one’s innocence in a dispute or quarrel and for whatever one is accused of. The act is meant to appeal to the spirit of Ogu in order to vindicate the swearer, or in the case of a false declaration of innocence, an exposure and usually death. The act of iji Ogu can also include the calling of accusers names by the swearer, in this case if the swearer was falsely implicated then the wrath of Ogu falls on the accuser and the accused vindicated. Whenever the spirit, Ogu, acts on mortals in whichever way, that is when iji Ogu bara n’erere, meaning that the swearing to Ogu had yielded a spiritually potent result. Re is an interesting Igbo verb that’s associated with spiritual potency, like that of a talisman.

Ogu is paired with Ọfọ, which is roughly ancestral authority, which can also be authority of divinities, and together they form a two-fold form of spiritual appeal and justice in Igbo society. Unlike Ọfọ, Ogu, apart from the ọmụ, does not usually have any specific emblem and it can be freely and openly appealed to by men and women alike without a mediator. The other universal force that humans, of all walks of like, have the ability to appeal to without a mediator or emblem in Igbo society is the universal Chi.

As one’s own personal chi and eke is connected to all others, the course and trajectory [chinaedum] of these personal divine attributes cannot be blocked, diverted, or manipulated, you cannot block a chi on its course out of malice, out of spite, or by mistake because divine retributive justice in the form of Ọfọ na Ogu and Chi na Eke will clear the blockage in the road [chimaraoke]. Even though chi all come from the same source, some chi are considered stronger than other chi, this could be between a divinity and a mortal for instance, but it can also be between humans [chika]; between humans, the strength of the chi is determined by the eke, the divine mission apportioned to the person [chidera].

The work of Ogu na Ọfọ and Chi na Eke does not mean free-will is done away with, but rather divine order and balance is believed to always take precedence.

Edit: Just as a further note, Ogu is of the right hand just as Ọfọ is held in the left hand, in some communities ogirisi or some other shrub or shoot may be used instead of ọmụ when 'holding' Ogu, in other communities one may use the right hand alone and place it or a finger on the ground.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wrestling at Elele

Wrestling at Elele described by P. A. Talbot as "[w]restling to make the yams grow. Chief Eleche's place, Elele" in "Some Nigerian Fertility Cults," 1927.

Agukwu Smiles

This is a woman and child from Agukwu Nri taken in 1910-11. The colonial appointed anthropologist Northcote Thomas made several volumes on the colonial examination of Igbo society. Among anthropological work, the 'side' material were outtakes like this which didn't make it to publishing.

These are three separate photos, MAA Cambridge. This is the photo that was published in Northcote Thomas' Anthropological Report on the Ibo-speaking Peoples of Nigeria, vol. I.

The woman's name and the child's name may have been recorded by Thomas, but it has not been made public yet. For more information see: [Re:]Entanglements: N. W. Thomas – an accidental artist? and [Re:]Entanglements: Who was N. W. Thomas?

You can see how the 'no-smiling' convention of old photography plays here, it may also have further connotations considering this is a colonial work made primarily for colonial dissection. There are many other example like this. In addition to that, many of the candid-looking photos taken outside of the makeshift studios were planned and staged ahead of Northcote Thomas (and hence other colonial-era photographers) taking photographs.

How does the contrast between these 'outtakes' and the published image come across, what is the reaction to seeing both and possibly realising how manipulated colonial images can be?

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Child and a Crocodile, Enugwu Ukwu

A child and a crocodile photographed by Northcote Thomas in Enugwu Ukwu, 1910-11. MAA Cambridge.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Igbuzo "Yam Dance"

“A yam dance, ‘eighu ulo’, Ibusa [Igbuzo, p.d. Delta State], Near Asaba.” Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge.

Eze Nri Obalike's Grandson

Prince Ben Okolo meeting the colourised photo of his grandfather Eze Nri Obalike.

Ben Okolo was born in 1926, a year prior to Obalike's 'long journey' - Prince Ben was told about the joy the Eze Nri Obalike felt when holding his grandson in his arms when a baby. Prince Ben hopes to erect a museum at the site of Obalike's Palace featuring N. W. Thomas's photographs to memorialise his grandfather.

– Paul Basu.

"MISSION OF SAINT-JOSEPH OF AGOULERI"

Photo: "Idigo, Christian leader of Agouleri (Lower Niger) (From the photograph of a missionary.)"

[Translated from French:]

Christian village. - His development.

The mission of Saint-Joseph of Agouleri [Aguleri] quickly developed, thanks to the conversion of the native chief of this country, Idigo, who, with his family, composed the nucleus of the Christian village, and has never failed to attract his peers, as much as he can. Also, this village today includes 240 Christians, including 180 baptised and 60 catechumens. The families number 52, including 39 Christian households. All are grouped around the Mission, which is a precious advantage, because we can follow people, mingle with them, live among them to speak with them about their lives, to support and strengthen them in good.
"As for baptisms, there are about forty each year, including a good number of adults. We proceed, however, with great caution for admissions. A year of catechumenate, with strong instructions, does not seem to us too much for people, yesterday, immersed in the superstitions and vices of paganism. Moreover, the experience is there to show that this is really the only way to have good Christians."

– B. P. Pawlas (1901). "Bas-Niger" In:"Annales de la Propagation de la Foi."pp. 200-1.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Ọ̀kọnkọ̀



An Okonko masquerade in Umuahia photographed by G. I. Jones, 1930s. MAA Cambridge.

Okonko is the form of Ekpe society in many southern Igbo areas. Likely from Arochukwu, it became the main masking and governing institution in the Umuahia area where every male was expected to go through the rite of ịkpụ ụlọ, the Okonko initiation and the start of education in Okonko. It is used in the burials of prominent elders, and apart from in special occasions like Iri ji, Okonko processions usually take place at night. In the past, Okonko membership was used to secure business and trading ties.
Okonko itself is split into grades, a member may rise up the grades and in rank as they acquire more knowledge of Okonko. There are several types of masks worn by members according to their rank. Okonko is headed by a president in each community.
Okonko is part of the wider Ekpe complex which stretches from the centre of the Igbo area to the Southern Cameroons.

19th Century Igbo Blacksmiths

Blacksmiths "from the Onitsha area" according to G. I. Jones, photographed by William Henry Crosse, part of the Royal Niger Company, 1886 - 1895. MAA Cambridge.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

An Unidentified Titled Man

An unidentified titled man, with the label that might read "Chief of Iboria[?] Ibo," photographed by William Henry Crosse, part of the Royal Niger Company, 1886 - 1895. MAA Cambridge.

Edit: It looks like this may be Idigo of Aguleri who was converted by French Catholics.

Unidentified Women, Niger River

Two women, possibly from Asaba or Önïcha (Onitsha), unidentified, photographed by William Henry Crosse, part of the Royal Niger Company, 1886 - 1895. MAA Cambridge.

(Could this be the same lady from the last post?)

A trader. c. 1889.

Rich Trading Woman

This picture taken c. 1889, possibly by G. F. Packer credited with other photos from the Niger and Önïcha (Onitsha) (and of Önïcha trading women), is annotated as 'Trader from Timbuctou' on the right and 'Rich Trading Woman' on the left.

Is this lady an Ọmụ? Could she be the Ọmụ of Ọnịcha?

It seems to show a member of the Önïcha women's Otu Odu (ivory group) society often made up of women traders; the woman, noted as a trader, has on large ivory anklets still worn my members of this socio-economic women's group today. The lady could even be an Omu, the Omu oversaw Önïcha markets, Igbo communities to the west of the Niger also had Omu.

The trader from Timbuktu.

If Önïcha, the presence of the man from Timbuktu may illustrate the thousand-year old connection between the West African forest areas, the Sahel, and the Trans-Saharan trade, as shown by beads in the findings of Igbo Ukwu dating back to around the 9th century with their origins placed over the Sahara to places as far as Venice and India. The people from the north brought trade items like horses (for ritual use) to trade for goods such as ivory.

Two Men

Two men photographed near the Niger River by William Henry Crosse, part of the Royal Niger Company, 1886 - 1895. MAA Cambridge.

Initiation Dancer

A dancer at an initiation dance, according to G. I. Jones, in today's Anambra State, 1930s. MAA Cambridge.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Eze Nri Obalike

Nri Obalike, the Eze Nri from Uruoji who was the Eze Nri from 1889–1935. Nri Obalike was Eze Nri during the height of British colonial imposition into the north-central Igbo area, he was the Eze Nri who was made to abrogate the laws of Nri which went against British colonial interest, and also the first Eze Nri to leave Nri as he was compelled to do by the British. The Eze Nri is seen here around 1910-11, photographed by Northcote Thomas who spent some time studying the Igbo which was a job given to him by the colonial regime for the purpose of efficiently implementing indirect rule.

This photo is originally black and white and was digitally coloured by Ụ́kpụ́rụ́, 2018. (Northcote described the Eze Nri as wearing a blue gown, but this interpretation uses brown, although it's not unlikely that the gown pictured could be different.)

For more information see here.

Military Imposition of Christianity and the Attack on Igbo Culture

Photo: An elderly man of Igbuzo photographed in the early 20th century by Northcote Thomas.
[The] [...] Society of African Missions managed to open a mission at Issele-Ukwu in 1893 [...] The resentment of the local people for the mission, the missionaries, the converts and to the [Royal Niger] Company spilled over to an open rebellion against the traditional ruler of the town. The aggrieved populace contended that the latter had not followed the democratic practice of due consultation with the other chiefs and important individuals in the town before inviting the missionaries and before agreeing to the abolition of the slave trade and human sacrifice. [...] The local community therefore demanded the withdrawal of the missionaries from the town and the restoration of their traditional customs. A civil war broke out at Issele-Ukwu. The opponents to the 'erring' ruler had the strong support of [Igbuzo] [...] Otu Ochi-Chi, a secret or night society [...] and its military arm, Ekumeku [...]. Fr. Zappa [...] appealed to the Company for military action and in January 1898 under Major Arthur Festing, a Company force of 250 men laid siege on [Igbuzo] and after six weeks razed it to the ground. [...]
The HMS Flirt, used in the bombardment of Asaba in retaliation to the Ekumeku movement against the Royal Niger Company in 1898. The Royal Niger Company was later joined with the Niger Coast Protectorate and they became the Northern and Southern Nigeria Protectorates in 1900.
[The] Royal Niger Company attacked [Igbuzo] the head and heart of the Anioma communities because it was the strongest and most feared of the Anioma communities. It was also the center of the most indomitable resistance to the penetration of the missionary enterprise. Fr. Zappa, the leader of the SMA mission and the brain behind the invasion of the town, reasoned that the subjugation of the most feared and the strongest of the Ika communities would also easily and quickly bring the others to their knees. According to the missionary, the overbearing chiefs of [Igbuzo] needed to be humiliated and a military conquest of the evil people was inevitable [...] The Company's bombardment of all the towns within reach of gunfire brought considerable confusion and uncertainty among the people. The cultural resisters were dispersed [...] local chiefs were taken as captives to Asaba the Company's headquarters where they were put in jail.
[Igbuzo] was coerced to accept the presence of the missionaries in the town and the chiefs were forced to accept to protect the missionaries. [...]

– Augustine S. O. Okwu (2010). Igbo Culture and the Christian Missions, 1857-1957. pp. 120–121.

Ikoro Obibiaku

The Ikoro Obibiaku, a giant ikoro (wooden slit drum) of Umunze made from a single oji (iroko) tree. Ikoro is beaten by males with sticks or by hand for either music, ritual purposes, or for sending messages. Photo: G. T. Basden, before 1921.

This ikoro was reported to be over 180 years old by Basden, the amazing thing is that the Ikoro Obibiaku still exists today (meaning it's now over 250 years old) at Nkwo Umunze, in Anambra State, although in a degraded state. See: See: Chijioke Onuora, "Ikoro Drums..."

Egbo Men

Egbo [Ekpe] men’s leopard ‘secret society’, Cross River area, southeastern Nigeria. Early 20th century. Wellcome Images.

Possible Ala Priest and Ala

"The goddess of the earth," as described by P. A. Talbot, c. 1932. Musée du quai Branly. This may be Ala, the Igbo earth divinity and the man pictured may be an Eze Ala, a head priest of Ala. Ala is represented by trees and shrubs.

Mbari Otamini, Opiro

An Mbari dedicated to the deified Otamini river in the Echie town of 'Opioro' as noted by P. A. Talbot in "Some Nigerian Fertility Cults," 1927. Ala still retained a prominent position among the figures in this Mbari. The Mbari's head priest is noted as Amade Onyeche.

The head priest of the Mbari Otamini, noted by Talbot as Amade Onyeche.
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