Category: culture

Iri-Ji Festival

This event is important event in the calendar of Igbo people all over the world.

yam5Iri ji in English means yam. The Iri-Ji (new yam) Festival is a time of thanksgiving to the gods for making the farm yields possible and praying for good yields for the next planting season.yam0Iri Ji History:

The most important farm crop in Igboland over the years is the yam. In precolonial times the Uhianjoku was regarded as the goddess of farm productivity exemplified in the yam and cocoyam as the major farm crops. Uhianjoku was worshiped as a deity (a Goddess) and homage was paid to this deity by the elders in appreciation of the role ascribed to her by our ancestors in sustaining farm productivity.

Uhianjoku has presently been modernized as Ahiajoku an acronym for bounty intellectual harvest of the Igbos East of the Niger. Ahiajoku is now celebrated by all Igbos to honour the crop yam which is the mainstay of arable farming activity in Igboland as well as the King of farm crops.

“Iri Ji” is mainly an activity to celebrate the new yam. This has become an important social event in recent times as it is being celebrated like the Kolanut. There is need therefore for an excursion into the ontogeny of the yam crop.yam2Yam is a very important food crop in Igboland. Evidence of this is in the cultural significance attached to New Yam festival “Iri ji” in Igbo land. Emphasis is placed on farming and the cultivation of sufficient food to last until the next food harvest. Special emphasis is especially placed on yam cultivation.

The traditional Igbo man takes pride in showing off his yam barn neatly stacked with yam tubers from top to bottom. It signifies wealth and success. In the days of old, a common question asked by a bride’s father when a young man signifies his intention to marry his daughter is “how big is your yam barn”? A big yam barn means the man is hard-working and can take care of his daughter.

The Iriji festival is celebrated at different times within the various Igbo communities, varying from August until October every year.

The solemn role of eating the first yam is performed by the oldest man or Eze: traditional ruler – different Igbo communities have different names for their traditional rulers – of the community. It is believed within the traditional communities that their position bestows on them the privilege of being intermediaries between their communities and the gods of the land. Many traditionalists and title-holders in Igbo land will not taste the new yam until the day that is traditionally set aside for that purpose. At the Iriji festival, only dishes of yam are served. The oldest man or the traditional ruler is normally the first person to eat the new yam and thereafter every other person can eat.

yam8The Iri ji festival is associated by feasting, dancing and merry making. There is also a spectacular display of Masquerades of all shapes and Sizes. They appear in all corners with the highest Intensity of dance and display in the market square to the excitement of the Crowd.

mask1

In primordial times, masquerades were believed to be spiritual elements that specially reincarnate into human forms for the purpose of celebrating the new yam festival. It signifies the approval of the gods in the celebration. Thus communities venerate and indeed fear these spirits for their own safety. Uninitiated members of the community are expected to run away from the masquerades on sight or risk being cursed by them with devastating consequences.

Stories are rife within Igbo communities of persons who were cursed by masquerades and suffered terrible diseases.yam4The new yam festival is an event that should be seen by every Igbo son and daughter. It is an epitome of the beauty of Igbo culture. The day is symbolic of enjoyment after the cultivation season, and the plenty is shared with friends and well-wishers.

A great Site to behold!

Iri Ji Festival Traditions

Yams are the first crop to be harvested in Igboland, and are the most important crop of the region. The New Yam Festival is therefore a celebration depicting the prominence of yam in the social-cultural life of Igbo people. The evening prior to the day of the festival, all old yams (from the previous year’s crop) are consumed or discarded. This is because it is believed that the New Year must begin with tasty, fresh yams instead of the old dried-up crops of the previous year.yam6The next day, only dishes of yam are served at the feast, as the festival is symbolic of the abundance of the produce.yam7Though the style and methods may differ from one community to the next, the essential components that make up the festival remain the same.

In some communities the celebration lasts a whole day, while in many places it may last a week or more. These festivities normally include a variety of entertainments and ceremony, including the performance of rites by the Igwe (King), or the eldest man, and cultural dances by Igbo men, women, and their children. The festival features Igbo cultural activities in the form of contemporary shows, masquerade dances, and fashion parades.

Iwa-ji Ceremony

Usually at the beginning of the festival, the yams are offered to gods and ancestors first before distributing them to the villagers. The ritual is performed either by the oldest man in the community or by the king or eminent title holder.

This man also offers the yams to God, Deities and Ancestors by showing gratitude to God for his protection and kindness in leading them from lean periods to the time of bountiful harvest without deaths resulting from hunger.

After the prayer of thanksgiving to god, they eat the first yam because it is believed that their position bestows the privilege of being intermediaries between their communities and the gods of the land.

The rituals are meant to express the gratitude of the community to the gods for making the harvest possible, and they are widely followed despite more modern changes due to the influence of Christianity in the area. This therefore explains the three aspect of Igbo worldview, that they are Pragmatic, Religious and Appreciative.

Umuada

Umuada represent one of the veritable tools in the government of traditional Igbo setting. Before the advent of the warrant chiefs, county council or Igwe as the head of a community, Umuada and Nze na Ozo society were the only government of the time. Therefore, Umuada (daughters of the land) has been as old as Ndi Igbo and has been in the vanguard in socio cultural and socio-political development in the community.

African culture is mostly male-dominated, as is the culture of many nativenations worldwide. However, the paternalistic propensity of African culture, especially the Igbo culture, does not indicate subjugation of women. On the contrary, women in traditional Igbo societies are a force in political, legal, and social issues.

Long before the colonists arrived in Africa, and even during and after colonialism, women have been a powerful part of the Igbo society. Women have many forums designed to present and protect their interests. The most important of these female forums is Ụmụada.

ada

Umuada is a compound, collective noun formed from “ụmụ” and “ada.Ada means “daughter”; ụmụ is a generic plural prefix that conveys the sense of many.  Most naturally, every Igbo woman is “ada” (a daughter) of a certain community and is recognized as such for all the days of her life. Although it is used often in referring to the first daughter of a family (“adaobi”), ada generally means a female child. Viewed with a modern lens, ada is the origin of the politically correct term “Ms”—a non-distinguishing title for women and probably the English equivalent of “Ada.” Thus, “Umuada” connotes many daughters in a social group.

umu1

Umuada means native daughters, the daughters of a common male ancestor or “daughters of the soil.” Also called Umuokpu (in parts of Anambra State) or Ndimgboto (in parts of Imo State), Umuada is a collective of all daughters of a particular clan, village, town, or state… whether old, young, single, married, separated, or divorced. It is the inalienable right of every daughter of a particular place, without exception whatsoever, to belong to Otu Umuada, the society of native daughters. As a collective, Otu Umuada is a powerful sociopolitical setup in Igbo culture, a functional forum for females.

umu3

The membership of this forum is the absolute right of all women born of the same male lineage. Even if and when a woman marries outside the village or town setting, she remains ada of her father’s community. In other words, membership of the group is conferred patrilineally; that is, from the father’s side of the family. So, strictly speaking, any woman who does not belong to the group is either an outsider or she has been ostracized by her community for some abominable acts.

ROLE 

The Igbo have about seven indigenous approaches to conflict resolution:

  1.  Through the immediate family head;
  2.  Ụmụnna, (the agnate);
  3. Ụmụada;
  4. Otu ọgbọ (age-grade/peer society);
  5.  Dibịa (diviner),
  6. Village/town tribunal; and
  7.  Masquerade cult.

In certain cases when the approximate male counterpart called “Ụmụnna” (“sons of the soil”) fail to agree on an issue, Umuada will step in and resolve the matter.  In complex conflicts of conjugal character, the intervention of Ụmụada is always a given. In such matters, the men (Umunna) take a backseat and abide by the rulings of Umuada. Umuada also plays important roles in many matters of birth, puberty, marriage, and death—the four major cycles of life.

Umuada are strict but fair in their interventions and enforcements. For example, if a brother maltreats his wife and no one would stop him, Umuada will step in and straighten him out. On the other hand, if a woman married into the clan becomes unruly, Umuada will intervene and resolve the matter, even if it entails forcing the bad wife back to her own clan to cool off, make amends, and possible return to turn a new leaf. In extreme cases, they can ostracize and even place a curse on an intractable member of the clan.

Umuada are, as a group, decent and dynamic in their decisions and actions. They are great arbiters probably because they are not a part of the problem, and they do not have to stay back in the community to face anyone on a regular basis.

umu2

The male members of the clan respectfully repay the role of Umuada as judges and enforcers. Whenever one of their daughters is maltreated in her matrimonial home, they go to war, literarily. So, while their brethren would prefer that they marry locals, they do not frown when umuada marry outsiders because the men too marry outsiders. Hence, when ada marries locally, she is called “Adaejemba”—a daughter who did not marry out. When she marries out, they hail her “Adaejiejemba” (the daughter with whom you go places), probably because they act as spies, expand the community network, and help to broaden the worldview of the community .

The Umuada Igbo in Igbo cultural group is one of the most organized, peaceful and endowed women groups in Nigeria. As individuals and as a group, their contributions as farmers, civil workers and managers of human welfare are central to the ability of households, communities and nation to tackle the challenges of poverty and conflicts. It is to be noted, however, that the Umuada Igbo like other women groups from other nations suffer from decreased access to resources and paternalistic domination. However, their traditional and modern contributions make them to be no “pushovers” in the political, economic, religious and social life of the nation. Their roles in these areas are acknowledged. Their developmental efforts are remarkable in the families, communities and the Church. In families and communities, their reconciliatory roles are unsurpassed in support of their husbands, and the empowerment of rural women since they appreciate that empowerment is essential for a new world order and essential to find solutions to many conflicts. To achieve this, an environment for peace has to be created. As an organized group, they have established goals and strategies to pursue peace.

Igbo Family Structure

Family is a very important institution in the lives of Igbo people. All relationships, according to Igbo culture, emanates from the family. Every child birthed in any family begins to learn about human relationships from within the family.family 1Our collective view of the family unit, as people of Igbo extraction, is quite different from the views of the Western world. To Americans and Europeans, family basically implies one father, one mother, and their biological or adopted children. But, if we observe closely what is implied when Igbo people talk about family, we’ll see that, to our people, family refers to a group of people living under one household who may or may not even be related by blood or marriage.

It is in a family setting as described above that we, Igbos, differ so much from Westerners but not-so-much from other African tribes.

familyIn understanding Igbo family life and structure, we have to take into consideration three (3) Kinds of family settings common in Igboland as follows:

  • Family Setting with Only One Mother:
    This kind of family structure found in Igboland consists mainly of father, one mother, children, dependants, and relatives. Some 50 years ago, it was quite rare to find this kind of family setting among our people living in the geographical area designated as South-East Nigeria.
  • Family Setting with Multiple Mothers:
    Polygamy is part of Igbo culture, and is well accepted and acknowledged by our people as a man’s legitimate right, if he so chooses to have multiple women as mothers in his household. One key feature of this kind of family setting is recurrent quarrels and undue competition among the mothers within the household as each mother typically cooks her own meals and maintains her offspring without undue interference from others.
  • Extended Family Setting:
    We, Igbos, are mainly known for this kind of family set-up in which father, mother or mothers, children, in-laws, from both sides, friends, and other relatives all live together as one household.

Reasons Why Igbo People Prefer the Extended Family Setting

  • The extended family is like a pillar of support for each member of the household as some members may be not-so-rich, widowed, orphaned etc as the case may be. The popular Igbo saying; “Igwe bu Ike”(Multitude is power) was coined to reflect the high value we place on the extended family setting.
  • It helps the upbringing of children as their training is not merely confined to the limits of the knowledge and experiences of their biological parents.
  • It reduces the financial burden and woes of the elderly members of the household as both the young and old jointly work together to make money and pay bills or put food on the table for every member of the family.

Some Challenges Associated with Igbo Extended Family Setting

  • It makes the financial burden of a few members of the household heavier as every other member’s needs also become theirs.
  • It could make some members of the extended family household lazy, because some will not develop their abilities or increase their effort in life, because they have their hopes of survival hinged on the success of well-to-do members of the extended family household.

Responsibilities of Various Family Members According to Igbo Culture and Tradition

Father:
The father represents and speaks on behalf of the family in public forums. It is his responsibility to cultivate, grow, and develop the family wealth and resources. He serves as the family priest and spiritual leader and teacher of Igbo culture and traditions to members of his household. It is the fathers’ responsibility to lead by example, correct deviant members of the family when they go wrong, and provide for the needs of his household.

Mother:
It is the mother’s responsibility to inspire and fuel the father with ideas to move the household forward towards progress and development. It is expected of her to preserve the family wealth and resources. It rests on the mother’s shoulders to set and uphold standards of morality and purity in the family. She has to make the household homely and comfortable for every member of the family including occasional visitors. Finally, it is her duty to love the father of the house, cook his meals, and maintain the cleanliness of the home.

Children and other Dependants:
According to Igbo culture and tradition, children and dependants are expected to serve and remain under the mentorship of father and/or mother only on the condition that they know what they are doing and are not bad influence on the children or dependants. Male children and dependants are supposed to be 100% under the mentorship of the father, while female ones are supposed to be 100% under the mentorship of the mother.

Igbo Chieftaincy Titles

Highly accomplished men and women are admitted into orders for people of title such as Ndi Ozo or Ndi Nze. These people receive insignia to show their stature. Membership is highly exclusive, and to qualify an individual need to be highly regarded and well-spoken of in the community.chiefFrom the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, slavery took a massive toll of many weaker communities in this part of the country. With the colonisation in the early part of the twentieth century, the British introduced a system based on ‘indirect rule’ in the north of Nigeria, leveraging the existing northern emir hierarchies. A few years later, the colonial rule decided to introduce this system in the south as well. They commissioned ‘warrant chiefs’ to rule the districts in Igboland, but due to the lack of social hierarchies, the mandate for their authority did not work out as well as it did in the north. After the independence, the role of these district officers was quickly transformed and adapted to Igboland’s ‘traditional’ title society, which used to be based on traditional worship titles.

PIC 5. TRADITIONAL RED CAP CHIEFS AT THE 2011 WORLD IGBO DAY CELEBRATION IN ABAKALIKI.

Nowadays, each community consisting of a number of villages, wards and/or clans, can nominate their traditional ruler, also called Igwe or Eze.

The Igwe has this role for life and can give titles to his community people, mostly out of recognition for their achievement and character. The title system varies from community to community, but except from different names, the hierarchy itself is in most cases the same.

In most communities, the title system starts with the Nze title, given to persons in recognition of their community contribution. When the Nze titleholder reaches the elder age and remains in the village, he becomes part of the Igwe’s cabinet. Upon becoming a senior elder, the Igwe may honour him with the Özö or Ichie title, standing directly below the Igwe.

These titles and many other chieftaincy titles, each signifying certain achievements come along with privileges and symbols of authority. One could be allowed to wear a red or black cap, to hold a walking stick, an elephant tusk, a horsetail or a fan of ram or cow skin, all dependent on the local customs and the rank of title.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChieftaincy titleholders are privileged to do the “chief handshake”. This handshake starts with touching each other’s hand with the upper-side three times before shaking. If one of the persons does not recognise the other as a chief, even though he might pretend to be one, the touching stops after two times before the shaking.

War heroes are a separate category of titleholders, they can wear parrot’s plumes in their hats and are the only ones allowed to dance the war dance.
chiefAmong his cabinet members, the Igwe appoints his Prime Minister and secretary and together with his full cabinet, the Igwe-in-council serves the community in matters of peace, development and values. For instance, he is called upon in cases of resolving internal conflicts. If so, each party needs to bring four kola nuts, a gallon of palm wine and 1,000 Naira to the ruler. The case is put forward, and the ruler will make the final judgement. The money, palm wine and kola nuts are returned to the winner, the latter two being given in most cases to the Igwe as a token of gratitude. The loosing party is expected to pay on top of their deposit the penalty or fine as stipulated by the Igwe. If the parties do not agree with the settlement, the case can be brought to court and fought out in a more formal way.
chief 2The Igwe-in council also works together with government, but they do only have an advisory role in this context. Villages and communities have many other groups and opinions represented, to mention the most important ones:

  • Town Union, responsible for development and organising social events of the community. The members of the Town Union are elected by members of the community;
  • Councillors, representing the community in political matters in the local government council;
  • Youth Organisations, responsible for youth activities;
  • Vigilante groups, maintaining security, law and order in the village and community;
  • Women Organisations, representing the women and
  • Church Organisations, mostly representing Roman Catholic and Protestant believes.

chief 1In some communities, the groups listed above may not have any representation. Then, there are many other persons who can play an important role in the community, for instance the school’s headmasters, principals etc.

Igbo vs Ibo

The Myth: Ibo= The People/The Tribe and Igbo= The Language

The Reality: Igbo refers to all Igbo people, Igbo Land, Igbo Culture and Igbo Language.

Correct Response:

  • I am an IGBO person
  • I speak the IGBO language
  • I am from IGBO land

Ibo is the Anglicized spelling using the English vocabulary. When Igboland was colonised by non-Igbo speakers the changed the spelling to help them understand the pronunciation. The practice of renaming was a common practice during colonisation which can still be witnessed within the names of popular Igbo towns and cities that became known for their colonised names and they never reverted back post-independence.

igbo alphabetIbo was finally replaced by Igbo as the modern and correct spelling in the early 70’s using the Igbo alphabet a, gb, ib etc…

Please note that some historical books especially those printed before the 70’s will refer to Igbo as Ibo. However the saying goes when you know better you do better.

Igbo Folklore

Folklore plays a major role in Igbo culture.  They represent creation, life, and even death.  Through elaborate tales, the Igbo people pass on their beliefs about how their people came to be.  While the tales focus mainly on animal characters, they represents many aspects of everyday life.  Igbo folk-tales, like American fables, are useful teaching tools for the young.  The stories are spread through youth, encouraging positive behaviour.
folk 2 Before missionaries arrived, Igbo folk-tales were the primary source for learning everyday life lessons.  Certain tales such as “How the Tortoise Got Its Bumpy Shell” warn children against greed and untruth and instead encourage honestly, and the mutual support of those around an individual.  This is important in Igbo society because they are a people who are very much reliant on their neighbours.  They borrow seeds in the planting season, and assist each other in building up compounds.  Connectedness is considered essential for the Igbo people, and many decisions are made by a large part of the clan, instead of an individual.
While Igbo folktales teach many important lessons to the people, they are also a sort of religion for the masses.  The folktales tell of how things came to be in the natural world.  From the creation of the earth to the reason a mosquito buzzes in a person’s ear, almost anything can be explained by an Igbo folktale.  They are to the Igbo people are, what the Bible is to a Christian.  The tales are not only a rich way of preserving beliefs, they are the values of the people.  They teach Igbo people how to become a better person in societyThe Igbo have a system of folk beliefs that explains how everything in the world came into being. It explains what functions the heavenly and earthly bodies have and offers guidance on how to behave toward gods, spirits, and one’s ancestors.

folk3The Igbo believe the world is peopled by invisible and visible forces: by the living, the dead, and those yet to be born.Reincarnationis seen as a bridge between the living and the dead.

Throughout Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, many lessons are taught and many stories told.  Over the course of the novel, Achebe inserts smaller stories which are the folktales of Igbo society.  The folktales connect to their place in the novel, and give the reader a sense of what Igbo values are.  Achebe includes five folktales throughout the course of the story.  They are:The Vulture and the Sky, Mosquito and the Ear, Leaves and the Snake-Lizard, How Tortoise Got His Bumpy Shell, and Mother Kite and Daughter Kite.  Each story has its own meaning, and its own reason for being in the story.  The stories are powerful, and Achebe uses their power to captivate the reader.

Though, it is important to note that none of the stories appear after the missionaries arrive.  If the folktales represent the perseverance of Igbo culture, the missionaries are the force that drives it back.  Just as the people stop practicing their original Igbo religion and switch to christianity, the folktales also stop.  Achebe portrays this amazingly.  It represents a cultural shift of the Igbo people.  Okonknwo does not participate, but it is clear in the novel that the tide is slowly changing.
The folktales that are told in Things Fall Apartusually come from an older person to their children.  Ekwefi tells the story Enzinma.  Folktales, like Igbo proverbs, enhance the language that is so greatly respected.  If one can tell a good story, they are regarded as wise, and a good orator.
Achebe also uses folktales to help get the story across.  They represent larger, real life stories, but are hidden in the folklore of Igbo people.  The folktales often times represent the invasion of colonizers into the Igbo society. Colonizers are portrayed as greedy, and abusive of their power.  One of the strongest examples of this representation, is the folktale “How Tortoise Got His Bumpy Shell.”  In the tale the colonizers are the Tortoise and the Igbo people are the welcoming Birds.
folk1Common Igbo Folkore

The eastern part of Nigeria largely occupied by the Ibo tribe, is rich in culture, customs and traditions and one of the tenets that has survived the rage of civilization and modernization is the art of storytelling.  Interesting and educative folktales which have been passed down from generations to generations from the ‘ancestors’  are told to children in the bid to preserve the norms and culture of the tribe, imbibe good morals and instill the spirit of communal love amongst members of their society. These Igbo folktales which paints colourful pictures of spiritual life and traditional aspirations are regarded as fictitious, incredible, mythical and totally removed from real life situations. However, with regards to their functionality, these folktales exhibit elements of truth that translate into realism. Jovago.com, Africa’s No.1 online hotel booking site offers 4 common traditional folktales you should seek to hear while visiting eastern Nigeria.

Obaledo

Usually accompanied with a song, this folktale tells of a young pretty girl who meets a great misfortune due to her defiance and decision to disobey her parents. Set in a time when demons and spirits roamed around villages, the girl called “obaledo” was instructed by her parent before embarking on their trip, to remain within the confines of their home and  eat just yam and snail when hungry. The parents asked that she roast the yam first before the snail, as the snail would eventually quench the fire. Unfortunately, the girl, being greedy and having a strong lust for meat, roasted the snail first and fire went off. Still hungry, she set out of her home, in disobedience to her parents, to get a matchstick from neighbors. On her way, she encounters a demon that steals her beauty and leaves her with his own ugliness.

 

The King’s Drum

This story tells about a greedy tortoise who ends up trapping himself in his own greed. The tortoise, envious of a rich king who had a drum that would produce food and great wealth each time it was beaten, set a trap for the king’s wife, and when she fell for it, he demanded the drum as his only compensation. Unknown to him however, the drum only produced the luxury he has seen on certain conditions and was bound by a juju.  Eventually, the tortoise and his children break the juju that was bound to the drum and instead of food and riches, each time he beat the drum, some men will emerge and whip him thoroughly. Defeated, the tortoise and his family  made their home underneath the prickly tree, and according to the tale, that is the reason tortoises are always found living under the prickly tie-tie palm, as they have nowhere else to go to for food.

The disobedient daughter who married a skull

This tale narrates the story of a maiden who was so pretty she had suitor from around the world. Unfortunately, she was very picky and was never satisfied with any of the offers. A demon from the spirit world in the form of a skull , fell in love with her and was determined to marry her. He went round villages collecting body parts and became extraordinary handsome. As expected, the maiden fell in love with him once she set her eyes on him and agreed to marry him. After the marriage, the demon took the maiden to the spirit world where she suffered. She was however very nice and helpful to the demon’s mother and in appreciation of her acts of kindness, the demon’s mother helped her escape and sent her back to her parents. On getting to her parents’ home, the father asked her to marry a friend of his, and she willingly consented, and lived with him for many years, and had many children.

Why a Hawk kills Chickens

More of a fable than a story, this tale tries to justify or give reason to why the hawk always attacks the chicken or steals the hen’s chicks. The story tells of a love story between the hawk and a pretty hen which was aborted by a desperate cock who was in love with the hen. After the hawk had paid the bride price of the hen, married her and taken her to the land of the Hawks, a desperate cock who encountered her fell in love with her and crowed beautifully when he accosted her. Unable to resist the sweet sound of the crow, she absconds her husband’s house and returns to the land of fowls with the cock. Angry and feeling cheated, the hawk demanded for a return of his dowry as it was the custom, but since the hen’s parents nor the cock could pay him back, they took the case to the king of animals who then decreed that the hawk could kill and eat any of the cock’s children whenever and wherever he found them as payment of his dowry, and, if the cock made any complaint, the king would not listen to him. And so from that time until now, whenever, a hawk sees a chicken he swoops down and carries it off in part-payment of his dowry.

Spraying Money

48

Nigerian culture has a flamboyance that is unmistakable (after seeing the Bride List you can understand why). It matters not whether the Nigerians are from the North, the West, the East or the South of the country. Nigerians of all works of life tend to be extravagant, dramatic and love to have a good time. And nowhere is this reality more obvious than in a special act reserved for Nigerian ceremonies and functions. Anyone that has been to a Nigerian wedding, for instance, has either witnessed, or if bold enough to make it to the dance floor, been the subject of spraying. Nigerians spray dancers or special individuals with money during celebrations, delicately placing each individual note on the head of the subject. This process has a lot of similarities to the “Dollar Dance, Money Dance, Bridal Dance or Apron Dance” are various names for this very popular custom performed in many non –African wedding receptions all over the world.

49

A bride, for instance, can be overwhelmed by the amount of bills placed on her head while dancing away at her wedding. So much so that a family member is usually required to be on standby with a box into which the sprayed money will be collected. During the wedding process this money is way of guest to give the Bride and her Husband contributions towards their marriage it is also their way of contributing towards the overall costs of the wedding which they really appreciate. The guests are expected to be generous when paying for a dance, because the money is used to help the couple set up their new home or with their honey moon.

45

Aso-Ebi

Or as it is originally known as Aso ebi (pronounced ASHO EYBEE) is a uniform dress that is traditionally worn in Nigeria and some West African cultures as an indicator of cooperation and solidarity during ceremonies and festive periods. The affordability of fabrics such as Ankara has contributed to the popularity of uniform dressing for social occasions in Nigeria.

38

The purpose of wearing the dress can be to serve as self-identification so that guests without have to ask can work out how each other are related to the Bride or Groom. For example during a typical Igbo wedding there would be different aso-ebi’s for:

41

  • Family members (Brother’s and Sister’s)
  • Extended family (Aunties, Uncles and Cousins)
  • School friends (Primary, Secondary or University)
  • Bridesmaids
  • Groomsmen

36

Usually at weddings, the various fabrics for the aso-ebi are decided by the bride, and are then announced to all the guests’ months in advance so they can prepare their outfits. Guests are usually expected to buy the aso-ebi from the bride, but close friends and family members and certain prominent individuals may be presented with the aso-ebi as a gift. Aso-ebi for parties and funerals are generally simple, but aso-ebi for weddings may involve many complex changes with entirely different aso-ebi for different days of the wedding, and for the reception.44The affordability of fabrics such as Ankara has contributed to the popularity of uniform dressing for social occasions in Nigeria.

 

Part 7: Igbo Traditional Wedding

Birth, marriage and burial are considered the three most important family events in most cultures, and Igboland is not an exception to that.

wed2It is common to get invited to a traditional marriage (Igba nkwu) and certainly worth witnessing one. Marriage in Igboland is not just an affair between the future husband and wife but also involves the parents, the extended family and villages. First the groom asks his potential partner to marry him. Assuming that this is affirmative, the groom will visit the bride’s residence accompanied by his father. The groom’s father will introduce himself and his son and explain the purpose of his visit.

34The bride’s father welcomes the guests, invites his daughter to come and asks her if she knows the groom. Her confirmation shows that she agrees with the proposal. Then the bride’s price settlement (Ika-Akalika) starts with the groom accompanied by his father and elders visiting the bride’s compound on another evening.
In the final stage of the traditional marriage rites, the groom will go to the house of the bride-to-be with his immediate and extended family, villagers and town’s people with the above items. Host families will prepare different kinds of indigenous dishes to entertain their guests.

33

The wedding day is again at the bride’s compound, where the guests welcome the couple and invite them in front of the families. First the bride goes around selling boiled eggs to the guests, showing to both families that she has the capability to open a shop and make money. Then, the bride’s father fills a wooden cup (Iko) with palm wine and passes it on to the girl while the groom finds a place between the guests. It is the custom for her to look for her husband while being distracted by the invitees. Only after she has found the groom, she will kneel down and offered the cup to him and he sipped the wine, according to our customs once the cup is empty the couple is married traditionally.

The parents and elders in the family of both the bride and groom will pray for the newlyweds and for the success of their marriage. During this ceremony, there is also the nuptial dance where the couple dances, while guests wish the newlyweds prosperity by throwing money around them or putting bills on their forehead.

dance

When the ceremony is over, the bride will go home with the family of the groom signifying that the two are now husband and wife.

In some communities in Igboland, “Idu Uno” is practiced.  Idu Uno is when the family of the bride officially goes and visit the home where their daughter will be living. Note that the previous ceremony and meetings took place in the bride’s family home.

The bride’s family buys cooking utensils, bed-sheets, boxes, sewing machine, bed, pillow cases, plates, clothes and other things newly married couples need to start a life and family.

Also, the bride’s family along with their extended families sets a date to visit the couple with all the goods they bought. On “Idu Uno” day, the wife’s family will give the newly married couple all the things they bought for them.

This is usually done to give newly married couple a head start by defraying some of their expenses. Marriage ceremonies in Igboland can be a long and expensive undertaking, but they are usually worth every kobo.

Part 6: Bride List

Now this is where the fear of marrying an Igbo person comes from especially for those who are outside of the community. In terms of what it takes to take a bride from any of the eastern states in Nigeria, it is said to not be a walk in the park. The Igbo tribe take pride in their daughters and don’t hesitate to show any potential suitor how ‘highly rated’ she is. The Igbo bride’s traditional wedding list is probably one of the most discussed topics whenever a man indicates interest in taking an Igbo wife.

31

The “Bride List” is simply seen as a gift/reward for raising such a beautiful and talented daughter that should be shared amongst those that helped in raising and nurturing her (typically her compound).This list factors in all of the achievements of the Bride such as education, career, progression etc. Items can be negotiated (Top-tip is to have a good negotiator on your side) The list can be modified depending on the family of the bride, i.e. the bride to be can negotiate on behalf of the groom’s family so that the list is trimmed.

29

Just like every other traditional marriage in Nigeria, The Igbo traditional paying of dowry is very important and the process/lists differ from state to state or clan to clan. It is an obligatory part of completing the Igba Nkwu (traditional marriage) as the items on the list are said to be symbolic, covering different part of the marriage.

30

 

EXAMPLE OF A BRIDE LIST

Typical Igbo Traditional List for the Groom also applicable of Mbaise of Imo state.

Section A: UMUADA (All Kindred Daughters)

– Wrappers and Blouses (Nigerian Wax/Hollandis or George)

– Jewellery (Gold plated earrings, necklaces)

– Head ties and Shoes (a pair each, different colours.)

– Hand bags and wrist watches (Different types and colours)

– Toiletries (Body creams, bathing soaps, detergents, etc.)

– Beverages and food items

– Cash gift (not specific)

– Ogwe ego Drinks (Malt & Minerals)

Section B: NMANYA UKWU (Big Wine) UMUNNA (Kinsmen)

The items in this category will be shared amongst the heads of the extended family of the bride to be.

– Bottles of Seamans Schnapps (millennium brand)

– Kola nuts

– Gallons of Palm wine

– Cartons of Beer,

– Malt and Mineral drinks

– Heads of Tobacco with potash

– Rolls of cigarettes

– 1 goat

– Cash gift (not specific) Ego Umuna

NB: Items in Section A&B are usually in 3 pieces or in cartons, cannot be negotiated by the groom’s family except the bride’s family is lenient enough to cut down the items, or the numbers of items to be presented in these sections.

Other cash gifts that may be demanded during the course of the ceremony Ego nfotu iteö

(cash to bring down symbolic cooking pot)  – 1,000

– Ncha kishi udu  (Toasting of wine) = 1,000

– Ego Ogo cherem  (money for the in laws) =  50,000

– Ego maternity  (money for future maternity) =  1,000

– Ego Onye Eze  (money for village chief) = 1,500

– Ogwe Ego  (lump sum) = 5,000

 

 Section C: NMEPE UZO (General list/Opening of Gate)

– 30 tubers of Yam

– 2 bags of Rice

– 2 bags of Salt

– 2 cartons of Star Beer

– 2 cartons of Guinness Stout

– 2 cartons of Maltina

– 6 crates of Minerals

– 3 bottles of Seamans Schnapps (millennium brand)

– 30 bulbs of onions

– 1 gallon of red Palm oil (10 -25 litres)

– 1 gallon of Groundnut oil (25 litres)

– A basin of Okporoko (Stockfish)

– 2 pieces of Goat leg (Ukwu Anu ewu)

– 25 loaves of Bread

– 1 carton of Tin Tomatoes

– 1 carton of Tin Milk

-1 carton of Tablet soap

– 20 Pieces of canned facial powder

-1 gallon of Kerosene

– 20 heads of Tobacco

– 10 packets of cigarettes

– 5 pieces of George/Hollandis/Nigerian Wax

– 3 pieces of Umbrella

– 1 Big Box (Apati)

– 2 Big Basins

– 2 pieces of Igbo Blouse

– 2 pieces of Headties

– Gold necklaces and Wrist watches (minimum of 2 pieces)

– 1 piece of Lantern/LampôIkpo

– Onu Aku Nwayi (Bride price) Non-negotiable, though some families makes it very minimal and almost insignificant. (Reason being that they are not selling their daughter).The things we do for the ones we love.

Ultimately the reason the list is so long is because the bride’s family know that once she is married her commitment is now to her husband and his family. All the kids she will have will automatically belong to him and his family, even when she dies and is buried she is buried in his compound. The list represents all the gifts and support they would have received if she was to stay with them and not get married.