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Igbo

Igbo

ETHNONYMS: Ala Igbo, Ani Igbo, Ibo, Ndi Igbo


Orientation

Identification. Igbo is the language spoken in Ala Igbo or Ani Igbo (Igboland) by the people who are collectively referred to as "Ndi Igbo"; their community is known as "Olu no Igbo" ("those in the lowlands and uplands"). Before European colonialism, the Igbo-speaking peoples, who shared similarities in culture, lived in localized communities and were not unified under a single cultural identity or political framework, although unifying processes were present via expansion, ritual subordination, intermarriage, trade, cultural exchange, migration, war, and conquest. Villages and village groups were generally identified by distinct names of their ancestral founders or by specific names such as Umuleri, Nri, Ogidi, Nnobi, Orlu, Ngwa, Ezza, and Ohaffia.

There are several theories concerning the etymology of the word "Igbo" (wrongly spelled "Ibo" by British colonialists). Eighteenth-century texts had the word as "Heebo" or "Eboe," which was thought to be a corruption of "Hebrew." "Igbo" is commonly presumed to mean "the people." The root -bo is judged to be of Sudanic origin; some scholars think that the word is derived from the verb gboo and therefore has connotations of "to protect," "to shelter," or "to prevent"hence the notion of a protected people or a community of peace. According to other theorists, it may also be traced to the Igala, among whom onigbo is the word for "slave," oni meaning "people."

Igbo-speaking peoples can be divided into five geographically based subcultures: northern Igbo, southern Igbo, western Igbo, eastern Igbo, and northeastern Igbo. Each of these five can be further divided into subgroups based on specific locations and names. The northern or Onitsha Igbo are divided into the Nri-Awka of Onitsha and Awka; the Enugu of Nsukka, Udì, Awgu, and Okigwe; and those of the Onitsha town. The southern or Owerri Igbo are divided into the Isu-Ama of Okigwe, Orlu, and Owerri; the Oratta-Ikwerri of Owerri and Ahoada; the Ohuhu-Ngwa of Aba and Bende; and the Isu-Item of Bende and Okigwe. The western Igbo (Ndi Anioma, as they like to call themselves) are divided into the northern Ika of Ogwashi Uku and Agbor; the southern Ika or Kwale of Kwale; and the Riverrain of Ogwashi Uku, Onitsha, Owerri, and Ahoada. The eastern or Cross River Igbo are divided into the Ada (or Edda) of Afikpo, the Abam-Ohaffia of Bende and Okigwe, and the Aro of Aro. The northeastern Igbo include the Ogu Uku of Abakaliki and Afikpo.

Location. Today Igbo-speaking individuals live all over Nigeria and in diverse countries of the world. As a people, however, the Igbo are located on both sides of the River Niger and occupy most of southeastern Nigeria. The area, measuring over 41,000 square kilometers, includes the old provinces of Onitsha, Owerri, East Rivers, Southeast Benin, West Ogoja, and Northeast Warri. In contemporary Nigerian history, the Igbo have claimed all these areas as the protectorate of the "Niger Districts." Thus began the process of wider unification and incorporation into wider political and administrative units. Presently, they constitute the entire Enugu State, Anambra State, Abia State, Imo State, and the Ahoada area of Rivers State; Igbo-speaking people west of the Niger are inhabitants of the Asaba, Ika, and Agbo areas of Delta State.

Demography. In 1963 the Igbo numbered about 8.5 million and by 1993 had grown to more than 15 million (some even claim 30 million, although there has been no widely accepted census since 1963). They have one of the highest population densities in West Africa, ranging from 120 to more than 400 persons per square kilometer. Igbo subcultures are distributed in six ecological zones: the northern Igbo in the Scarplands, the northeastern Igbo in the Lower Niger, the eastern Igbo in the Midwest Lowlands, the western Igbo in the Niger Delta, the southeastern Igbo in the Palm Belt, and the southern Igbo in the Cross River Basin.

Linguistic Affiliation. Igbo is classified in the Kwa Subgroup of the Niger-Congo Language Family, which is spoken in West Africa. It is thought that between five and six thousand years ago, Igbo began to diverge from its linguistic related neighbors such as the Igala, Idoma, Edo, and Yoruba languages. There are many dialects, two of which have been widely recognized and are used in standard texts: Owerri Igbo and Onitsha Igbo. Of the two, Owerri Igbo appears to be the more extensively spoken.

History and Cultural Relations

Contemporary views in Igbo scholarship dismiss completely earlier claims of Jewish or Egyptian originthat is, "the Hamitic hypothesis"as "the oriental mirage." Instead, there are two current opinions as a result of evidence derived from several sources that take into account oral history, archaeology, linguistics, and art history. One suggests the Awka-Orlu uplands as the center of Igbo origin, from which dispersal took place. The second and more recent opinion suggests the region of the Niger-Benue confluence as the area of descent some five thousand years ago, and the plateau region, that is, the Nsukka-Okigwe Cuesta, as the area of Igbo settlement. This first area of settlement would include Nsukka-Okigwe and Awka-Orlu uplands. The southern Igbo would constitute areas of later southward migration.

Until about 1500, major economic, social, and political transformations led to continuous outward migrations from overpopulated and less fertile Igbo core areas to more fertile lands, particularly east of the lower Niger River. The Igbo had cultural relations with their various neighbors, the Igala, Ijaw (Ijo), Urhobo, Edo, and Yoruba. From 1434 to 1807, the Niger coast was a contact point between European and African traders. This was also the period of trade in slaves; this activity resulted in the development of many centralized states owing to greater economic accumulation and the development of more destructive weapons of war. The Portuguese came to Nigerian coastal towns between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; they were the first Europeans to make contact with the Igbo. The Dutch followed in the seventeenth century, and the British came in the eighteenth century. In the late nineteenth century, mission Christianity and colonialist interest worked together for the colonization of Igboland. The Church Missionary Society and the Catholic Mission opened their missions in Onitsha in 1857 and 1885, respectively.

Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Subsistence farming characterizes agriculture among traditional Igbo people. The chief agricultural products include yams, cassava, and taro. Other important subsidiary crops include cocoyams, plantains, maize, melons, okra, pumpkins, peppers, gourds, and beans. Palm products are the main cash crops. The principal exports include palm oil and, to a lesser extent, palm kernels. Trading, local crafts, and wage labor are also important in the Igbo economy. High literacy rates among the Igbo have helped them obtain jobs as civil servants and business entrepreneurs since Nigeria gained independence in 1960.

Industrial Arts. The Igbo blacksmiths of Awka are renowned for their ironsmithing. Men's wood carving and women's pottery and patterned woven cloth are of very high quality, and Igbo carpenters can be found all over Nigeria. The stylized character of Igbo masks consists of figures with beak noses, slit eyes, and thin lips.

Trade. The Ikwo and Ezza in the Abakaliki Division of Ogoja produce a substantial surplus of yams for trade. Women dominate rural retail-market trade. Trading is a major social and economic function of women in traditional Igbo society. Women engage in all sorts of economic activities to make money to purchase the essentials they need. They make mats and pottery and weave cloth. Women do most of the petty trade, which is very active. The manufacture and trade of pottery are almost exclusively the domain of women. Igbo also process palm oil and palm kernels, which they market with the surplus crops from their farm stock, and generally monopolize the sale of cooked foods. They mine and sell salt.

Division of Labor. There is a sexual division of labor in the traditional setting. Men are mainly responsible for yam cultivation, and women for other crops. Usually, the men clear and prepare the land, plant their own yams, cut stakes and train the yam vines, build the yam barns, and tie the harvest. The women plant their own varieties of yam and "women's crops," which include cassava, cocoyams, pumpkins, and peppers. They also weed and harvest the yams from the farm. With regard to palm products, the men usually cut the palm fruit and tap and then sell the palm wine. They also sell palm oil, which the women prepare. In general, women reserve and sell the kernels.

Land Tenure. Most farmland is controlled by kinship groups. The groups cooperatively cultivate farmland and make subsequent allocations according to seniority. To this end, rights over the use of land for food cultivation or for building a house depend primarily on agnatic descent, and secondarily on local residence. It is Igbo custom that a wife must be allocated a piece of land to cultivate for feeding her household.


Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. Igbo society places strong emphasis on lineage kinship systems, particularly the patrilineage, although some Igbo groups, such as the Ohaffia, have a matrilineal descent system, whereas groups like the Afipko Igbo have a double descent system. In all the Igbo groups, one's mother's people remain important throughout one's life.

Kinship Terminology. The umunna, children of one father or a localized patrilineage, is made up of specific compound families, which consist of even more basic matricentric household units of each mother and siblings. The umunna is made up of both male and female cognates of an Igbo man's father's lineage. All blood-related kinship groups are bound in the morality or ethics of umunne, the ritualized spirit of a common mother. Ndi-Umune, or ikwunne, is the term used to describe the mother's agnates.


Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage is not a matter for the man and woman alone; it concerns the close kin of both. Marriage arrangements are negotiated between the families of the prospective bride and groom. With regard to the paternity of the wife's children, they belong to the lineage of the husband. When a woman has children out of wedlock, however, they belong to her natal lineage, and not to that of the children's father. Igbo have also institutionalized marriage options permitting "female husbands" in woman-to-woman marriages, in special circumstances. Some daughters with a male status (i.e., "male daughters") do not even have to marry to procreate.

Although females are brought up looking forward to this dual role, it would be misleading to think that the major roles of women in Igbo society are as wife and mother, since Igbo women are prominent in public life as an organized force in both economics and politics. A significant part of a young girl's or a young man's childhood training is geared toward their future roles in the family and as useful and responsible citizens. Women are fully involved in matchmaking and usually participate directly or indirectly in the actual negotiations of marital arrangements for their sons or their daughters, in cooperation with the male members of the families concerned. Women have powerful and active behind-the-scene roles in seeking out the girls they would like their sons to marry. The approval of the mother is vital because the young bride is generally expected to live with her mother-in-law and to serve her for the first few months of marriage, until the new couple can set up an independent household and farmland.

Domestic Unit. Most Igbo lived in villages made up of dispersed compounds. A compound was typically a cluster of huts belonging to individual household units. The typical Igbo village consisted of loose clusters of homesteads scattered along cleared paths that radiated from a central meeting place. The village meeting place usually contained the shrines or temples and groves of the local earth goddess and also served as the market. Large communities often had two such units. Most local communities contained anywhere between 40 and 8,000 residents. Homesteads were generally comprised of the houses of a man, his wives, his children, and sometimes his patrilineal cousins. They were often surrounded by mud walls and were nearly always separated from neighboring homesteads by undergrowth or women's gardens. Northern Igbo women normally decorated the mud walls of their houses with artwork. In the south, houses were made of mud on a stick framework; usually either circular or rectangular, the houses were thatched with either palm leaves or grass and were floored with beaten mud. Co-wives had their own rooms, kitchens, and storerooms. Young children and daughters usually stayed with their mothers, whereas the males lived in separate houses. Population pressure and European architecture has forced significant changes in these old settlement ideals, introducing (cement) brick houses lacking aesthetic appeal.

Inheritance. The bulk of inheritance allotments are granted to the eldest son, who, at the time of the inheritance, becomes responsible for the welfare of his younger siblings. If the eldest son is a minor at the time of his father's death, a paternal uncle will take charge of the property and provide for the deceased brother's family. There is also marriage by inheritance, or leviratea widow may become the wife of her brother-in-law. In some localities, widows may become the wives of the deceased father's sons by another wife.


Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Traditional Igbo social life is based on membership in kinship groups and parallel but complementary dual-sex associations, which are of great importance to the integration of society. The associations take several forms, including age grades, men's societies, women's societies, and prestige-title societies such as the Nze or Ozo for men and the Omu, Ekwe, or Lolo for women. The interlocking nature of these groups prevents the concentration of authority in any one association. Age sets are informally established during childhood. Respect and recognition among the Igbo are accorded not only on the basis of age, but also through the acquisition of traditional titles. In Igbo society, an individual may progress through at least five levels of titles. One could liken the acquisition of titles to the acquisition of academic degrees. Titles are expensive to obtain, and each additional title costs more than the preceding one; they are, therefore, considered a sure means to upward mobility.

Political Organization. The basic political unit among the Igbo is the village. Two types of political systems have been distinguished among the Igbo on both sides of the Niger River: the democratic village republic type, found among the Igbo living to the east of the Niger River, and the constitutional monarchy type, found among Igbo in Delta State and the riverine towns of Onitsha and Ossomali. Most of the villages or towns that have the latter type of political system have two ruling monarchsone female and one male. The obi (male monarch) is theoretically the father of the whole community, and the omu (female monarch) is theoretically the mother of the whole community; the duties of the latter, however, center mainly around the female side of the community.

Women engage in village politics (i.e., manage their affairs, separately from the men). They do this by establishing their own political organizations, which come under an overall village or town Women's Council under the leadership of seasoned matriarchs. It was this organizational system that enabled Igbo women and Ibibio women to wage an anticolonial struggle against the British in 1929 known as the Women's War (Ogu Umunwayi).

Both types of political systems are characterized by the smallness in size of the political units, the wide dispersal of political authority between the sexes, kinship groups, lineages, age sets, title societies, diviners, and other professional groups. Colonialism has had a detrimental effect on the social, political, and economic status of traditional Igbo women, resulting in a gradual loss of autonomy and power.


Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Although many Igbo people are now Christians, traditional Igbo religious practices still abound. The traditional Igbo religion includes an uncontested general reverence for Ala or Ana, the earth goddess, and beliefs and rituals related to numerous other male and female deities, spirits, and ancestors, who protect their living descendants. Revelation of the will of certain deities is sought through oracles and divination. The claim that the Igbo acknowledge a creator God or Supreme Being, Chukwu or Chineka, is, however, contested. Some see it as historical within the context of centralized political formations, borrowings from Islam and Christianity, and the invention of sky (Igwe) gods. The primordial earth goddess and other deified spirits have shrines and temples of worship and affect the living in very real and direct ways, but there are none dedicated to Chukwu. Ala encapsulates both politics and religion in Igbo society by fusing together space, custom, and ethics (omenala); some refer to Ala as the constitutional deity of the Igbo.

The Igbo concept of personhood and the dialectic between individual choice/freedom and destiny or fate is embodied in the notion of chi, variously interpreted as spirit double, guardian angel, personal deity, personality soul, or divine nature. Igbo have varied accounts of myths of origin because there are many gods and goddesses. According to one Igbo worldview, Chukwu created the visible universe, uwa. The universe is divided into two levels: the natural level, uwa, or human world, and the spiritual level of spirits, which include Anyanwu, the sun; Igwe, the sky; Andala (or Ana), the earth; women's water spirits/goddesses, and forest spirits. Through taboos, the Igbo forge a mediatory category of relations with nature and certain animals such as pythons, crocodiles, tigers, tortoises, and fish.

Religious Practitioners. There are two different kinds of priests: the hereditary lineage priests and priests who are chosen by particular deities for their service. Diviners and prieststhose empowered with ofo, the symbol of authority, truth, and justiceinterpret the wishes of the spirits, who bless and favor devotees as well as punish social offenders and those who unwittingly infringe their privileges, and placate the spirits with ceremonial sacrifices.

Death and Afterlife. The living, the dead, and the unborn form part of a continuum. Enshrined ancestors are those who lived their lives well and died in a socially acceptable manner (i.e., were given the proper burial rites). These ancestors live in one of the worlds of the dead that mirrors the world of the living. The living pay tribute to their ancestors by honoring them through sacrifices.


Bibliography

Achebe, Chinua (1958). Things Fall Apart. London: Heinemann.


Afigbo, A. E. (1971). The Warrant Chiefs: Indirect Rule in Southern Nigeria, 1891-1928. New York: Humanities Press.


Afigbo, A. E. (1981). Ropes of Sand: Studies in Igbo History and Culture. Ibadan and Oxford: Ibadan University Press and Oxford University Press.


Amadiume, Ifi (1987a). Afrikan Matriarchal Foundations: The Igbo Case. London: Karnak House.


Amadiume, Ifi (1987b). Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society. London: Zed Books.


Anyanwu, U. D. and J. C. U. Aguwa, eds. (1993). The Igbo and The Tradition of Politics. Enugu: Fourth Dimension.


Arinze, F. A. (1970). Sacrifice in Ibo Religion. Ibadan: Ibadan University Press.


Basden, G. T. (1966). Niger Ibos. London: Frank Cass.


Cole, Herbert (1982). Mbari: Art and Life among the Owerri Igbo. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


Cole, Herbert, and Chike Aniakor (1984). Igbo Arts: Community and Cosmos. Los Angeles: University of California, Museum of Cultural History.


Forde, D., and G. I. Jones (1962). The Ibo and Ibibio-Speaking Peoples of South-Eastern Nigeria: Ethnographic Survey of Africa. London: Stone & Cox.


Green, M. M. (1947). Ibo Village Affairs. New York: Praeger.


Henderson, Richard N. (1972). The King in Every Man. New Haven: Yale University Press.


Hodder, B. W. (1969). Markets in West Africa: Studies of Markets and Trade among the Yoruba and Ibo. Ibadan: Ibadan University Press.


Horton, R. (1976). "Stateless Societies in the History of West Africa." In History of West Africa, edited by J. F. Ade Ajayi and Michael Crowder. Vol. 1, 72-113. London: Longman.

Isichei, Elizabeth (1976). A History of the Igbo People. New York: St. Martin's Press.


Isichei, Elizabeth (1978). Igbo Worlds: An Anthology of Oral Histories and Historical Descriptions. Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues.


Leith-Ross, Sylvia (1939). African Women: A Study of the Ibo of Nigeria. London: Faber & Faber.


Metuh, E. I. (1981). God and Man in African Religion: A Case Study of the Igbo of Nigeria. London: Chapman.


Nsugbe, Philip (1974). Ohaffia, A Matrilineal Ibo People. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Nzimiro, Ikenna (1972). Studies in Ibo Political Systems. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.


Ohadike, D. C. (1994). Anioma. Athens: Ohio University Press.


Onwuejeogwu, M. A. (1981). An Igbo Civilization: Nri Kingdom & Hegemony. London: Ethiope Publishing.


Uchendu, V. C. (1965). The Igbo of Southeast Nigeria. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

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Amadiume, Ifi. "Igbo." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Amadiume, Ifi. "Igbo." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1996. Retrieved May 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3458001496.html

Igbo

Igbo

PRONUNCIATION: EE-bo

ALTERNATE NAMES: Ibo

LOCATION: Southern Nigeria (Igboland)

POPULATION: 5.5 million

LANGUAGE: Igbo (Kwa subfamily of the Niger-Congo language family)

RELIGION: Tribal religion

1 INTRODUCTION

The Igbo are the second largest group of people living in southern Nigeria. They are socially and culturally diverse, consisting of many subgroups. Although they live in scattered groups of villages, they all speak one language.

The Igbo have no common traditional story of their origins. Historians have proposed two major theories of Igbo origins. One claims the existence of a core area, or "nuclear Igboland." The other claims that the Igbo are descended from waves of immigrants from the north and the west who arrived in the fourteenth or fifteenth century. Three of these are the Nri, Nzam, and Anam.

European contact with the Igbo began with the arrival of the Portuguese in the mid-fifteenth century. At first the Europeans confined themselves to slave trade on the Niger Coast. At this point, the main item of commerce provided by the Igbo was slaves, many of whom were sent to the New World. After the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, British companies pushed beyond the coastal areas and aggressively pursued control of the interior. The Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, created in 1900, included Igboland. Until 1960, Nigeria remained a British colony, and the Igbo were British subjects. On October 1, 1960, Nigeria became an independent nation structured as a federation of states.

2 LOCATION

Igboland is located in southeastern Nigeria, with a total land area of about 15,800 square miles (about 41,000 square kilometers). The Igbo country has four distinct areas. The low-lying deltas and riberbank areas are heavily inundated during the rainy season, and are very fertile. The central belt is a rather high plain. The Udi highlands are the only coal-mining area in West Africa.

It is difficult to obtain accurate census figures for either the Igbo or for Nigeria as a whole. The Igbo population is estimated to be between 5 and 6 million.

3 LANGUAGE

The Igbo language belongs to the Niger-Congo language family. It is part of the Kwa subfamily. A complicated system of high and low tones indicates differences in meaning and grammatical relationships. There are a wide range of dialects.

English Igbo
Hello, how are you? Keku ka imelo?
What is your name? Kedu ahagi?
Thank you Ndewo

4 FOLKLORE

The 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.

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

5 RELIGION

The major beliefs of the Igbo religion are shared by all Igbo-speaking people. However, many of its practices are locally organized, with the most effective unit of religious worship being the extended family. Periodic rituals and ceremonies may activate the lineage (larger kinship unit) or the village, which is the widest political community.

The Igbo believe in a supreme god who keeps watch over his creatures from a distance. He seldom interferes in the affairs of human beings. No sacrifices are made directly to him. However, he is seen as the ultimate receiver of sacrifices made to the minor gods. To distinguish him from the minor gods he is called Chukwuthe great or the high god. As the creator of everything, he is called Chukwu Abiama.

There are also minor gods, who are generally subject to human passions and weaknesses. They may be kind, hospitable, and industrious; at other times they are treacherous, unmerciful, and envious. These minor gods include Ala, the earth goddess. She is associated with fertility, both of human beings and of the land. Anyanwu is the sun god who makes crops and trees grow. Igwe is the sky god, the source of rain.

In addition to their gods, the Igbo believe in a variety of spirits whose good will depends on treating them well. Forests and rivers at the edge of cultivated land are said to be occupied by these spirits. Mbataku and Agwo are spirits of wealth. Others include Aha njoku (the yam spirit) and Ikoro (the drum spirit).

The Igbo attitude toward their deities and spirits is not one of fear but one of friendship.

6 MAJOR HOLIDAYS

The Igbo celebrate the major national holidays of Nigeria, including New Year's Day (January 1), Easter (March or April), Nigerian Independence Day (October 1), and Christmas (December 24 to 26).

In addition, each town has its own local festivals. Those in the spring or summer are held to welcome the new agricultural cycle. In the fall, harvest festivals are held to mark the end of the cycle.

7 RITES OF PASSAGE

Circumcision takes place about eight days after the birth of a boy. At this time the umbilical cord is buried at the foot of a tree selected by the child's mother.

The name-giving ceremony is a formal occasion celebrated by feasting and drinking. A wide variety of names may be chosen. The name may be based on anything from the child's birthmarks to the opinion of the diviner, or seer. The name Nwanyimeole "What can a woman do?"means that a father desires a male child. Onwubiko "May death forgive"expresses the fact that parents have lost many of their children and pray that this child may survive.

The process of marrying a young Igbo woman is a long, elaborate one. It is rarely accomplished in less than a year and often takes several years. The process falls into four stages: asking the young woman's consent, negotiating through a middleman, testing the bride's character, and paying the bride wealth, a kind of dowry.

Death in old age is accepted as a blessing. After death, the body is clothed in the person's finest garments. The corpse is placed on a stool in a sitting posture. Old friends and relatives visit and pay their last respects. Young men wrap the corpse in grass mats, carry it out to the burial ground, and bury it. When the head of a family dies, he is buried beneath the floor of his house. Burial generally follows within twenty-four hours of death.

8 RELATIONSHIPS

Two criteria shape interpersonal relations: age and gender. Respect is given to males, and to older persons. Children are always required to offer the first greeting to their elders.

Social status is based on wealth, regardless of occupation. The Igbo distinguish between obgenye or mbi (the poor), dinkpa (the moderately prosperous), and nnukwu madu or ogaranya (the rich).

9 LIVING CONDITIONS

Village life has changed considerably since the discovery of oil in Nigeria. Houses, which used to have mud walls and thatched roofs, are now constructed of cement blocks with corrugated iron roofs. Electricity has been introduced; television sets and radios are now commonplace. Villages have running water, although it is not connected to every house.

10 FAMILY LIFE

Under the practice of polygyny, many Igbo men have more than one wife. A successful man marries as many wives as he can support. This involves providing farm plots to help the women and their dependents make a living. The polygynous family is made up of a man and his wives and all their children. Beyond that unit is the extended family, consisting of all the sons in a family and their parents, wives, and unmarried daughters. The extended family may have anywhere from five to thirty members. Ideally, all of the members of the extended family live in one large compound.

The Igbo family has changed in recent years. Christian marriage and civil marriage are important innovations. Among Igbo professional people, the trend is toward the nuclear family with its own residence.

11 CLOTHING

The everyday clothing in urban areas is not different from that of Westerners. Traditional clothing is still worn on important occasions in the cities and every day in rural areas. For everyday wear men wear a cotton wrap (robe), a shirt, and sandals. For formal occasions they wear a long shirt, often decorated with tucks and embroidery, over a dressy wrap, shoes, and a hat. Women wear wraps for both informal and formal occasions. The everyday wrapper is made from inexpensive cotton, dyed locally. For formal wear, the wrapper is either woven or batikdyed, and often imported.

The blouse for formal wear is made of lace or embroidered. Women also wear a head tie, a rectangular piece of cloth that can be worn a number of different ways. The Igbo traditional dress is a danshiki, a long, loose-fitting top. Formerly Igbo women added pieces of cloth to show their marital status and number of children.

12 FOOD

The yam is the staple food of the Igbo. Traditionally, the yam was the food of choice for ceremonial occasions. Nowadays it has been replaced by rice. Other starchy foods include cassava, taro root, maize and plantains.

A typical meal includes a starch and a soup or stew, prepared with a vegetable to which pieces of fish, chicken, beef, or goat meat are added. Jollof rice of various types is popular throughout Nigeria. Among the Igbo who live near waterways it is often prepared with shrimp. The following recipe is very popular.

13 EDUCATION

Since gaining independence from Britain in 1960, Nigeria has set a priority on education. Universal primary education is the norm in southern Nigeria, where the Igbo live. Secondary education has also developed rapidly.

14 CULTURAL HERITAGE

The Igbo have number of wind and stringed musical instruments. The ugene is a whistle made of baked clay, round in form, and about the size of a billiard ball. Probably the most interesting of the Igbo instruments is the ubaw-akwala, a sort of guitar. It has a triangular body formed by three pieces of soft wood sewn together. It is played by strolling singers in the evenings. Igbo singers improvise as the song proceeds and show great skill in fitting words to the song's rhythm and tune.

Recipe

Shrimp Jollof Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of shrimp, cooked, shelled, and deveined
  • 2 or 3 fresh tomatoes, or 1 8-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 cup white rice cooked in chicken broth according to directions on the package

Directions

  1. Heat the peanut oil in a large kettle.
  2. Add the tomato, peppers, onion, and cook for about 3 minutes until the onions and peppers are softened.
  3. Add the tomato paste, about 2 cups of water, and the red pepper flakes and black pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. While this is simmering, cook the rice in another pot according to package directions.
  5. Add the shrimp and simmer about 5 minutes longer.
  6. Combine the shrimp sauce with the rice, and pour mixture into an ovenproof dish and cover.
  7. Place in an oven set at 250°f. Bake until the liquid is absorbed completely.
  8. Stir to loosen the rice grains and serve.

The flavors improve if this dish is made several hours in advance and allowed to rest in the oven with the door ajar.

Dancing is a great Igbo pastime, practiced by everybody. There are special dances for boys, girls, men, women, and mixed groups. Group dancing is associated with religious observances and festivals.

15 EMPLOYMENT

The traditional Igbo economy depends on root-crop farming. Yams, cassava and taro are the chief root crops. There is a division of labor according to gender. Men clear the bush and plant the yams with the help of the women and the children. Following the planting of yams, plots are allocated to the women individually. Each woman plants other crops in the spaces between the yams and also on the slopes of hills.

Trading is an old occupation among the Igbo. The marketplace has become an important source of livelihood. An increasing number of Igbo are now engaged in wage labor. Growing cities, expanding road construction, new industries, and oil exploration are creating many job opportunities.

16 SPORTS

Wrestling is the most popular sport among boys and young men, with great annual contests in every part of Igbo country.

The other popular sport is soccer. Traditionally played only by boys, it has been introduced to girls through the school system.

17 RECREATION

Traditional entertainment includes storytelling, rituals, dancing, and music making. Modern forms of entertainment include watching television and going to movies and discos. Most households own radios, and there are several television sets in each village. The Igbo enjoy games, including card games and checkers. Among the younger people American youth culture is popular. Most enjoy listening to rap and rock music.

18 CRAFTS AND HOBBIES

The Igbo practice a number of crafts, some performed by men only and some by women. Carving is a skilled occupation practiced only by men. They produce doors and panels for houses, as well as stools, dancing masks, and boxes. Another valued craft is that of the blacksmith.

Women's crafts include pottery making, spinning, weaving, basketry, and grass plaiting.

19 SOCIAL PROBLEMS

The Igbo have been seriously affected by national problems ranging from civil war to military coups.

The crime rate in Nigeria is high. The problem is worst in larger urban centers, but rural areas are also affected. The crime wave was aggravated by the worsening economic conditions of the 1980s. Drug-related crime emerged as a major problem. Igboland has so far escaped the worst of this, although marijuana use among young people has been reported.

20 BIBLIOGRAPHY

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Knopf, 1995.

Njoku, John E. Eberegbulam. The Igbos of Nigeria: Ancient Rites, Changes, and Survival. Lewiston, N.Y.: E. Mellen Press, 1990.

Ogbaa, Kalu. Igbo. Heritage Library of African Peoples. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 1995.

WEBSITE

Igbo Homepage. [Online] Available http://www.lioness.cm.utexas.edu/igbo, 1998.

PrimaNet Communications. TheVirtual Igbo Homesites. [Online] Available http://www.igbo.com, 1998.

World Travel Guide. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/ng/gen.html, 1998.

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Igbo

Igbo (Ĭg´bō) or Ibo (ē´bō), one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, deriving mainly from SE Nigeria, numbering around 15 million. Originally settled in many autonomous villages, the Igbo nevertheless had a sense of cultural unity and the ability to unite for political action. They were receptive to Christianity and education under British colonialism and missionary influence. The Igbo became heavily represented in professional, managerial, technical, and commercial occupations, and many migrated to other regions of Nigeria. They played a major role in securing Nigerian independence from Britain in 1960. During the political conflict in 1966, thousands of Igbo immigrants were killed in the northern region, home of the Muslim Hausa and Fulani. Many Igbo fled to their eastern homeland, which seceded from Nigeria in 1967, calling itself the Republic of Biafra. Civil war followed, and, by 1970, Biafra was defeated.

See G. Basden, Among the Igbos of Nigeria (1921, repr. 1966); A. C. Smock, Igbo Politics (1971); S. Ottenberg, Boyhood Rituals in an African Society (1988).

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Igbo

Igbo (Ibo) Kwa-speaking people of e Nigeria. Originally, their patrilineal society consisted of politically and socially autonomous village units, but in the 20th century political unity developed in reaction to British colonial rule. In 1967, the Igbo attempted to secede from Nigeria as the Republic of Biafra.

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Igbo

Igbojabot, sabot •ambo, flambeau, mambo, Rambo, Rimbaud, Tambo •Gabo, Garbo, lavabo •elbow • Strabo • rainbow •gazebo, grebo, placebo •Igbo • bilbo •akimbo, bimbo, limbo •Maracaibo • yobbo •combo, Negombo •longbow • crossbow • oxbow •hobo, lobo, oboe •Colombo, dumbo, gumbo, jumbo, mumbo-jumbo, umbo •Malabo • Mirabeau • turbo

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