Odinani Book Club: “Daughters of Nri” by Reni K Amayo

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Daughters of Nri

The next book we will be reading for the Odinani Book club will be the recently released “Daughters of Nri” by Reni K Amayo. Its the first in the “Return of the Earth Mother” series. Summary is as follows:

“A gruesome war results in the old gods’ departure from earth. The only remnants of their existence lie in two girls. Twins, separated at birth. Goddesses who grow up believing that they are human. Daughters Of Nri explores their epic journey of self-discovery as they embark on a path back to one another.

Strong-willed Naala grows up seeking adventure in her quiet and small village. While the more reserved Sinai resides in the cold and political palace of Nri. Though miles apart, both girls share an indestructible bond: they share the same blood, the same face, and possess the same unspoken magic, thought to have vanished with the lost gods.

The twin girls were separated at birth, a price paid to ensure their survival from Eze Ochichiri, the man who rules the Kingdom of Nri. Both girls are tested in ways that awaken a mystical, formidable power deep within themselves. Eventually, their paths both lead back to the mighty Eze.

But can they defeat the man who brought the gods themselves to their knees?”

Efuru Review

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Efuru by Flora Nwapa is not only the first choice of the Odinani book club, it also happens to be the first novel by an African woman to be published in English. Born in Oguta, Nigeria, Flora Nwapa published Efuru in 1966 at the age of 30. It follows the life and struggles of the title character who struggles to find her place in colonial era Nigeria.

The very first thing that I noticed in the novel are the names of the characters, which are no longer common as first names. It’s unfortunate that due to colonization, alot of Igbo names that were widespread in the past have either been forgotten or only survive as surnames, being replaced with English ones or Christianized Igbo ones. 

The next thing I noticed was the terminology used for certain practices and places. For example, the term “take a bath” is used for female circumcision, which is done to Efuru after she gets married as a young woman. The name given for the Niger River was “The Great River” (or Oshimiri in Igbo).

Next, even though the story was set during the colonial era, the day to day lives of the characters do not seem much different than that or their forefathers and foremothers that lived before British rule. They worked in the farms, did trade up and down the river, went to the market, lived by the traditional calendar, etc.

But I think the biggest takeaway I got for the book was an increased empathy for Igbo women. Despite the characters being fictional, I felt like I could have been reading the experiences of any of my female ancestors. It’s simply amazing that a story of an Igbo woman’s struggles as a wife, daughter and mother could be as captivating as any Male centered, action packed epic. Overall, I’d recommend Efuru as a worthy addition to any library and look forward to exploring other works by Mrs. Nwapa. 

Odinani Book Club: “Efuru” by Flora Nwapa

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For the very first selection for the brand new Odinani Book Club, we have selected none other than “Efufu” by Flora Nwapa. Published in 1966, it was the first novel written by a Nigerian woman to be published. Feel free to purchase the book below, or rent it from the library. We will be creating platforms to discuss the book and the themes it deals with. In the meantime, please comment about it below.

Summary: Efuru is a beautiful,superior woman,who cannot marry or have children successfully. Her neighbors acknowledge her distinctions,are grateful for her generosity, but cannot intervene in or comprehend her tragedy. A sage diagnoses that a river goddess has in fact chosen Efuru as her honored worshipper. So far as earthly companions are concerned she must remain alone…

Ikeji Arochukwu in History

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The origin of Ikeji Festival in Arochukwu is as old as the history of the Kingdom. The festival marks the end of the farming season, arrival of harvest, and beginning of a new season. The Ikeji Calendar is determined by the Arochukwu traditional council (OKPANKPO Aro) under the leadership of his Majesty the Eze Aro. Celebrated in the gregorian month of September every year,it is usually a 17 days event.

The Ikeji Period:

The Ikeji month is a special period when Aros are expected to observe strict adherence to norms, ethics, customs and tradition. During the period, neither burials nor mourning gatherings are permitted. All forms of violence are not tolerated, civil disobedience; public protests are strictly prohibited throughout the Kingdom. Death of any Aro within the period is largely viewed as a bad omen and therefore treated quietly with indignity. The period is devoted more rectitude, thanksgiving, entertainment, charity, philanthropy and recreation.

Ikeji presents a unique opportunity to celebrate Arochukwu tradition and culture in its pure and original form. It is also a platform for infinite entertainment, tourism and reunion with cultural delegations from affiliate Aro settlements spread in over 350 communities in Igbo land and beyond. The festival features seminars and lectures on Aro cultures, visits and homage to historic cultural sites, pouring of libation, exchange of kola-nuts and good will, paying of homage to Aro traditional institutions, masquerades, traditional dances, diverse cultural displays and so much more.

It is also a period to commune with the ancestors, reconciliation, peace building, conflict resolutions and self-help development projects. The era therefore witnesses influx of visitors and tourists into Arochukwu. Sons and daughters from all parts of the world return home to the Kingdom to be part of diverse cultural displays, merry making, exchange of visits, marriages etc. The Ikeji Festival is also a time for expansion of boundaries of business and friendship. It is another time to come close to nature, renew faith in Aro culture, connect with kith and kin and watch the original culture and tradition come alive.

 

Ikeji Calendar

Stage 1: AFOR OKPO NA-ZA AWADA

On this day, members of the Otusi (clan) of Amaja, a historical kith and kin in Aro mobilise to sweep Awada Aro. This event holds in Ugwuakuma village in Arochukwu. The Okpo family from Agbagwu has a leading role in the assignment with the support of Otusi Clan. During the brief ceremony, Awada Aro is opened; the environment kept quite clean, decorated and put in real festive mood. This event marks the beginning of Ikeji.

Stage 2: AFOR MBAPE AWADA

The stage of the Festival features members of the Otusi (clan) of the Amuze. The clan mobilises eligible sons to sweep Awada Aro. The ceremony brings together Otusis from other Aro Kindreds including Okennachi, Eze Agwu, Umu Nna Okwara Agwu, Bianko to participate in the ceremony. The attendants arrive at the ceremony wearing bells on their waist and carrying gongs, both instruments producing resonant sounds. It is usually a prestigious movement that carries the weight of royalty, honour and glamour.

Stage 3: AFOR NDULASA NWAEKPE

Nwa Ekpe, a symbolic representation of the royal ancestors is led home. This is an all day ceremony that keeps the town in real festive mood. All the nine Otusis (clans) in Aro go to Ugwuakuma, to offer sacrifice and pour libation to the ancestors in appreciation for a good harvest period. Each delegation wearing bells around their waists while carrying gongs on hands dancing to the admiration of all and sundry already soaked in Ikeji festival mood. The ceremony ends at night and the various delegations return with dances to their respective villages.

Later the same night the talking drums (uvie) are brought down. The drum (Uvie) left hanging on a particular spot since the last Ikeji celebrations are gracefully brought down, rolled out and played loudly. The loud talking drums are welcomed with loud ovation, excitement and jubilation by all, far and near. In the ancient days, the uvie (big talking drum) can only be sounded only in the compounds of great and outstanding men of each village. Uvie is a drum used to celebrate success, honour, achievements and bravery. Only the wealthy and influential in those days were in a position to host Uvie (the talking drum). This is because the ceremony itself attracts cost for entertainment and relevant materials for sacrifice. The sounding of the uvie put all and sundry on notice that Ikeji celebration has fully commenced.

Stage 4: NKWO NKU

Nkwo Nku is a day when women are expected to fetch firewood for their husband’s mother, their mistresses or close friends. The wood is meant for cooking while the Ikeji season lasts. It is indeed a friendly gesture of love and respect for elders. Nkwo Nku is intended among other to highlight the role of women in the family. It is also to promote the virtues of motherhood and cordial daughter in-law and mother-in-law’s relationship in line with respect of Aro culture.

Stage 5: EKE AGBA UDU

This is a day set aside for Aro Aristocrats from Amuze, a particular kith and kin in Aro kingdom to step out in grand style to offer sacrifice. The day is marked with loud festivities that bring out the best of Amuze peculiar culture and pride.

Stage 6: ORIE AWA

It is a day set aside to offer the sacrificial animals such as goats a special meal. The significance of this has been open to many interpretations and debate. While some claim that the exercise is to offer the animals their “last supper” for possible slaughter in Ikeji, others argue that it is to appreciate the importance of domestic animals like goat in Aro tradition. Orie Awa also features another round of fetching of fire wood to support the kitchen. This is an activity set out for young girls looking for suitors, the newly wed and young mothers. The road to nearby forests and farms to fetch the fire wood creates avenues for “toasting”, courtship by young boys in search of lifepartners.

Stage 7: AFOR AWA

Afor Awa is the expected deadline for all Aro sons and daughters, in-laws, friends and well-wishers travelling to the Kingdom from other Aro settlements and communities all over Igbo land to arrive in Aro. By Afor Awa, all cleaning up activities and preparations for Ikeji should have been concluded. The arrangements made by families and the community to receive Ikeji visitors and invitees should equally be concluded on or by Afor Awa day. The arrangements on ground by Afor Awa put everyone in full Ikeji vacation and festive mood. By Afor Awa, visits to the Farm for any hard work are restricted. Women especially young girls looking for suitors spend more time in body painting (ide uri and ide – nkasi ani). There is also special attention to coral beads andcowries which are usually won to complement the dressing. Afor Awa in Ikeji calendar is also a period that witnesses pressure on families to prepare their children and household for special Ikeji look like no other.

Stage 8: NKWO NZUKORO

Nkwo Nzukoro in Ikeji Calendar represents special market day set aside for Ikeji Shopping. On this day, Aros are expected to do the last marketing and shopping for the season. Although Ikeji is a yam festival, the eating of rice (eresi) has been introduced in recent times. Nkwo Nzukoro therefore also known as also known as Nkwo Eresi. In Aro traditional calendar that day also marks the end of the year. The midnight activities of nkwo nzukoro or nkwo eresi can be compared to activities at midnight of Christmas – New Year eve of 31st December; when Christians send – off an old year and usher in the New Year.

In the olden days, after dinner on Nkwo Nzukoro, Aro villages and kindreds usually keep vigil until midnight to usher in the New Year. For instance within the three villages that make up Umunna Okwara Agwunamely (Ugbo, Ugwuavor and Amoba) tough night masquerades called “Achikwu” take over the night. Achikwu masquerade strictly open to only male members who are initiated dance throughout the night of Nkwo Nzukoro to usher in Eke Odu. In some other villages and clans, it is Obono society that is used by men to mark the night vigil. In those days, the night of Nkwo Nzukoro is a night when women are neitherheard nor seen because of presence of night masquarades and other male dominated cultural dances.

When the New Year is born in the early hours of Eke Odu, there are spontaneous shouts of afo laoooo! afo laooooo! (Goodbye old year, goodbye old year). This is followed by lighted; smoking firebrands that run long distances to the backyard, waved above the head and thrown headlong along gutters, behind compounds to drive away the evils of the passing year. At the end of Nkwo Nzukoro, the Aro main market, Ncheghe, and the Eke Ukwu market, go on recess. On Tuesday 20th September, this ceremony was held as part of this year’s Ikeji festival.

Stage 9: EKE ODU

This is the day of the new yam. It features Ekpo Masquarade dances at Obinkita, variety of dances by the Ezeagwu & Umunna Okwara Agwu tomark the new yam. Eke Odu is the day Arocukwu eats the eat new yam.

Stage 10: ORIE EGBUGBU

This is the day the elders drawn from villages, kindred’s and clans commune with the ancestors through pouring of libation, killing of fouls, goats, cows and other sacrificial animals to appease the land. It is a day Aros make sacrifices to sue for peace, unity and love in celebration of harvest. The type of sacrifice is determined by capacity, affluence and need. This is the time when succulent plants known as OKPOTO is placed at the entrance of each onu ezi (compound). The eldest of the compound offers a sacrifice before the arrival of dawn.

Thereafter, about 7.00 a.m., every family offers sacrifice to its ancestors at Inyamavia located at Ulo nta (a small house but an ancestral assembly hall) where the family staff of office -Inyama Avia- is reposed. People are expected to ensure that their domestic animals are prevented from tasting the ofor left at the ulo nta. Any animal found tasting the ofor would be killed instantly. In the evening of Oriegbubgu, families begin to cook an Ikeji delicacy called osu. This delicacy is only prepared by women of proven purity and decency in character, birth and ancestory. The aboriginal status of women who can be involved in cooking and carrying Osu must not be in question. The end of the cooking is heralded with gun shots, each gunshot representing each goat used for the meal. The more goats killed the more gun shots into the air to celebrate success.

Stage 11: AFOR OSU

The osu meal prepared the previous day is now presented to friends and well-wishers on the Afor osu morning by women. Visitors are also entertained with the delicacy. Members of each family are summoned to the osu meal by the exclamation AFOR OSU OKO-O! The word Okoo is an exclamation used by the Aro to signal an emergency. The sharing of Osu from one household, family to another are usually carried out by young girls who are searching for suitors. It is an amazing day for special Ekpo masquerade performances at the highest level all over the kingdom especially at Obinkita. The journey from one family to the other provides huge opportunities for young bachelors to ask questions seek and fine. Ofor Osu in Aro calendar is a day of caring, sharing, exchange of gifts, pleasantries and good will.

Stage 12: NKWO EKPE IBOM-ISII

Nkwo Ibom Issi holds in Ibom square. On this day, Ikeji activities are centred in and on the Ibom village. All the villages that make up Ibom Isii assemble in Ibom to participate fully in the day’s activities other Aros attend as guests of Ibom Isii. Cultural displays and wrestling matches staged to entertain people from other villages of Aro. It is usually and avenue to market and celebrate talents, bravery, creativity and innovation in skills, dancing and wrestling. Many agile young men smile home with brand new love relationships that they never bargained for. This is Nkwo Ekpe Ibom Isii is also a special opportunity for girls to show their beauty apparently in search of partners. The various cultural displays feature good cultural displays. Respective villages drawn from Ibom Isii dance in style and excitement to the admiration before the Eze Aro and his cabinet sitting in majestic appraisal in Ibom square.

Stage 13: EKE EKPE AROCHUKWU

This is the climax of the Ikeji Festival. On the Eke Ekpe Day, Aros at home and in the Diaspora put on their best traditional attire, assemble in the ceremonial arena, Amaikpe to either participateor watch amazing diverse Aro cultures on display by the various communities. It is also a day set aside for delegations from Aro settlements drawn from communities across Igbo land to showcase Aro culture from the perspective of their host communities. These include dances and masquerades of all shapes and sizes and side attractions that speak eloquently of Aro heritage. Girls who have gone through puberty rituals in preparation for marriage are let out on this day to dance in the arena, from where they are expected to join their bridegrooms.

Eke Ekpe Day offers the Eze Aro another opportunity to address the kingdom, unveil new programs and set new agenda for Aros at home and in the diaspora. It is equally a chance for Nzuko Arochukwu to mobilise resources and opportunities for self help development projects. The Eke Ekpe is usually attended by dignitaries from the academia, politics, economy, private and public sectors including high ranking national and state government officials.

Stage 14: ORIE UBI LEE AVO

The event marks the beginning of the end of Ikeji. The process of winding down Ikeji commences with the ovor (family ancestral staff of office – Inyamavia ) earlier brought down for Ikeji festivities on Orie Egbugbu day in the ulo nta is then returned to original position until the next Ikeji. The Ceremony is restricted to only whom it may concern.

Stage 15: AFOR NDULA NWA-EKPE

During this day, Nwa Ekpe is ‘led back’ to Awada Aro. The ceremony on its own speaks volumes of the place of Nwa ekpe in Arochukwu customs and tradition.

Stage 16: NKWO NWUPU MMAI IBOM ISII

The day invites all aristocrats of Amuze and Ibom Isii to assemble at the house of Eze Ibom Isii who is head of Ibom Isii Kindred of the Aro Kingdom. The day also known as Nkwo Nzupu Avia (Nkwo market day) marks the re-opening of business of Ncheghe market. By this development, business activities earlier suspended to pave way for Ikeji resumes fully.

Stage 17: EKE NWUPU MMAI NA AMUZE

This last day of the event invites all the aristocrats” of Ibom Isii to meet those of Amuze and jointly move into the palace of the Eze Aro at Oror village. At the Palace, the final drinking; libation is poured in all ulo nta in Amuze. This ceremony brings the Ikeji Festival for that year to an end.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Arochukwu remains on ancient Kingdom in Igbo land, South East Nigeria where the culture, customs and tradition reign supreme. The Ikeji Arochukwu is one of such legacies that all generations of Aros hold sacred.

Reprinted (with edits) from AroNewsOnline

Ịlọ Chi na Ịlọ Ụwa: The Cosmic Journey of the Soul in Igbo Cosmology & Spirituality

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Uli designs by Igbo women

To the point, Ịlọ Ụwa is soul re-manifestation process also known as reincarnation, just as Ịlọ Chi is the original pre-birth divine soul manifestation act of Okike the supreme creator, which originally emanated the individual soul from the divine one cosmic soul (Ọma Ụwa/Ele Ụwa) at the moment of universal creation. Igbo proverbial lore expounds that Ugwu nyịrị anyị makana ọkwerọ ọfeke ngala for time is a special universal element of our realm and therefore precious. The universal cycles which generates this time currency stops to wait for no one, so that one must reap and sow in harmony with them. Ịlọ Ụwa is further still that cosmological stairway of spiritual maturity which is descended and ascended by the soul in the universal worlds with the final aim of transcending the universal worlds and returning back to its original source in the realm of Chi, for existence in the universal worlds is existence in temporality and limitations. Igbo spirituality and lifeworld as a whole is an intricately engineered journey towards this grand destination of humanity and a mirrored extension of the divine ordinance and cosmological principle of egbe na enu unyo na ana.

With this grand level of involvement anticipated in its wisely simplified processes, it is only proper that, access to our cosmic (i.e. non-temporal) memory in consciousness here in the universal world should naturally grant us a great lift from the pits and rungs of our previous climbs of the spirit, and this is what Ọdịnala aspires to with nature as its direct bridge in this realm of universal worlds. As the universe itself is destined a life in grand cycles culminating at the seventh viz. erete ụwa dị ịsaa eji alọ ụwa na ịsaa-ịsaa, so also is the cycle of reincarnation cosmologically capstoned at seven, with the exception of where ọghọm ụwa na ọmetalụbulu (i.e. karma) causes a delay and brings about more subsequent returns. In our present material well-being obsessed world, this exception has become the rule, so that people now assume that infinite reincarnation is the norm which is the fantasy to stay in “sin” or ignorance while “grace” or time is abundant, which is just that – an illusion. The complete reversal of this mode of being called The Fool.

Fool Tarot Cards

(Ọfeke) is what The Wise called Ọmalụ strives to accomplish. This is called Ịme Ọdịnala Chi Ụwa (soul cultular spirituality) or Ịme Chi Ụwa for short, which universal journey is socially celebrated and mystically counted or marked and capstoned with the original Ichiri Chi Ụwa titular rites and ceremonies which the natural Igbo person gravitates to in their universal trotting of accomplishments hunting. As the arch-nomads of the ancient world, movement and traveling is a fairly super instinct in the Igbo person. For having circumvented their present planet in the earliest far deem eras of their presence here, Igbo people naturally became propelled to channel and transform their hyper nomadic instinct and advanced spiritual wisdom gained from their intense nomadic experiences in primeval nature towards an industrious propensity and successfully became technology nomads. At this, they excelled beyond match among their original ancient clan siblings till their much recent decline in spirituality & creativity. Only thus recently have this advanced instinct been blunted and watered down to the trivial economic nomadic consciousness it is familiarized with as of today.

As with reincarnation, the Igbo nomadic instinct is also acutely practical of the Eje Ana Bụ Isi Ije cosmological principle i.e. going forth to life and returning seasoned with wisdom; the journey of incarnation and transcendence. This is to illustrate the reason for the characteristic proactivity of Echichi orders and lodges in Ọdịnala, such as Igbu Ichi, Ichi Iyom, Ichi Ọzọ, Ichi Ekpe, Ichi Eze, Ichi Ekwe, Ichi Lọlọ, Ichi Ọdụ Ichi Ebiri etc. For originally, within these ancestrally established orders and their lodges, were cultivated some of the most advanced Igbo spiritual techniques of enlightenment and cosmic principles or powers of accomplishment. When properly examined in the realm of energy, the memory of these descents and ascents in beings are captured by the soul in a shell-like spiral characterizing its revolutions in energy as would be seen at the center of a tree’s core, for instance.

Tree rings

The soul uses this memory to build a suitable and meriting body for its self in the womb of the universal worlds. When it has achieved this peak of ascent, it reincarnates no more and departs the universal worlds and its cycles of temporality and boundaries of limitations. Since very ancient times in Igbo land, it is known among Igbo seers of varied calibers who could directly see energy without the aid of any tools (Ndị na afụ ịkpa chi/Ịfụ ịkpa chi) that at the expiation of a material body whose in-habiting soul had actually completed its last cycle of returns to the universal world and was now ready to merge with Ọma the one cosmic soul of the androgynous supreme cosmic divinity Chi na Eke, at this point, it takes on the semblance of a feathered or a winged serpent upon its release from the body shell. Such a soul is regarded as having attained the angelic ancestral status of Ushi Egwurugwu i.e. hallowed ancestors of glorious transcendence or rainbow ascent).

The natural cymatia sign of the Chi at fulfilment or rest (which is captured in the Nshịbịrị script) enshrines within it the original mystical architecture of the Tree of Life revealing the completed cellular memory map of what the Chi’s finalized journey in the universal spheres looks like:- a rainbow feathered serpent coiled on a tree pole with its head raised above the pole in victory, illuminated with the golden hallow of enlightenment, sporting the rainbow colors of accomplishment and bearing the grand jewel of wisdom. In truth, Nshịbịrị script has layers of subtly engineered functions and purposes, one of which is to reveal the infinitely unique Chi signature vibration frequency geometry from the moment of its incarnation from Okike as it travels as energy in the spirit realm towards the externalized universal world where it will continue to travel in varying less-subtle phases. The script further uses these signatures in a set of multidimensional configurations to communicate and elicit the same signature vibrations from the Chi using the human psyche as a bridge. This first sign, the primordial sign of the Chi at fulfilment or rest, is the oldest symbol of enlightenment in the ancient world, from which original form it was much later miniaturized in many stages into the triangle with the all Seeing Eye symbol of lesser potency.

Nsibidi symbols on Ukara cloth

In reality, the living human proofs of the culmination of Ịlo Ụwa in Ọdịnala is made-manifestly observable in the life of Ndị Gburu Ichi na Ala Igbo. The ancient dictum goes that “onye gburu ichi na mgbe gboo bu onye ga emeri ọnwụ makana igbu ichi bu mmadụ ịdị ndụ kwa onwe ya”. This observation gave rise to the more generalized aphorism that
“onye gburu ichi emerigo onwu”. How is this so, that the culmination of reincarnation also meant the cessation of death? The answer is deceivingly simple but grave: birth gives rise to death as a crack in the human fate and yet death can be defeated whilst one is alive by the highest type of death in which one dies seven times and is resurrected seven times i.e. IGBU ICHI. This been the core mystic act underlying the original Igbu Ichi rite. The great Igbo ancestor Ọlaụda Ekwealọ of extraordinary bravery and genius, observed accurately many centuries ago that originally, Ichi title bearers in Igbo land were regarded as the most enlightened and wise among their peers where ever found, having undergone the mapping of the cellular memory of their Chi’s ascending current onto their face for the whole world to see and bear witness to the ultimate act of worldly denouncement and impeccable devotion to the Chi as codified in Ọdịnala and simultaneously the conquering of the power of temporal memory, they have forever sacrificed their human individual ego, with their own blood as the proof of death and their living body as the sacrificial alter.

They become living human mirrors of enlightenment and rare living proofs to the reenactment of the covenant of reincarnation cessation between the Chi and the soul,  made flesh. Having died before all, they resurrect to never die again, for every Igbo person who beheld them after this, witnessed to a soul who was now in a conscious blooded covenant with their Chi and this state of being is called Ugo Ebe Na Aja (taboo-restored state of innocence) which is why such persons are naturally excluded from doing all forms of manual work. And finally, when they decide that they are contented with life, they simply eject their souls from their bodies at will. They literally defy death and attain Ibi Ụwa i.e. reincarnation cessation. This is who we are.

Igbo Ukwu bronze

Silent Dweller

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Igbo dibia at a masquerade dance, Nri-Awka Igbo

Onye Oji, Black as the Bluest Blue
Silent Dweller

Eze ndi isi oji
Onye oma, a god with starry eyes
My Beloved
Groom of all grooms
My King, Eze’m

Ogalanya (Shining and bright)

I bow before you Lord of the Worlds
Cosmic representative of truth and justice, ofo na ogu
Star traveler, mapping the way, taking us where we need to go

Trailblazer
You

Obiri Jack mask (close-up) Ogbukele festival, Ekpafia Igbo

Eze Osetulu, Eze nke kachisi eze
You build the pyramids with your hands
Split the world in half
Spin the cosmic waters
Make matter out of words, okwu afa

Nna nke uwa, whose love is eternal
May we never forget our inheritance
We your chosen ones
Your eternal suns.

by Ebele Chizea

The Origin of Dancing and Music

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In the past,only a few men and women lived on the earth. Thick forests, seas and trees covered other parts of the universe. The big trees became the abode of many spirits, fairies and gods. Some gods, occupied trees, rivers and streams. Some big trees were feared and respected as the abode of the gods. Besides, because of frequent harassment by human beings, the spirits and gods decided to live in the forests where they enjoyed alot of quiet and uninterrupted peace. Most men and women would always bring minor or major problems to the gods by visiting the shrines of the gods and local spirits in the forest. This constituted a sort of nuisance to the spirits and gods.

The animals on the other hand decided to live in the forests to escape man’s constant attack on them. Men went out daily to hunt animals for food. This put many animals at risk of extinction. So many of their species decided to live far inside the bush to escape the attack from man. It was only the cow, dog, sheep and fowls that live in the home with humans. Other animals that live in the bush feel threatened. Although humans eat the domestic animals, which also serve as pets ,they do no kill them at the rate they hunt the wild ones.

A man went out to hung game on one sunny afternoon. He chased an antelope, which ran very fast into a big bush to escape being killed. The man persisted in his chase and came to a part of the bush which looked like an open hall where the animals used as a rendezvous where they would meet to relax when they were not looking for food or when they were not running away from hunters. The hunter did not find any human being there, not was there any animal. He suspected that the space was so beautiful that it must be a center where people gathered for games or refreshments. He hid himself behind some big trees to wait for the people who meet there to assemble. After a while, the forest spirits began to assemble there for their usual evening party. Many other spirits and gods also came along with their wives and children. They began to sing, clap, dance, and enjoy some jokes.

Some of the birds sang beautifully while some of the animals played some musical instruments that produced melodious sounds. It was an evening of great joy and merriment for the animals, while the gods shook their bodies and moved their legs in rhythmic and regular steps. Some of the young birds played flutes and whistles. The melody was very gorgeous. The hunter was thrilled as he watched the program from his hiding place. he did not want any of the guests to notice that he was there. Many of the animals, and birds were so carried away in the party that they did not know that someone was hiding and spying on them from somewhere.

The guests at the party dispersed at the end of the program and each went home. The hunter did not move immediately. He kept quiet until everyone present had left. he finally left and on his way, began to imitate the spirits and gods by humming some of the songs he heard. He moved his steps up and down, shook his body, hands, and his head. Then he began to practice what he saw the spirits and animals do in the forest. The hunter later got home that night and woke up to his family that had already gone to bed. He taught the wife and children how to sing, dance and play some of the instruments. He improvised the drums and bands with pots, tables, stools and plats that he had in his house.

The members of the family enjoyed the late night entertainment the hunter brought home to them. So every evening, the family met, played some music, danced, smiled and entertained themselves. The words of the music did not matter so much to them. They concentrated on getting the rhythm right and the steps correspond with the rhythm. Some younger members of the family added some melody to the songs and the harmony was absolutely interesting. Thus this is how humans learned music and dance.

From “African Spirituality: An Anthology of Igbo Religious Myths” by Udobata R Onunwa