In the Concubine, Elechi Amadi tells us (his readers) a rather eye-opening and compelling story. He opens the novel with this axiom:
“The Thunder-god feasts in his grove, Then naps ‘twixt rainbows up above; But justice suffers here below, And we know not which way to go.”
As though to prepare his readers for an encounter with the gods, the supernatural, and the extraordinary, as it is mingled with the everyday affairs of the Igbo people. The Igbo community (at the time) which he naturally sets this story in, seems to expect divine interference in their everyday life as a rather normal cause of events. As they go about their day-to-day activities, in this book, Elechi Amadi lets us accompany them (through our mind’s eye), as the men go to check their traps in the forest, as they all go to work on their farms, as they sit in the reception halls of their homes, as the wives cook in their kitchens, as friends visit each other to gossip, as the whole village (both young and old) gather occasionally to sing and dance together, as they go to marry wives, as they discuss quarrels that involve beating of their wives, as they go to bed on their bamboo beds and mats, as they embrace, shun, and struggle with death, the whole time we are there with them through Elechi Amadi’s penmanship, we become a part of their community.
Ihuoma, a very fine woman both in spirit and in person, turns out to be Amadi’s main character in this novel. A very beautiful well behaved simple woman, who also turns out to be something we all (including herself) struggle to grapple with in the end. Do all the men, women, children, and things linked to her life rise and fall because of her, or does she rise and fall because of them. This is a conundrum Elechi Amadi poses to his readership as well as his characters in this book.
Amadi naturally explores philosophical as well as spiritual phenomena present within the Igbo worldview with this book, such as; the polarity of existence which layers our universe – Oke and Nne (Nwunei), what many would simplify as the masculine and feminine; yin and yang; opposing yet balancing factors. He casually makes reference to this in his description of the drums in his storytelling. He also highlights the abominable perception suicide takes within the Igbo culture, the roles Dibịa play within the community, the hand of divine justice – Ofo na Ogu in the society, the application of body art (uli) with indigo, the idea of reincarnation and the personhood of Agwụ as something people contest with. Basically, the author touches on various cultural as well as spiritual realities of Ndị Igbo (the Igbo people) in his novel.
Elechi Amadi executes a poetic as well as proverbial use of language and metaphors in his writing of the Concubine, as though to illustrate that he too is very much influenced and an adept of the culture he writes about. The Concubine as a novel is definitely a good capture of what an Igbo community would look like pre-colonialism.
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.
Have you ever wondered why mankind was created? How the earth was formed? What about how death entered into the world? Or why people have different skin tones? Ndi Igbo (Igbo people) give answers to all these questions and more in “African Spirituality: An Anthology of Igbo Religious Myths”, a compilation of Igbo myths from all over Igboland, collected and interpreted by Professor Udobata R Onunwa.
While the modern day stories written by Igbo authors have been some of the most prominent from the African continent since the colonial period until today, much of the precolonial mythology of the Igbo has largely been overlooked. In order to remedy this situation, Professor Onunwa visited several villages in Alaigbo (Igboland), collecting oral mythologies and preserving them for current and future generations. He lists the source of the myths, as well as the variations from numerous villages and even provides commentary on most of them.
Among the myths recollected in this anthology include the “Origin of marriage”, “No distinction in death”, “Origin of dancing and music”, “Men and warfare” (my personal favorite of the bunch), and “Chukwu and the Mamiwota.” Stories that explain the local Igbo landscape are also included such as “Mbaa River leaves Mbara-Owere for Ugiri”, “Enmity between Ogbuide River and Urashi River” and “Ami-Agba leaves Ogwugwu Valley.”
This collection is by no means comprehensive and only scratches the surface of what the Igbo have to offer in regards to mythology. However, it is a vital part of the collection of anyone interested in learning about the culture of Igbo people, and definitely will inspire others to collect the older myths of generations past and create newer ones for generations to come.
In the last part of this article, I began the process of evaluating the claims made by Jeff Lieberman and the Igbo Jews in “The Jews of Nigeria” film. This segment was originally meant to touch on seven areas, but I have decided to present on just four areas this time, and then conclude with three for the final part. The four areas that will be evaluated will be Linguistics, Christianity & Igbo Tradition, Family & Village Traditions, and Artifacts.
One of the Igbo Jewish teachers in the film attempts to use pseudo-linguistics to show a similarity between Igbo and Hebrew. He makes a number of statements that range from comical to downright insulting to the intelligence of viewers.
“I believe that the word Igbo or Ibo is a corruption of Ibri or Ivri” – Eben Cohen
“There are alot of Igbo words that sound quite similar to that of Hebrew. Igbo is getting from the word Ivrim.” – Eben Cohen
Mr. Eben Cohen is so desperate to establish a connection between Igbo and Hebrew that he even shamefully makes the claim that the word Igbo is nothing but a corruption of a Hebrew word. Besides showing his massive inferiority complex, he also neglects the fact that the “gb” in Igbo (pronounced EE-g-bow) is considered one letter, as it is in other West African languages. Furthermore, its very well known that the word Igbo is found in other languages in Nigeria:
“Among the Yoruba – speaking people of the Kwa language to which the Igbo belongs, the expression ‘igbo” was very popular. He points to the Yoruba tradition which says that ‘the indigenous people whom their cultural hero, Oduduwa and his followers met at Ife were the Igbo.’ Furthermore, ‘we find among the Yoruba, place names like Oke-Igbo and Ijebu-Igbo…while ‘igbo” the bird, reflects the forest environment…While the linguistic authority, J.H Greensberg has placed the homeland of the Bantu speaking peoples in south-eastern Nigeria, J.A Ademakinwa, an Ife historian concludes that it was possible the Igbo retained the name of the original population of Eastern Nigeria”
SOURCE: “The Igbo and Their Niger Delta Neighbors” By Nnai J. O. Ijeaku (page 16-17)
“Kol in Hebrew means voice, ool in Igbo means voice” – Eben Cohen
Actual Igbo words for voice: Olu or Onu
SOURCE: “Igbo English Dictionary” by Michael J.C Echeruo
“Ketan: Hebrew for little or small, nkenta in Igbo” – Eben Cohen
Actual definition of Nkenta – allotment or share
Igbo words for small: nta, obere, ogbede, mpe mpe
SOURCE: “Igbo English Dictionary” by Michael J.C Echeruo
“If these people are not descendants of Israel, how come their languages rhymes with that of Israel?” – Eben Cohen
Perhaps in Eben’s demented world, Igbo language resembles Hebrew. Of course, this would mean that native Igbo speakers would be able to understand Hebrew, the same way that speakers of pidgin English can understand British English or Haitian Kreyol speakers can generally understand French. Igbos cannotunderstandHebrew whatsoever because its totally unrelated to it:
“The Igbo language (also known, less commonly as Ibo) is an African language, spoken in several African countries including Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Congo among others.
It belongs to the ‘Benue-Congo’ family of languages, which is a subgroup of the major ‘Niger-Congo’ family of languages. It is similar to Yoruba and Chinese in the sense that it is a tonal language. Like many African languages, the Igbo language has to its credit a number of dialects, distinguished by accent or orthography but almost universally mutually intelligible.”
SOURCE: “Development of Igbo Language E-Learning System” by Olufemi Moses Oyelami. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE October 2008 ISSN 1302-6488 Volume: 9 Number: 4 Article 2
Eben goes to make a pretty revealing statement later in the film:
“Initially there was no vast knowledge of Hebrew here, even though they have the Hebrew alphabet” – Eben Cohen
Despite the fact Igbos today have a vast knowledge of multiple dialects and even there is even evidence of Igbo scripts that predate the Latin one (Nsibidi & Uli for example), Eben Cohen wants us to believe that their real original language was Hebrew…which there is no vast knowledge of whatsoever in Igboland today. In fact, they would have to learn their true “original” language from foreign sources. Does that make any type of sense?
Court Record written in Nsibidi script
“We look forward to the day we will be perfect. By having our conversations fully, hours of conversations all in Hebrew. That is the day we will term ourselves perfect people.” – Eben Cohen
Well obviously being able to have full conversations in Igbo isn’t good enough for people like Eben Cohen. He wants to be able to converse fully in the totally foreign Hebrew language in order for him to be “perfect.” Its no different than a person saying the same thing about being fluent in the English language making them a better person, and is also more proof of the massive inferiority complex of Eben Cohen and the other Igbo Jews.
2. CHRISTIANITY & IGBO TRADITION
One of the oddest arguments that Lieberman makes in this film is that the introduction of Christianity into Igboland made its people totally forget their traditions and their origins. In the early part of the documentary, Lieberman tries to make the case that Igbo traditions somehow were lost due to colonization:
“In a land confused by outside forces, those traditions began to bear a different name”- Jeff Lieberman
Fortunately for Igbo people, Lieberman is mistaken. The Igbo customs have are known as Omenala or Odinani. Which means “it rests upon the Earth.” Christianity and Odinani have been practiced side by side for almost 100 years, although they have influenced one another. In fact, the idea that colonization would make people totally forget their origins and traditions is quite insulting to Igbo people’s intelligence. Yet another example of Lieberman’s patronizing attitude. This passage, which tells of the impact that Christianity had in the Igbo town of Nsukka is mirrored in many places of Igboland:
“When describing this belief system, I have adopted the present tense, since British colonialism and Christianity did not destroy or completely replace Nsukka religion. If anything, Christianity and traditional religion coexisted, often peacefully and conflict arose only when one religion tried to suppress the other.”
SOURCE: “Igo Mma Ogo: The Adoro Goddess, Her Wives, and Challengers—Influences on the Reconstruction of Alor-Uno, Northern Igboland, 1890-1994” by Nwando Achebe. Journal of Women’s History, Volume 14, Number 4, Winter 2003, pp. 83-105
Lieberman continues with this ironic statement:
“Like much of Africa, Nigeria suffers from a complicated sense of identity, due to the impact of outside forces. Nigeria’s fate came at the hands of the British, who began arriving in the middle of the 1600s. “ – Jeff Lieberman
Its pretty interesting that Lieberman can note that outside forces have complicated the sense of identity of many Nigerians, but doesn’t seem to include himself as contributing to this confusion. With people like him trying to reintroduce the failed Oriental hypothesis, would Judaism now count as an outside force? Furthermore, he incorrectly states that the British began arriving in the 1600s, when it really the Portuguese. Did Lieberman even attempt to fact check before putting out this film?
“The British administration was eventually established, and what followed were schools and churches. The Igbo initially rejected the churches, but attended the schools, thinking that they would eventually outsmart their oppressors. Before they realized that the schools and the churches were the same, more than half the Igbo were already converted.” — Jeff Lieberman
Funny enough, not one of those pictures shown in the film portrayed Igbo people during the colonial era. One can click here to see actual pictures of Igbo people during the colonial era. Secondly, the reason that many were converted was because the schools catered to children, who were far easier to indoctrinate than adults.
Igbo Men over 100 years ago
“Missionaries boosted their efforts in the 1980s, this time lead by the American Pentecostals.” – Jeff Lieberman
Coincidentally, it was soon after, that the Igbo-Jew fable began to re-emerge as well as shown in part 1. Next Lieberman attempts to paint a simple picture of Nigeria’s religious landscape either out of ignorance or deception:
“In this fervently religious nation, where’s there’s not an atheist or agnostic in sight, the country’s 130 million divide roughly equally amongst Muslims and Christians.” – Jeff Lieberman
Why does Jeff Lieberman continually ignore the traditional religions which are still heavily practice to this day? According to the CIA World Factbook, 10% of Nigerians adhere to their traditional religious practice. However, this number only accounts for peoples primary religious affiliation. If one were to add the number of people in Nigeria who still adhere to the traditional practices as their secondary religion, the number would jump up substantially to over 50%. The Nigerian Constitution even recognizes traditional religious rulers and customs. But that doesn’t stop Jeff Lieberman from continuing to spread his propaganda to uninformed audiences:
“While the link between the Igbo & Judaism are obvious to many Igbo, those practicing Judaism are small in number. Rough estimates figure that its less than 3000 that have embraced the faith. While the vast majority of Igbo remain active Christians.” – Jeff Lieberman
“As one of the three largest groups of Nigeria, the Igbo number approximately 25 million, and as the movement towards Judaism continues to grow, it has the potential to create a Jewish community of enormous size.” – Jeff Lieberman
Once again, Lieberman makes more misleading statements that are easily debunked by the facts on the ground . As pointed out in Part 1, the Oriental hypothesis of Igbo origin was discounted nearly 100 years ago. It was obvious to both the Europeans that introduced it as well as the native Igbos that the racist theory was based on little to no evidence.
The miniscule amount of people that practice Judaism in Igboland despite the “obvious links” should be a red flag to anyone who subscribes to this dead theory, as discussed by Rabbi Gorrin at one of the Re-Emerging Film talkback sessions:
Even more concerning should be the fact that there are alot more practitioners of the Igbo traditional religion than there are Igbo practitioners of Judaism. According to the CIA factbook, Nigeria’s Igbo population is roughly 30 million people. If the same percentage of them practiced their traditional religion as their primary religion, as is the national average, that would put the number of traditional practitioners at 3 million, more than 10X the amount of Igbos practicing Judaism in any capacity. Even if only 5% of Igbos practiced the traditional religion as their primary religion, that would still put the number at 1.5 million practitioners, most of whom live in rural areas. This is further buttressed by the number of traditional priests, priestesses and native doctors that still are able to obtain clients. If there was a movement of Igbos away from Christianity, it would be back to their native religion, and not to equally foreign religion of Judaism.
3. FAMILY & VILLAGE TRADITIONS
As Samuel and others begin to tell their stories, alot of holes start to pop up which cast doubt on the Igbo-Jewish idea:
“He (Samuel) studies whatever materials he can lay his hands on, and is amazed by how Jewish traditions mirror that of the Igbo. Samuel’s search has lead him home” – Jeff Lieberman
But how can this be? If Samuel actually studied whatever materials he could lay his hands on, he would have been aware that multiple Igbo historians have debunked the Oriental hypothesis, as demonstrated in part 1. And an analysis on both traditions will show that most of the claims of similarity are either overstated or downright fabricated, as demonstrated in part 2. Continuing:
“My father is an enlightened man. I still say it, that he was the first person to tell me about Judaism. But my mother was deceived by her friends, that I had joined an occultic society…my father tried to convince her that Judaism is a pure religion, but she wouldn’t listen ” – Samuel
Samuel’s father obviously isn’t a Christian. But he doesn’t practice Judaism either. Clearly, the mother also doesn’t, but if Judaism was really their ancestral tradition, why would the mother and her friends confuse it with an occult society? Especially since most of them have no problem no problem with masquerade societies:
When I went to Arochukwu to join the Ekpe traditional men’s society, I wasn’t condemned by members of my family. In fact, many people praised me for keeping the tradition alive, and my experience isn’t unique, and apparently Samuel’s isn’t either, but for a very different reason:
“Samuel’s experience is not uncommon. Those returning to Judaism face opposition from all sides” – Jeff Lieberman
Could this have anything to do with the fact that the traditional religion of the Igbos is still being practiced today? Igbo Christians recognize and respect many of the traditional practices and beliefs. But what the Igbo Jews are practicing is something completely alien to people in Nigeria, hence why there is alot of opposition to it. The experiences of Miriam add further evidence to this point:
“I’ve not really gone into my village so deeply because since I got married, when I did my wedding, when they saw people with kippahs, when they saw when we did our Ketubah marriage, when we break the glass, they were so scared, they were even crying, they said that my husband has initiated me in a cult” – Miriam
This may in fact be one of the most damning statements in the entire video. Lets look at this rationally: Its a fact that the traditional religion and practices are strongest in the village. Even to this day, people go to the village to do their traditional wedding before they do their Christian one. Even I have seen a video of my parents traditional wedding in the village.
If what Miriam had done was actually a traditional wedding, why would people in the village be scared of it? One can see the various traditional rites of Igbo marriage that are still practiced to this day right on Youtube.
Do they resemble the Jewish rites in any way?
“I’m still living in isolation in my family. I’m like an outcast among them.” – Igbo Jewish man
One open secret amongst many Nigerians is that there is usually at least one member of the family that openly practices the traditional religion As long at as that person isn’t engaging in taboo behavior, there is no reason for them to be isolated from their family. The people in my family that openly practice the traditional religion are not only respected, but are also consulted when spiritual issues arise.
The lack of physical evidence that the Igbo Jews have casts more doubt on their story. However, the little physical evidence that they do present is not only misleading, its actually fraudulent.
“And even when they came down here, they constructed a monument at Aguleri called Obu-Gad.” – Igbo Jewish man
If Jeff Lieberman had done his homework, he would have found out that the name of the place was actually Obu Uga (or Obuga for short), and has only been called Obu-Gad in recent years, when the people of Aguleri realized that they could use this re-emerging scam to promote their town, even going so far as to create this hoax.
Alleged Hebrew text written by Eri. Somebody forgot to inform the scam artists that cowries are a fairly recent import to West Africa
“In Aguleri the elders told Jeffreys in 1930 that: ‘…there are trenches (ekpe) that encircle Obuga and those trenches were told by our father were dug by the Igala in the old days as protection against the Igbo. In this trench people took refuge when an attack began. Afterwards the Igala went away …’ (Jeffreys 1930, 689)”
SOURCE: West African Journal of Archaeology, Volumes 12-13, page 56
Revisiting this quote from part 1, it makes you wonder why even the supporters of the Oriental hypothesis like Jeffreys weren’t informed of this so called Obu-Gad, especially since it would have added credence to their theory:
“By the late 1930s, the Oriental hypothesis had been argued out ad nauseam and abandoned, since no amount of research, not even (Herbert Frank) Matthew’s at Arochukwu and Jeffrey’s at Awka could uncover solid historical or anthropological evidence in its support. C.K Meek, the government anthropologist who had coordinate the research into this and related issues in Igboland, closed the debate as far as the government was concerned when he warned that: “no purpose would be served by engaging in speculations about ancient cultural contacts, such as that the prevalence of sun-worship, of forms of mummification, and of dual organization points to some distance connection with Ancient Egypt. As far back as we can see within historic times, the bulk of the Igbo peoples appear to have lived an isolated existence.”
By 1940 then, the Oriental hypothesis was to all intents and purposes dead as a serious explanation of Igbo culture history.”
SOURCE: “The Culture History of the Igbo Speaking Peoples of Nigeria” by Adiele Afigbo, West African Culture Dynamics: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives pages 307 to 309
When Rabbi Gorrin visits Nigeria, the people there have never seen a Torah in their lives:
“Then taking out a Torah scroll and unwrapping it and have them walk inside and see a Torah for the first time…” – Rabbi Howard Gorrin
But these same people had no doubt seen Ofo sticks, Mbari shrines, Ikenga figurines and other traditional artifacts:
“Excavations at Ugwuele, Nsukka and Afikpo show evidences of long habitation as early as 6000 B.C. However by 9th century A.D, it seemed most clearly that Igbo had settled firmly in Igboland”
SOURCE: “Migration and the Economy: Igbo Migrants and the Nigerian Economy 1900 to 1975” By Mathias Chinonyere Mgbeafulu, Page 10
So let’s get this straight. Igbos have artifacts in Igbo Ukwu that go back up to 8000 years. This is before anyone named Abraham, Isaac or Jacob would have existed. But the Igbo Jews want us to believe that they migrated from Israel but didn’t bring a single copy of ANY of the Jewish scriptures with them? Or even an artifact? Well Chukwu Dalu (Thank God) that Igbo ancestors left a multitude of artifacts for us to enjoy:
In summary, the Igbo Jews resort to using pseudo-linguistics in a failed attempt to link Igbo language with Hebrew, totally misrepresent the impact that Christianity has had on the Igbo traditional religion, demonstrate that Judaism is a foreign tradition as evidenced by the reactions of their family and village members, and last but not least, present fraudulent artifacts as evidence. In the fourth and final part, the following claims will be covered: Igbos & The State of Israel, “Expert” Opinions & DNA Testing.
“The Igbo and Their Niger Delta Neighbors” By Nnai J. O. Ijeaku (page 16-17)
“Igbo English Dictionary” by Michael J.C Echeruo
“Development of Igbo Language E-Learning System” by Olufemi Moses Oyelami. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE October 2008 ISSN 1302-6488 Volume: 9 Number: 4 Article 2
“Igo Mma Ogo: The Adoro Goddess, Her Wives, and Challengers—Influences on the Reconstruction of Alor-Uno, Northern Igboland, 1890-1994” by Nwando Achebe. Journal of Women’s History, Volume 14, Number 4, Winter 2003, pp. 83-105
West African Journal of Archaeology, Volumes 12-13, page 56
“The Culture History of the Igbo Speaking Peoples of Nigeria” by Adiele Afigbo, West African Culture Dynamics: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives pages 307 to 309
“Migration and the Economy: Igbo Migrants and the Nigerian Economy 1900 to 1975” By Mathias Chinonyere Mgbeafulu, Page 10
In the last part of this article, I gave an overview on the history of the failed “Oriental Hypothesis” that has re-emerged in this modern day immigration scam. The filmmaker, Jeff Lieberman deceived people into thinking that Igbo people have been in the dark for all these years about where they come from. In fact, he goes so far as to state early in the film that:
“It is only recently with the arrival of the internet that things began to change. Young Igbo like Samuel began researching their roots and comparing Igbo traditions with Hebrew traditions.” – Jeff Lieberman
This of course ignores the various debates that took place in the early 1900s, and the fact that “by 1940 then, the Oriental hypothesis was to all intents and purposes dead as a serious explanation of Igbo culture history.”
SOURCE: “The Culture History of the Igbo Speaking Peoples of Nigeria” by Adiele Afigbo,West African Culture Dynamics: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives, page 309
But what I intend on doing in this part is to take a look at each of the claims that are made in the film and test the veracity. The results of my research have been posted below, as well as the title of each source used. Furthermore, many of the books and articles have been uploaded to this site for everyone to be able to see them for themselves. It has taken me a few years to build up my collection of Igbo related documents and books, and it took me a few months in order to be able to put this all together. I would urge those who are truly interested in learning Igbo history and culture to take the time to read the sources and come to their own conclusions. The topics that will be evaluated will be the following: Traditions of Origin, Eri, Migration Routes, Circumcision, Kosher Diet Customs, Sabbath & Other Holy Days and Concept & Names of God.
1. TRADITIONS OF ORIGIN
According to the “Igbo Jews” most Igbos are aware of their “Jewish origin”. Samuel even goes so far as to say that he’s “always known that Igbos are Jews.” However, just a few second later he says the following:
“I can’t imagine myself practicing Judaism without going to the Internet cause I go there to study.” – Samuel
How in fact could this be the case? If he was truly interested the traditional religion of the Igbo people, then why didn’t he consider going to the Igbo traditional priests who have a wealth of knowledge of those traditions? They aren’t hard to find. In fact, you can even find them given interviews and press releases for local Nigerian newspapers.
Traditional Priest of Umueri
What about the local universities, which have published an abundance of academically sound research papers? What about his own parents? Certainly that’s the primary source of the vast majority of people to learn about their ancestral traditions right? Why does he have to resort to going to random internet links to find out about his own origins?
“Samuel is looking towards Israel as the birthplace of his ancestors. Its a notion he and so many other young Igbo first heard growing up in Nigeria, an oral history passed down through generations of the Igbo people” – Jeff Lieberman
Exactly what oral history is Lieberman speaking of? Of which communities and how many generations? Lets compare this statement to some pronounced scholarship on this issue:
“In the Igbo area, three different types of traditions of origins can be distinguished. The first claims that the community concerned migrated from an important kingdom outside the Igbo area, such as Benin or Igala. The second claims that the community migrated from a place within the Igbo area, while the last type typically claims that the community migrated from nowhere. Scholars have used these traditions of origin in two different ways: either to come to conclusions as to where the Igbo as a group came from, or to decide on the relative importance of the different groups within the Igbo area”
Abiriba – Migrants from other parts of Igboland & Enna (Efikland) SOURCE: Nigerian History, Politics, And Affairs: The Collected Essays Of Adiele Afigbo By Adiele Eberechukwu Afigbo & Toyin Falola, page 132
Arochukwu clan (responsible for over 100 settlements in Nigeria) – Migrants from the Igbo heartland, Cross Rivers area, Ekoiland and natives from Ibibioland SOURCE: The Slave Trade and Culture in the Bight of Biafra: An African Society in the Atlantic World by G. Ugo Nwokeji, pages 26-27
Anioma clan- Migrants from Nri, Ogboli, & Nteje groups of Igbo, and Benin Kingdom SOURCE: “Anioma” by Emeka Esogbue
Adazi-Nnukwu – Did not come from anywhere, and sprang from the earth SOURCE: Traditional Igbo Beliefs & Practices by Professor IK N Ogbukagu
Egbuoma – Migrants from Umuehi & Umu-uzu villages in Igboland SOURCE: The Paragon of Civilization by Sylvanus A Enworom, page 33
Ekpeye (Akpaohia) clan – Migrants from Benin Empire & other parts of Igboland SOURCE: “Ekpeye History”– Usama Ekpeye USA, Inc
Ika clan – Migrants from Benin Empire, Ishan & other parts of Igboland SOURCE: “The Ika People” by Onyeche Ifeanyi Joseph, PhD
Mbaise clan – Created by God in their current land (Orie-Ukwu Oboama na Umunama to be exact) SOURCE: African Christianity Rises Volume One: A Critical Study of the Catholicism by David Asonye Ihenacho, page 8
Neni – Settlers from Umudioka in Igboland SOURCE: “The Politics of Igbo Origin & Culture” by Dr. Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe
Umueri (Aguleri, Nri, Enugwu-Ukwu, Enugwu-Umeh, Nawfia, Nnokwa, Oraerim, etc) clan – Igalaland SOURCE: The History of Aguleri by M.C.M, Idigo, page 5
Its clear from this sample of some of the major areas in Igboland that all of these communities claim descent from:
A. Other parts of Igboland
B. Neighboring ethnic groups & kingdoms
C. The earth itself
So exactly what are the communities that have “oral traditions” of Israelite ancestry? And if so, how old are these “oral traditions”?
Jeff Lieberman then goes on to make a very revealing statement. He states the following:
“What simplified the ease of transitioning into this Judaism was that it was somewhat familiar to Samuel. Prayers were made in the name of Jesus. And many of the evangelical elements of Christianity were blended into Judaism, making it palatable to once-Christians. But yet this mixture of Judaism and Christianity made it theoretically completely contradictory. Despite that, the Messianic or Sabbatarian movement remains quite popular in Nigeria, seemingly attracting large fund and large amounts of people. It was a wrong turn for Samuel, and many once Christians, but one quite common on the Nigerian road to Judaism.” – Jeff Lieberman
Later in the film, one of the Igbo Jews also reveals the path that they took:
“Six years ago we started from Messianic, before we grow up to practicing Judaism.” Elder Habbakuk
If people in Nigeria decide to convert to Judaism, the only thing they would be returning to would be the roots of CHRISTIANITY, not of their native religions, which are still being practiced to this day. This is further demonstrated by the statement of one of the neighbors of Habbakuk who says:
“I used to be very scared of him, because of the religion. I don’t know the kind of religion, my first time of seeing such religion” – Johnleo Raymond
Every Nigerian knows exactly how their native religion looks like (even enough to put them in Nollywood films), so why would this woman claim that this was the first time of her seeing “such a religion” like this unless of course it was foreign?
One of the most “convincing” pieces of “evidence” that the Igbo Jews have to offer for their Israelite origin is that they are descended from a man named Eri, who happens to share the same name as one of the sons of the Biblical Gad. They give all types of details about this man named Eri:
“According to the history, Eri is the forefather, the ancestor that we had. He came with his brothers down to the East and established his first home.” – Igbo Jewish man
“In exploring a Jewish connection, many Igbo also point out that a figure named Eri is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. To determine if the Igbo ancestor could be the same Eri of Biblical times, we can gain a few facts from the Old Testament. Jacob had 12 sons, the 7th son was named Gad. Gad himself had 7 sons, the fifth by the name of Eri . Eri is only mentioned in one other place in the Bible, in Numbers, reveleaving that Eri had himself multiplied, and Gad and his descendants now numbered over 40,000. Jacob and his 12 sons, and his vast number of descendants became the 12 tribes of Israel. 10 of these tribes, including that of Gad, made home in Samaria, today the northern part of present day Israel. In the year 722 B.C, the tribes were attacked by Assyria, and quickly conquered. Sent into exile, they scattered throughout the land. And it is here that we lose track of the 10 lost tribes Including Gad, Eri and their families. Could Eri and his descendants have ended up in Western Africa? In Nigeria, the belief is yes. And there are many theories on just how they got there.” – Jeff Lieberman
“When you visit Aguleri, Nri, there’s many evidence to show that is where they first, our ancestors migrated to” – Igbo Jewish man
“The palace of Eri, has stayed over a thousand plus.” – Yermiyahu
“Its a small house they built for a man. That’s what they mean – Aguleri.”
“There’s burial ground of Eri, in Aguleri.” – Yermiyahu
“Maybe the person that came is the descendant of Eri. It could be Eri, it could be the descendant of Eri. But all I know is that the lineage of Eri came down to Nigeria” – Igbo Jewish man
Does the Biblical Eri have any relationship whatsoever to the one spoken of here? Lets see:
a. They are separated by thousands of years
The Biblical Eri would have lived nearly 3000 years ago, while the Nigerian one lived a few hundred years ago (which is even admitted by one of the Igbo Jews)
“The Aguleri people originated from Igara (sic) and migrated to their present abode about three or four centuries ago. The leader Eri, a warrior, took his people on a war expedition, and after long travel and many fights, established his camp at Eri-aka, near odanduli stream, a place which lies between Ifite and Igbezunu Aguleri. Eri, with his soldiers, went out regularly from his settlement to Urada, Nnadi and other surrounding towns on war raids and captured many of the inhabitants. These were the Ibo-speaking people and by mixing with them and inter-marriage, the immigrants adopted the language.”
SOURCE: The History of Aguleri by M.C.M, Idigo, page 5 (Published in 1955)
“According to the tradition of the Nri themselves, a man of Igala stock from Idah called Eri, son of Achado, a native doctor and hunter, came down the Omambala River in search of the River at a place later called Aguleri (Aguleri Igbo), and begat a number of children, to whom he passed on the secrets of his arts. His eldest son, who succeeded to the paraphernalia of his trade, was called Nriifikwuanim.”
Its pretty safe to say that these two people have NO RELATIONSHIP WHATSOEVER, and linking is another fraudulent attempt to fabricate an Israelite lineage.
3. MIGRATION ROUTES
One of the most entertaining segments of the film was where some of the Igbo Jews attempted to explain how their ancestors ended up in Nigeria:
“I know from birth I’m a Jew, only I know that my forefathers missed the way. They missed the way by coming down to Nigeria and decided to behave like Nigerians. We are not Nigerians, I am sure of that” – Igbo Jewish woman from Nnewi
“The 10 lost tribes of Israel are scattered all over the world. And they believe some of them will be in Africa, Western Africa.” – Samuel
“Well Israel is not far away from Nigeria…very close to Nigeria. They enter Ethiopia, enter Cameroon, and Cameroon with our place.”
“Through Asia, and now they migrated to….through Sudan to Africa.”
“I don’t want to sound racist. If I saw Abraham is Black, then I’ll be saying his white descendants are not his descendants. And if I say he’s White, then I may be saying he cannot have Black descendants. So I think it has to do with environmental factors.” – Samuel
“When the Jerusalem was destroyed, and we were dispersed, we set-up…stayed in Egypt. then Ethiopia, and the travel continued until we find ourselves scattered all over the place.”
“It was a mixed bag of Israelites, that migrated down here. They moved..majority..moved from North Africa, Morocco, passed through Mali, Northern Nigeria, entire length of Nigeria, then Igboland. In not very very ancient times, the traffic between Africa south of the Sahara, and north of the Sahara was quite immense. The Sahara desert was not a barrier. There was serious traffic. We are seeing evidence that Jewish people participated in the foundations of some of the empires that existed in Sub-saharan Africa. We have Judar Pasha. I don’t think anyone but a Jew could have answered the name Judar Pasha. He lead Morocco’s armies against the Songhai Empire. So its more likely for Jews to be participating in the traffic, in the trade” – Remy Ilona
Not only can they not get a coherent story together (coming through different routes as well as time periods hundreds of years apart), but its pretty clear that they are making up the stories as they go along. And not good stories either. To explain the dramatic difference in phenotype between Middle Easterners & Sub-saharan Africans, Samuel insinuates that their skin must have gotten darker as they moved closer to the equator (which sounds pretty racist by the way). The woman from Nnewi claims that she’s not from Nigeria and that her forefathers got lost and miraculously ended up in Nigeria. For some odd reason, her Nnewi ancestors forgot to mention that in their oral history when they stated they came from Orlu in Igboland. She goes on to claim that “Israel is not very far away away from Nigeria”, despite it being over 4000 kilometers (2500 miles) apart, and separated by the largest desert, most inhabitable in the world. The same desert that was able to keep the Roman, Ottoman, & Macedonian empires from penetrating further than North Africa was not really much of a barrier at all, according to Remy Ilona. He also makes the claim that Judar Pasha must have been Jewish because of his name, despite the fact that he was a Spaniard who was born a Catholic but then converted to Islam.
But the most damning question is that if Igbo people are descendants of Jews who migrated from Israel, why don’t they have any type of relationship with any of the other groups in Africa that claim the same thing such as the Lemba of Zimbabwe, Beta Israel of Ethiopia, or Yibir of Somalia? Why is that that until now, they had never heard of such groups although its pretty clear that if their narratives were true, that they would have either been part of them at some time or at least encountered them? And if they did come from the Sephardic populations in Northern Africa, why is there record of such a migration on either end? Furthermore, why don’t any of their surrounding neighbors have any stories of wandering Hebrews or Jews passing through their land? The only people in Nigeria that share some of the migration routes that the Igbo Jews are claiming would be the Fulani people, who have populations in West, Central, North and East Africa.
Probably the argument that is used the most as “proof” of a Jewish origin of Igbo people is the fact that they circumcise their infant males:
“People who generally mention that Igbo people came from Israel talk about circumcision on the 8th day, which is universal among the Igbos” – Igbo Jewish man
Unfortunately, what they forgot to mention is the fact that circumcision on the 8th day is NOT universal in Igboland. There are places like Afikpo where it could be done as late as the teenage years. But when it was done in Igboland, the delay was typically 1-8 days after birth. The delay of both the circumcision and naming of the child in Igbo culture was done mainly because of the high infant mortality rate in the days before colonialism, and that practice was shared amongst many African groups. There is no covenant whatsoever mentioned when the rite is done, and the foreskin is not even preserved, as it often is in the Jewish rite. Furthermore, the burial of the umbilical cord (Ili Alo) actually has far more significance than circumcision and actually does represent a covenant, between the child and Ala (the Earth deity), as well as the ancestors. Furthermore, they also intentionally leave out that both MALE & FEMALE circumcision was a part of the traditional society until recently, which is certainly not apart of the Levitical code.
Last but not least, the two methods of circumcision are extremely different. Especially since in the Orthodox Jewish circumcision tradition, the mohel (the Jewish priest doing the circumcision rite) performs what is known as metzitzah b’peh, or oral suction, where they takes a mouthful of wine and then his mouth around the base of the boy’s penis and uses suction to clean the wound. This is ritual is not done anywhere in Igboland. A rabbi explains this practice in this video:
This practice has recently been the center of some controversy in New York Ciy.
5. KOSHER DIET CUSTOMS
Another claim that is made amongst the Igbo Jews is that they share the same dietary customs as those prescribed in the Levitical code:
“As a child, my father taught us, we do not eat these fishes without scales, how did he know that? We don’t eat pigs, how did he know that?” – Igbo Jewish woman
The following is a list of the foods that Igbos traditionally have eaten that are specifically banned in the book of Leviticus:
As one can see, the traditional Igbo clearly diet violates the Kashrut, which is the Jewish dietary law. Ironically, Samuel actually confirms this when he states the following:
“Grasscutters. They are a kind of rodent. They are like rats, but they are larger, and they live in the wild. So its a very popular meat in Africa, especially in the Igboland. We call it Nchi. And it is believed that when you have a guest, and you give him grasscutter, you’ve really honored your guest. But its not Kosher, so I stopped eating it. We still eat our African food but we make it Kosher” – Samuel
Greater Cane Rat, a traditional Igbo delicacy
The fact that Samuel admits that they have to make their traditional food “kosher” means that the whole concept is one that is not native to their culture. The same woman who lied about the kosherness of Igbo foods tried to make an argument for ritual slaughter being the same way as done in Judaism:
“Even the way we kill our animals, which is killed in a kosher way” – Igbo Jewish woman
“Ritual cleansing – using of birds, animal sacrifice, they slaughter” – Igbo Jewish woman
However, this is negated by the fact that (a) the animals that are killed aren’t “kosher” and (b) ritual cleansing is a worldwide phenomenon.
6. SABBATH & OTHER HOLY DAYS
A common trait amongst all Jewish communities worldwide is the observation of a day of rest on the 7th day of the week. One of the Igbo jews makes an extremely misleading statement in the film:
“In Igboland we have resting days” – Igbo Jewish woman
What she is saying is in fact true. Igboland still does have resting days. The only problem is that there was no such thing as a Shabat (Sabbath) in Omenala. In fact, Igbos didn’t even have a 7 day week, they had a 4 day week (comprised of Eke, Orie, Afor, and Nkwo respectively). The “sacred day” not only differed by town, but also was particular to the deity in which a person was dedicated to. For example, devotees of Amadioha or Anyanwu would perform certain rituals on Afor day. Devotees of Owumiri spirits like Ogbuide or Urashi would perform their rituals on Orie day. Titled men and women also had their respective days of rest and meditation.
Another interesting statement is made by Jeff Lieberman:
“Whether its Shabat or Jewish holidays like Sukkot and Passover, each is greeted by Igbo gathering together from all corners” – Jeff Lieberman
What’s ironic about Lieberman’s statement is the fact that when goes and analyzes festivals and holidays in Igboland, you will not find any that trace their origin to Israel or relate to any historical events of the Jewish people. Celebration of Jewish holidays such as Hanukkah, Purim, Sukkrot, Shavuot, or Pesach are completely foreign to Igbo culture. Stories about the Exodus from Egypt, Destruction of the Temple, exiles to Persia, Babylon, etc are completely absent from Igbo mythology and folklore.
The vast majority of traditional Igbo festivals are related to agricultural cycles, culminating in the largest of all, the New Yam Festival. As stated in Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Igbo Traditional Agriculture:
“Traditional festivals in Igboland are mostly linked to stages in the farming operations and activities. They therefore serve as the farmer’s calendar of events both within the farm and off the farm. They mark the period of procurement of planting materials and farm implements, the time to tend the crops, the time to harvest and store farm produce, and the time to relax and celebrate any success achieved during the farming year. The sequence of events that take place in the farming system is aligned with the different festivals that take place during the year. The traditional Igbo society does not have any names of months, rather it is the festivals and the times they are held that guide them in their farming operations.”
SOURCE: Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Igbo Traditional Agriculture by Francis O C Nwonwu page 301
Examples of some of these festivals include the Festival of the New Year (Ikpuko), the Festival of the Grasshopper(Agugu ukpana), the New Yam Festival (Ufioioku, Iri ji, Ikeji), the Asala Festival, the Palm wine tappers Festival (Agbu Nkwu), etc. Agricultural deities are thanked during all of the aforementioned festivals. Other festivals that are dedicated to traditional Igbo deities include the Olisa, Agwu, Ekwensu, Ani & Ikenga festivals. Festivals dedicated to women include the Ogbe Festival. Other festivals include the Ufala festival, the Alo festival for Ozo titleholders, & the AluloMmuo festival.
SOURCE: Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Igbo Traditional Agriculture by Francis O C Nwonwu Chapter 12
An integral part of nearly all of these festivals is the presence of masquerades. Mmanwu, as they are called in Igboland are performed by secret societies and represent ancestral spirits as well as deities. During the festivals, they provide entertainment as well as protection to those in attendance. This central part of Igbo culture is not found anywhere in Judaism or Jewish society.
7. CONCEPT & NAMES OF GOD
Several attempts in the film are made to equate the concepts of the Supreme Being in Judaism with the one in the Igbo tradition.
In the beginning of the film, Samuel states: “My parents are not Christians, neither are they Muslims. Like my father, I know he only believes that there is God, and when he wakes up, he prays to God and that is all. I’ve never seen my parents go to church.” But what is really telling is what he does not say. Samuel never once goes and states the name that his father used for God. Was it Hashem? Was it Jehovah? Or was it Chukwu, Chineke or Obasi, which are some of the traditional names of God in Igbo listed below:
42 Igbo names & epithets for the Supreme Being:
Chukwu – The Great Chi (Edeh, pg 133)
Aka – The Origin, the Antiquity and the First One (Umeh, pg 129)
Okasi-Akasi – The Highest Highest (Edeh, pg 121)
Okike Chi – Sharer that shares Chi (Umeh, pg 129)
Obasi – (Onunwa, pg 27)
Ife-Anyi – For whom nothing is impossible (Edeh, pg 122)
Okike Uwa – Creator of the World (Umeh, pg 129)
Onwa n’etiri oha – The moon that shines for all (Udoye, pg 39)
Awuwa walu ife – Cutter that cuts things (Umeh, pg 130)
Eze-Igwe – King of Heaven (Edeh, pg 121)
Na Okike kelu ife – Creator that creates things (Umeh, pg 130)
Okaike – Most Powerful (Edeh, pg 122)
Anyanwu na Agbala – The Sun & the Mighty Spirit that holds the world in place (Agu, pg 23)
Ofu – The First of all that exists (Umeh, pg 130)
Chineke – (Edeh, pg 33)
Onye no n’elu, ogodo ya n-akp n’ala – One who dwells above and his wrapper stretches to every part of the world (Onunwa, pg 27)
Odenigbo – Whose fame resounds everywhere (Edeh, pg 122)
Ezechitaoke – King of the spirits & creation (Onunwa, pg 45)
Omacha – (Edeh, pg 33)
Anya Ukwu Na-Ele Uwa – The big eye that sees the entire world (Onunwa, pg 27)
Chidiokike – (Edeh, pg 33)
Eze-ogholigho-anya – King of knowledge who knows all (Edeh, pg 122)
Anyanwu – Eye of Light (Edeh, pg 125)
Obibie Okwachi – Great destroyer & repairer (Onunwa, pg 27)
Eke-ji-mma – Creator who holds goodness (Edeh, pg 122)
Ikpo Nkpume – The impregnable rock (Onunwa, pg 27)
Ike-ife – Bringing into being, originating or causing without pre-existent material (Edeh, pg 122)
Onye-Okike – Being who creates (Edeh, pg 121)
Ife – The Light (Umeh, pg 135)
Omelu-k’okwulu – Who keeps to his words (Edeh, pg 122)
Nna Ife Nta – The Father of the Small Light (Umeh, pg 135)
Otu Aka Oru Mba – One who points from one spot and it stretches to any part of the universe (Onunwa, pg 26)
Obasi Di’Elu – God that Lives in the Sky (Umeh, 133)
Igwe ka Ala – Heaven above the earth (Udoye, pg 39)
Chukwu Abiama – God the Revealer of Wisdom (Umeh, pg 135)
Olisa (Edeh, pg 33)
Olisa Ebili Uwa – God the mystic tide of the Universe (Umeh, pg 133)
Osebuluwa – Lord who carries the world (Edeh, pg 122)
Agbala ji igwe – The pillar holding up the sky (Udoye, pg 39)
Eke ekelu Igwe na Ana – The Creator who created heaven and earth (Udoye, 37)
Amassi Amassi – Known but never fully known (Edeh, pg 122)
Onozu-ebe-nine – Present everywhere (Edeh, pg 122)
A Handbook of African Religion & Culture by Professor Udobata Onunwa
The Book of Dawn & Invocations by Ogonna Agu
Besides comparing the names and titles, we must also consider the nature of God in both traditions.
“The Igbo people, by nature and tradition, they believe in the worship of one God” – Pinchas
Is this the whole truth? Lets hear from a famous practitioner of the Igbo traditional spirituality:
“Broadly speaking, there are two related concepts of God: Chineke, and Chi.
The first idea is the Supreme Being, God, the Creator, the universal God. He is the same for all persons and races and nations. He has no angels or holy messengers because he needs none. He can do everything. He created the whole cosmos alone and without fatigue. He is not human and does not possess an animal nature that would need food and drink; our sacrifices are symbolic. No one has ever seen him physically and no artist dare portray Him in wood, bronze, or painting. He is a spirit and communicates to man not in body but in spirit.
We believe that man is different from lower animals only in one primary sense: God left in every man a portion of his breath. When this element leaves the edifice called man, the residue is a mere matter. From this belief we derive our idea of personal gods, called Chi in Ibo (Igbo) language. There are as many Chi as there are personalities. No one Chi is like another, because no two persons are identical. A rich man’s Chi is rich and a poor man’s Chi is poor. A man’s Chi is masculine while a woman’s Chi is feminine. A man’s Chi is equal to that man. This personal god does not leave its master until death. It is a personal guard to which God entrusted every human being.
It is a common saying that a man is as great as his Chi. Thus in art, the personal god of a baby is represented as a baby. This god is visible through the individual persons. Hence it is not an invisible being, although it cannot be separated from the person without causing death to the individual. This is the concept of Igbo spirituality which has been most seriously misunderstood and misrepresented both by foreigners and some Igbo who are trying to interpret its relation to the social order.”
SOURCE: My Africa By Maazi Mbonu Ojike (1946) pages 182-183
From the account of a man who was a practitioner of the Igbo traditional spiritual system, the Igbo concept of God does not have angels, prophets or the need to receive offerings or sacrifices. Furthermore, Chukwu never needed to have holy books, never had a chosen people and never declared any particular land to be a holy land. The Igbo concept of God as being simultaneously an internal, personal force, as well as a collective one is virtually identical to the concepts of Atman and Brahman in Hinduism.
“The Igbo man has one Supreme God called Chukwu, who deserves worship alone” – Remy Ilona
Did the traditional Igbo people actually practice monotheism? Perhaps, we should confer with one of its respected traditional priests for some insights:
“Is the Igbo a polytheist? Yes, and he is closer the truth about God than the sneering, ignorant monotheist. We saw above that God is both one and many, just like the Army. The Army is a Unit with functional subdivisions. The same holds true for God. It is one Spirit, one Unit whose functional parts are Gods or Spirits. The functional parts of the Army are hierarchized. The same is true of the Gods. It is meaningless to assert that I applied to the Army for help to put out a fire in my house. The correct statement is that I applied to the Fire Brigade of the Army for help to put out a fire in my house. It is the Fire Brigade of the Army, not the whole Army, which handles fire-fighting. Similarly, we apply for help to a God in charge of a particular function, say, procreation (Akwalï Ömümü). To pray to a God makes sense, but it is foolishness and ignorance to pray to God. To worship or venerate God is inefficacious, but to worship or venerate a God yields immediate results. Our ancestors knew this and that is why they were ö-göö o-lee. Their prayers to a given God always yielded the desired result.
We repeat: Before the advent of Christianity in our midst, the Igbo mindset was that God is both one and many, just like the Army. The Christian mind-warping strategy was to assert that there is only One God, the Christian God, which is the God of all Gods. Man’s salvation lay in venerating and worshipping this Christian super-God. But the sober truth is that the Christian God is just one among the many Gods. The attempt to reject the Gods and cling to some super-God unsettles the mind because that mindset goes against all our observations. Can the world in front of our eyes be the creation of one super-God? No! Nature confirms the reality of Gods or fashioning powers, but not the reality of one super-God.”
We can see clearly from this statement that the traditional Igbo worldview would not be classified as Monotheism in any sense of the word. It would be far closer to Polytheism, and more specifically, Pantheism, which is defined as the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing immanent abstract God; or that the universe, or nature, and God are equivalent. The Igbo concept of God doesn’t have much in common with the Jewish one.
In summary, Jeff Lieberman & the Igbo Jews have yet to name any villages or clans that have oral traditions of origin from Israel, have yet to show any relationship between the Eri of the Bible and the person who was the founder of the Umueri clan, and cannot demonstrate a coherent or realistic migration route from Israel to their current location. Furthermore, it becomes clear with proper analysis that there is no link whatsoever between Igbos and Jews when it comes to circumcision rites, dietary customs, holy days, and concept and names of God. Its becoming more and more clear that Jeff Lieberman & the Igbo Jews are attempting to scam people, especially the Jewish communities in America & Israel by fabricating history and facts that don’t exist. In part three, I will cover the following claims: Linguistics, Christianity & Igbo Tradition, Family & Village Traditions, Artifacts, Igbos & The State of Israel, “Expert” Opinions & DNA Testing.
This year, a documentary came out, entitled: “Re-Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria”, which claims that Igbo people are one of the “Lost Tribes of Israel.” Its a very interesting and entertaining documentary. However, its one that is very much misnamed. What the documentary should be called is “Re-Emerging: The Failed Oriental Hypothesis.” What the filmmaker, Jeff L. Lieberman forgot to inform the audience of was that the propaganda he is trying to push has been debunked for nearly 100 years. Before we even get to review the film, let’s first go through history so we can figure out how this documentary came to be:
The first person to posit any relationship between Igbos and Jews was Oladuah Equianio. In his autobiography he states:
“Such is the imperfect sketch my memory has furnished me with of the manners and customs of a people among whom I first drew my breath. And here I cannot forbear suggesting what has long struck me very forcibly, namely, the strong analogy which even by this sketch, imperfect as it is, appears to prevail in the manners and customs of my countrymen and those of the Jews, before they reached the Land of Promise, and particularly the patriarchs while they were yet in that pastoral state which is described in Genesis–an analogy, which alone would induce me to think that the one people had sprung from the other.”
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano Or Gustavus Vassa, The African (Chapter 1)
This statement compares the two groups, but doesn’t actually say which one he believe came from the other. In recent years, evidence has emerged that Equianio (whose legal name was Gustavus Vassa) was actually born and raised in South Carolina, and only wrote about Igboland from the stories he heard others who were born there tell. Furthermore, one can argue that even if he were born in Igboland as he claimed, Vassa admits that not only is his memory very imperfect (having been removed from his people at such a young age), but that he is now looking at it from a Christian point of view, which would biased him to arguing for a Biblical connection to his people.
Professor Adele Afigbo, one of the prominent Igbo historians writes about other people who speculated on Igbo origins in the Middle Eastern area:
“(George) Basden (1912) pointing to certain constructions found in the Igbo language and what he considered the deep religious feeling of the people, propagated the view that Igbo culture probably evolved under the impact of the Levitical Code.
Impressed by what he considered the superior intelligence of the Aro Igbo and by their religious systems and rituals, (Sir Herbert Richmond ) Palmer contended that they carried Hamitic blood in their veins and that it was under their leadership that the “higher” aspects of Igbo culture had evolved.
Similarly, impressed by Igbo sun-worship and by the feature of dual organization in their social structure, (M.D.W) Jeffreys held that that the Igbo at some stage in the past had come under Egyptian influence, the carriers of this influence probably being the Nri of Akwa in northern Igboland.
The pseudo-scientific racial theories prominent in the colonial period made their impact on the Igbo in two ways. In the first place, colonialism was a severe humiliation for the Igbo. It also gave them Western education, which made them capable of accepting the myths about the cultural similarities between them and the peoples of the Near East. To show that they had not always been as “despicable” as the colonialists found them, they started laying claim to an Eastern origin on the basis of such cultural similarities.
In the same manner, the application of the Oriental hypothesis to Igbo cultural history by colonial officials had a propagandistic side to it. These men refused to concede that the Igbo cultural traits which they traced to the East could indicate that the Igbo came from there. To do so would, in the intellectual climate of the time, have been to assign this despised colonial people a higher place on the world tree of culture than the colonial masters would have found convenient. Instead, the colonial theorists claimed that these traits showed that he Igbo had once been under Egyptian or Jewish cultural dominance. Implicit in this claim was the idea, not hitherto emphasize by anyone, that British colonialism was not a radical departure from the past, but in some sense a continuation of the cultural education of the Igbo which had been started long ago by the Egyptians. In this regard it is revealing that the Oriental hypothesis was imported as an explanation of Igbo history in the 1920s, when the colonial government was experiencing great difficulty in the administration of the Igbo. It was in this situation that it came to be argued first that Igboland had once been under Egyptian influence, second that the spread of Egyptian culture in Igboland was the work of a small elite, who after interbreeding with the people, became the Nri and Aro of today, and third that if the British really wanted to rule the Igbo “indirectly”, then they had to do so through the Nri and the Aro (Afigbo 1965)
By the late 1930s, the Oriental hypothesis had been argued out ad nauseam and abandoned, since no amount of research, not even (Herbert Frank) Matthew’s at Arochukwu and Jeffrey’s at Awka could uncover solid historical or anthropological evidence in its support. C.K Meek, the government anthropologist who had coordinate the research into this and related issues in Igboland, closed the debate as far as the government was concerned when he warned that: “no purpose would be served by engaging in speculations about ancient cultural contacts, such as that the prevalence of sun-worship, of forms of mummification, and of dual organization points to some distance connection with Ancient Egypt. As far back as we can see within historic times, the bulk of the Igbo peoples appear to have lived an isolated existence.”
By 1940 then, theOriental hypothesis was to all intents and purposes dead as a serious explanation of Igbo culture history.”
“The Culture History of the Igbo Speaking Peoples of Nigeria” by Adiele Afigbo, West African Culture Dynamics: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives pages 307 to 309
This dead in the water theory was resurrected for a brief period of time during the Nigerian-Biafran War, when the Biafran Republic received support in the form of arms from Israel, among other nations. Apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia also supported Biafra, but nobody uses that as proof as any ancestral connection that Igbos have to any of those white settler regimes.
Over the years, other Igbo historical heavy weights through the years have also weighed in:
“It may well be that the proponents of this oriental hypothesis base their argument on circumstantial evidence. Non-Igbos who believe in this theory drew their conclusion on the strength of some similarities between Igbo sharp practices in trade and moneymaking ventures with that of the Jews. Still other people who buy this theory do so because the Igboman’s resentments in Nigeria resemble those of the Jews. The wide dispersion of the Igbo just like the Jews is also one of the reasons advanced to support this thesis. Today, however, the concept of the oriental or eastern origins is in danger. The idea has been impugned vehemently and is fast losing its credulity. The tradition is considered to be more of a fable than reality. No wonder the theory has been opposed and even rejected by some indigenous writers. Afigbo has written of its proponents as victims of the ‘oriental mirage’ and warned that the oriental extraction should not be taken seriously. Similarly (Professor. Elizabeth) Isichei has dismissed the theory as a ‘mistaken stereotype.’ To (M.A) Onwuejeogwu, the argument is ‘unscientific and only fulfills man’s quests for its origin without coming close to the answer.’ Because of the caliber of these critics, the first Hermetic hypothesis of the Igbo origins as obsolete and untenable. This is because it has neither established convincingly the circumstances surrounding the original home of the Igbo nor trace chronologically how the Igbo came to live whre they are today. But put more succinctly, contemporary studies on Igbo origin are contending that earliest Igbo first emerged in Nigeria and not from the near or far East.”
Migration and the Economy: Igbo Migrants and the Nigerian Economy 1900 to 1975 By Mathias Chinonyere Mgbeafulu, page 8
“Some elders still claim that the Igbo are the original inhabitants of their present place of abode. Some late theories of Hebrew link are yet to be confirmed with authentic ethnographic data.” A Handbook of African Religion and Culture by Professor Udobata R Onunwa, Page xxi
“Some Igbo writers have since then followed him (Dr. George Basden) and written in the same vein saying that the Igbos are of Jewish origin. Some of the undisputed similarities in some Jewish practice and those of the Igbos are stated in support of their claims. One has to observe however that some of the examples given appear too far-fetched…This account of the origin of the Igbo is immediately knocked out out by archaeological evidence that Igbos have been in their present settlement from well over 3000 B.C.”
Igbo People: Their Origin and Culture Area by Dibia John Umeh (Traditional Priest), Pages 32-33
So by 2012, when this documentary was made, the Oriental hypothesis, that Igbo culture and/or people is derived from Israel or Egypt had been abandoned by the very people that promoted it in the first place (Basden, Jeffreys, Palmer, Matthews, Meek etc) had been dismissed by serious indigenous and non-indigenous academics (Afigbo, Isichei, Onwuejeogwu, Mgbeafulu, Onunwa) and had never been taken seriously by traditional priests (Umeh) in the first place. You will not find arguments for the Oriental hypothesis in any recent academic journal, any recent dissertation or thesis, or any books written by traditional Igbo priests or practitioners. So how in the world did this movie actually get made?
There are two sources for the re-emergence of this failed hypothesis. As the film rightly pointed out, the Pentacostal Christian movement began to spread like wildfire in Nigeria in the 1970s and 80s. Unlike its predecessors, the Pentecostal churches did not put an emphasis on education for either its clergy or its congregation. Compared to the highly educated Anglican and Catholic Priests, Pentecostal ministers could literally be anyone off the street who received a “calling.” Furthermore, the Pentecostal churches did not open up schools at the same rate or at the same caliber as the Anglican and Catholics did, and also appealed to many of the unemployed, hopeless masses.
The mid-1980s also saw Nigeria’s once strong economy start to decline due to a poor decisions from the military leadership, as well as Structural Adjustment Programs by the World Bank. By the 1990s, Nigeria’s economic situation was extremely bleak. Many people looked for ways to escape. In 1993, an Igbo migrant worker in Israel named Chima Onyeulo went to the Interior Ministry to claim Israeli citizenship as a “returning” Jew. Onyeulo claimed that although most Igbos were now Christians, they were once Israelites, and on that basis, he should be allowed the “right of return” afforded to Jewish people. Furthermore, he insisted that Igbo was simply a corruption of the word “Hebrew.” His application was rejected.
African Refugees from the Sudan in Israel
His failure did not deter others from also trying to trying to be recognized as a Jew and escape out of Nigeria. In 1999, after one Igbo man traveled to Israel, he came back and told the rest of his Pentecostal church that they were from Israel , and convinced them embrace Judaism. Members of that church became practicing Messianic Judaism, which is nothing but Christianity that also keeps some of the Old Testament law. Messianic Judaism constitutes the overwhelming majority of self purported Igbo Jews today. That same year, the Association of Jewish Faith in Nigeria was founded.
Is it a coincidence that the Oriental Hypothesis began to re-emerge when Nigeria’s economic and political situation worsened? Does anyone else find it interesting that there is almost no record of any of these Igbo Jewish groups before the 1990s? Why did it take for them to get internet access before learning that they were Jews? Why were no practitioners of Odinani, Igbo traditional priests or Dibias interviewed in the film? Why were the academics in Igboland not interviewed either? How it is that in 2012, Jeff Lieberman has been able to find evidence for this supposed Hebrew lineage that Basden, Jeffreys, Palmer, Meek and Matthews could not find nearly 100 years ago before people had embraced Christianity as much as they do now? Isn’t it pretty clear what is going on here?
The Igbo Jews are trying to escape Nigeria by any means. They want Israel to airlift them out of Nigeria as they did to the Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) in the 1991 during Operation Solomon. They have even gone so far as to fabricate physical evidence and create traditions out of thin air that never existed in Igboland. While other Nigerians have used “green card marriages” or fake visas as a way to illegally immigrate out of the nation, these people have decided to pursue the religious route, and imitate foreign Ashkenazi traditions like donning the yarmulke caps, which is a tradition from Poland. They have even gone so far as to wave the flag as Israel as much as possible, despite the fact that the state of Israel as a secular nation and Judaism are not synonymous, and there are many Jews that do not identify with that state. Other commentators on various websites have pointed out the scam as well:
“Fraudsters! If I was an African living in squalor I would also claim to be Jewish to get a free ticket to Israel. The more we indulge these so called ‘Jews’ the more they will continue appearing”
“If Nigeria was a British colony, why couldn’t they find out about Judaism prior to the internet? The same Christian missionaries who converted many Nigerians to Christianity could have given them access to knowledge of Judaism. Were there no Jews in Nigeria during the British era? Wouldn’t the Christians have used the Old Testament which talks about the Jews?”
“The men are all circumcised as babies 8 days old??? I’m sure NOT. This is just a scam to get into Israel.”
“The Igbo people are not from Isreal. They do not have anything in common that one would even guess that they are from Isreal. Igbo people do not have any culture that relates to that of the Isrealis. The Ibos are Roman Catholics. The Igbo people should plan how to better their lives and that of their communities, and stop thinking negatives.”
This comment hit the nail right on the head:
“Well, looking at the situation i Nigeria where there is no social security, no light, no water, no good roads, no affordable health care system coupled with bad governance, one cannot but seek affiliation with another good country that may be willing to accept him. If Nigeria were to be a good country where the welfare of its citizen is well attended to, the Igbos would have denied that they are Jews even if Israel request for them.”
This documentary reminds me of another one that came out this year. Anyone remember Kony 2012??
Once the Ugandans got wind of it, they were able to help end Invisible Children’s party and expose them for the fraud they were perpetuating on people. Perhaps Jeff L. Lieberman knows this, and is choosing to avoid showing this film to Nigerian audiences as shown from the screening schedule on the website.
In conclusion, the only thing that has been re-emerging, is a racist scam that perpetuates the notion that African people are only intelligent enough to create their own traditions. This failed hypothesis, which says that Igbos in particular, could not have derived their culture by themselves, and must have been influenced by Jews or some other foreign group is being used as a means of escape from a failing state by some very desperate people. In the second part of the review, we will point out every single false or half-true statement in this documentary, and start the process of finally killing the debunked Oriental hypothesis once and for all. Please spread the word and don’t allow others get caught up in this latest Nigerian scam.
In the last few weeks, I have been reading a great book written by my friend, Obinna Ozoigbo, titled The Dust Must Settle. What attracted me to the book was that it was the first novel that I have ever seen mention my ancestral homeland, Arochukwu. When I got a chance to read it, it offered so much more than I would have ever imagined. This novel is like 3 books in one, and follows a West African family through multiple generations, starting at the advent of the colonial era. In essence, it picks up where Chinua Achebe’s classic Things Fall Apart leaves off, and also fills in the gap before and after Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun. You could almost say that it is like a modern day version of Alex Haley’s Roots. One of the things that engaged me the most was the historical context in which the novel is set. You have to see what happened to some people of African descent in the UK, USA and Nigeria at the same time in the early to mid 1900s. My favorite scene, in particular, was set when two of the descendants of Uzo Ogbonna attempt to return to Arochukwu. The conversation amongst the elders and their subsequent action is a classic! Rather than writing a normal review, I decided to interview Obinna. Check out the interview below.
The Author of "The Dust Must Settle", Obinna Ozoigbo
Who are some of your literary influences?
My literary influences make up a rather long chain. They are great writers I look up to, even when they do not know me. I have known them through the power of the pen, and through their “brainchildren”. You see, when I was growing up, I read a lot of Denise Robins. Granted, her novels fall in the romance genre, and are therefore mainly meant for women. But I was not necessarily moved by her romantic stories. I was moved by her style, especially her syntax. Denise Robins is one person, I must confess, who “taught” me creative writing during my formative years. My friends called me sissy, because I was always with her novels. But I didn’t care, because she was teaching me a lot of things about writing by mere reading some of her more-than-a-hundred novels. She was a superstar, in my own estimation.
Then, still as a teenager, I came across a novel titled The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon. Oh, my! Ever since, it was Sidney Sheldon, Sidney Sheldon, Sidney Sheldon–all the way! I have read almost all his novels. Through Nothing Lasts Forever, my life was never the same again. From the age of thirteen to that of twenty-seven, I hoped to meet him personally. Then in 2007, when I was thirty-five, I almost shed tears upon hearing the sad news of his death! And then, as soon as his autobiography The Other Side of Megot to Nigeria, I quickly ran to grab my own copy! Indeed, without mincing words, Sheldon affected my life so much, I was obsessed by him and his works.
Cyprian Ekwensi, of blessed memory, was Nigerian, of Igbo descent. I was about nine when I read some of his books for young people, such as Drummer Boy, Samankwe and the Highway Robbers, andThe Passport of Mallam Illa. Then before age 13, I read his People of the City, which was even published long before Chinua Achebe’sThings Fall Apart . . . No, it was not originally published by Heinemann under the African Writers Series (AWS). I also read Jagua Nana’s Daughter as a teenager. But I was so anxious to read its“predecessor”, Jagua Nana . . . Ha! Ha! Ha! You know what . . . My mother told me then, as soon as she saw me with Jagua Nana’s Daughter, that Jagua Nana was published in the sixties, and is a “corrupt” novel. Out of curiosity, therefore, I began to look for Jagua Nana. I never saw it until I got to the age of thirty-two in 2004 and stumbled into it in a place called Ojuelegba in Lagos, Nigeria, where old novels are sold. After reading it, I understood why my mother had said that. But, as a budding writer in the English language, I learned a lot of English lexicon from that book. It also gave me an insight into the depths of Ekwensi’s literary talent! Even though he is dead now, he still holds a special place in my heart. As a teenager, I also read his Survive the Peace, a novel that hinges on the Nigeria-Biafra War of 1967-1970. I also read For a Role of Parchment and Divided We Stand. Sincerely, I hail Ekwensi much more than people hail Achebe. But I am yet to find the reason why the whole world rates the latter higher.
In fact, there are so many of them. Like I said early on, it is a rather long chain. The few that deserve mention are Jeffrey-Archer, Barbara Taylor-Bradford (who is presently my Facebook friend), Flora Nwapa, Doris Lessing (who won the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature), Dillibe Onyeamah (the famous author of the famous novel, Nigger at Eton, which I presume is out of print now), and . . . Oh, my God . . . I will not forget Buchi Emecheta whose Destination Biafra, in my opinion, is a classic, and Chukwuemeka Ike, whose Chicken Chasersis one of the novels I regret ever losing through my book borrowers.
I just started reading North and South, one interesting literary work among the trilogies of John Jakes, and have begun to bask in the realization that he is going to be one of my biggest influences, because from just reading the opening chapter alone (of North and South), I fell in love with his style immediately.
Prior to North and South, however, I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth which has its tv mini-series adaptation by BBC. I never knew that a writer like Vera Brittain, born a few years close to the turn of the 19th century, ever existed among the great 20th-century writers until I stumbled into Testament of Youth, something I would like to refer to as a collection of her First-World-War experiences in which she narrated in great detail all her highs and lows, ups and downs, pain and misery, hopes and disappointments. The book is one of her most popular works. She is terrific!
What got you into writing?
Writing is inborn. You don’t force it upon yourself. Once you notice it, you cannot help letting it show, otherwise Barbara Cartland would never have written more than some two hundred romantic novels, books of cookery, etc. And Danielle Steel would not have said in one of her interviews, which I stumbled across on the internet, that once she begins to write, she pounds away on the keyboard. Once I heard her say that, I told myself “Whoa! That’s me!” It comes naturally. I have read so many books as a teenager, especially novels, that I told myself one day in the 80s’ : “Ol’boy, you can do better than some of them!” Hence, at 17, I finished a 208-page novel titled Lovebirds which I sent to Longmann, Lagos. But the big shot I met there looked down on me. And all I read from his expression was “What can a seventeen-year-old offer”. And you know what, I felt offended when he asked me: “Young man, what do you know about love?” I left and never came back. Up to this day, the manuscript of Lovebirds is still in the safety of my cupboard! I felt bad, because Ben Okri wrote Flowers and Shadows when he was 19! What difference does it make, anyway, for someone even younger than that to submit a 208-page manuscript talking about love?
Then I grew up amid so many books. My father had a library in our living room. But the books were safely locked behind the facade of a glass shelf. I kept seeing them as I was growing up. But I never read even one of them! They were mostly novels. But whenever I had access to his bedroom, I would tiptoe to find the key to the shelf. I would unlock it and begin to flip through, wondering how the writers came up with books of such volumes, hoping that someday I would do the same. However, I would read some of them randomly. That is, I would read, say, a paragraph on page 10, then flip to (say) another on page 100. I mostly did this when my father had gone out, and my mother, who happened to be a lot more liberal and less cynical, was at home. Unlike my father, she did not bother whenever I came into their bedroom to take anything, especially the key to the glass shelf. Sometimes, I could not make out what some of the books were talking about, because they were much more adult. All the same, I continued reading, believing somehow that, someday, I would write my own. At 13, I joined the literary society in my secondary school. It was there that it dawned on me that I have the gift of writing. Prior to then, I was always scoring highest in my English Language compositions. Also, it was then that I realized that I could express myself better when I write than when I speak. As a result, I was not in the debating/oratory arm of the society. I just wanted to write, write, and write–and until I am known all over the world, just like all the writers I have early on mentioned.
Are any of the stories in the book based on situations you or someone else has experienced?
The Dust Must Settle is a product of my imagination. I must be quick, however, to say that the Welsh missionary, Mary-Ann Spencer, was a character I developed based on the real life story of Mary Slessor, the Scottish missionary that was sent to Calabar, Nigeria in the late-19th century and lived among the Efiks up to the nineteen-thirties, where she died and was buried.
How long have you been writing?
As a matter of fact, I have been writing from as far as when I was 13. I wrote for my secondary school in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. And that was in 1985. And then I sent a lot of short stories to magazines in Lagos by post. But up till now, I can’t quite decipher their reason(s) for not wanting to get me published. Perhaps they felt I was too young then to write such adult stories. Then I already told you about my Longmann experience. Now, however, I kind of cringe whenever I go back to read the manuscript of Lovebirds. I began to work in the bank at 19! Due to the “jealousy” of the tasking job, I never had time to write. By “jealousy” I mean, my job not allowing me to give time to other things to do to better myself. Besides, Lagos is such a big West African city that it took me five hours sometimes to get back home from work! After all the bumper-to-bumper traffic jams, after all the inhaling of exhaust fumes of rickety cars and buses, I would slump into my bed, completely tired and exhausted. For some fifteen years this was the case. It was after I left banking in 2004/5 that I began to write The Dust Must Settle, greatly inspired by the life story of Mary Slessor, greatly challenged after reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Barbara Taylor-Bradford’s A Woman of Substance and Voice of the Heart. Presently, I am working on another novel, a project in which I want to involve the United Nations Population Fund, the Ministry of Women Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Women Trust Fund. Now that I have finally left the Nigerian sub-banking sector as a result of inconsistencies and damaging reforms in the country’s financial terrain, where I found myself from 1991 (at 19) through 2005 (at 33), I feel as free as a bird let out of its cage to write, write, and write. Ha! Ha! Ha! I met a well-known publisher in Lagos in 2005. He told me I was a banker, and not a writer. How wrong he was! And how contradictory he sounded, because Cyprian Ekwensi was a pharmacist! Anezi Okoro, who wrote quite a number of novels, was a dermatologist! One Dr. Chukwuezi, an ENT physician, has written novels in the Igbo language at that! And then Sefi Attah, whose Everything Good Will Come was published by this same man, is a chartered accountant!
How do you feel about the state of African literature?
At some point along the line, I felt really bad that the new generation of African writers were sleeping, or so it seemed, until Adichie sprang up with her Purple Hibiscus at the age of 26 or so. Some people hail her for achieving such a literary feat at that age. But I ask them: Don’t you know that Cyprian Ekwensi was a teenager when he wrote For a Role of Parchment, Ben Okri (the winner of the 1991 Booker) was also a teenager when he wrote Flowers and Shadows, Buchi Emecheta was 20 or so when she wrote In the Ditch, and Chinua Achebe was also 26 or so when he wrote Things Fall Apart? What do I mean by that, you might say. They began to write in the prime of youth! The truth is that today’s youths, the African youths, are not doing much as far as writing is concerned. And another truth is that no one encourages them! No, I am not making up excuses for them, neither am I exaggerating! You see, those that make up the old generation of African writers were greatly encouraged by their European teachers and mentors who happened to have been key players in the British colonial administration in Africa. They read so many quality works of literature by Shakespeare, Dickens, Austin, Twain, Elliot, Chaucer, etc! Besides, they left for England by sea through the coasts of Africa to study one course or another. Even those who attended the then University College, Ibadan were thoroughly taught by the British! Unfortunately, now that they are in the twilight of both their lives and writing careers, we still suffer a terrible literary dearth in the upcoming ones that make up the new generation. Many are disenchanted and disillusioned, and even confused, perhaps because they were badly taught in the universities, especially now that the Nigerian educational system has been messed up by our leaders. They need another generation to hold the dream, to take up the “scepter” from them. It is our inheritance! I mean, the “scepter”. Just as it is the inheritance of a prince or princess. They must continue from where the old generation stopped–with the African story! Otherwise we will have no more story or stories to tell our young ones and the ones that are not yet born. No European will tell us our story, about our origin, about our bloodline, about our forefathers, about our cultures, about our heritage. No American will. No Indian will. No Jamaican will. Not even the African-Americans will! If we lose this knowledge, we have lost everything. There is no man or woman on earth who does not know his or her origin, where he or she comes from. If there is, then he or she has not been told anything! And that is what we are trying to prevent, bless my colleagues-in-African-literature, the new generations, in the persons of Helon Habila, C. N. Adichie, Jude Dibia, Sefi Attah, Uwem Akpan, Adaobi T. Nwaubani, and all the rest of them–and bless such NGOs as the Commonwealth Foundation and the Hurston/Wright Foudation who are working hard to ensure that the old generation of African writers will never be disappointed. In a nut shell, I would therefore say that there are great prospects for the state of African literature today. Kudos to Aminatta Forna, a wonderful lady from Sierra Leone, whose The Memory of Love won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Africa), in the Best-Book Category! And it was recently brought to my knowledge by my publisher that The Dust Must Settle has great film potential in Hollywood, California! That is to say, Americans, blacks and whites alike, are getting more and more interested in African literature!
Which character in the book are you most like?
Mmmmh . . . The Dust Must Settle is like a trilogy bound together. Yes, it is quite a large volume, and has Book One, Book Two and Book Three! I fell in love with the major character in Book One. He is Uzo Ogbonna. This is a man that gets fed up with all the heathen practices of his people in Arochukwu. His father hates him for being an Anglophile, for being “lazy”, because he prefers doing the work of the white man to doing the farm work of his people, the Aro people. And his father is the owner of the largest farmland in all the 19 villages of Arochukwu! . . . I am an Anglophile. And I hate to go to the farm to work the land. I prefer to go to England to live and study–perhaps until I become a professor.
What inspired you to write this story?
In 2005, I casually went to the internet to study the life of Mary Slessor. Just out of curiosity, because I have heard so much about this Scottish missionary who served so selflessly in South-East Nigeria and spearheaded the stopping of the killing of twins. I didn’t want to continue hearing from people: older people and younger people alike. And my mates, too. I had to look her out myself.Then as I read along, I got to where it was written that she sailed back to Scotland with some African children to receive medical attention. As I scrolled, I gasped when I saw a picture she took with those African children.When I began to wonder what could have happened to those children (I mean, what later became of them) in Scotland, my imagination was fired, and the idea ad concept of The Dust Must Settle was conceived.
Describe the research process for this story?
Actually, I have not yet left the shores of Nigeria. You see, I have a book, Colour In Britain (published in the 60s), which was based on a series of radio interviews compiled by BBC on the sociological position in Britain of coloured people and their children from all the Commonwealth countries. This book helped so much when I was writing about the growing-up days of two of Uzo Ogonna’s triplets–Ruth, Esther and Timothy–in Belfast and Nottingham. Then I depended so much on Wikipedia, the internet encyclopaedia, which opened my eyes to a lot about the conurbations or cities of London, Brooklyn in New York, Nottingham, Belfast and so on. I have a friend who comes from Kano, Nigeria. He did a lot to give me an insight into the socio-economic lifestyle of Northern Nigeria. Then I asked a lot of questions to my friends who live in Britain and in the United States and Canada. Then I have friends who are doctors and lawyers whom I asked a lot of questions which enabled me to work around Ruth’s nursing career, Esther’s rail accident with Bolu, et cetera. I applied the legal advice to all the plots that had to do with testament. Edward Spencer, Mary-ann’s late father, wills his house in Soho, London to her, and she in turn wills the same house, jointly and severally, to Ruth, Esther and Timothy. There are plots revolving around testament administration in the saga.
One common theme that is very strong in this novel is bloodline and children (male ones in particular). Why did you decide to focus onthis?
Bloodline is of paramount significance in the Igbo genealogy. Africans do not joke with it, neither do the Jews. That is why the subject of adoption has not developed a strong foothold in Africa, even in this twenty-first century. In the Western world, water may be as thick as blood. But in Africa, blood has always been thicker. And there is no compromise! In concrete terms, the African extended family system, especially among the Igbo in South-East Nigeria, does not readily accommodate or favor the female children. For example, no female child among the offspring of the Igbo landed gentry is allowed to inherit any property in her (late) father’s real estate tabled for sharing. Doing otherwise is against the Igbo tradition, and would raise a lot of flak. Yes, a lot of the people, who hold tenaciously to such traditions as this, especially the elders and the council of chiefs, would definitely kick against it. In a nutshell, it is not (and can never be) done. Then you have the question of posterity. No Igbo man is happy when he does not have male offspring to carry on the family name. But the only exception here is if, and only if, the man is a Christian through and through, and therefore has jettisoned tradition and broken stereotypes, to the bewilderment of the people. The Dust Must Settle tells about Obiageli Okoli (in Book Two) who devises every possible means to bring in a male presence among her all-girl offspring. She foresees her husband’s kith and kin claiming all his (her husband’s) inheritance, and every single asset that make up his real estate. If Mezue Okoli (her husband) dropped dead “today”, her exceptionally brilliant daughters (six of them) would lose everything. Yes, practically everything! And she has to do everything within her power to forestall this. That is why she goes to the United States (Texas) to be delivered of her baby girl. But she comes back to Nigeria with a baby boy after carrying out a successful swap through the connivance of two American midwives—Crawford and Nash. But Obiageli does not know that the mother of this boy is her cousin’s daughter, Nwadi Mbonu, a student in Canada, who has also gone to the same hospital, stealthily, to give birth to her son—and then give him away to an adoption agency in Texas. This baby boy of Nwadi’s, whom Obiageli has claimed as hers, ends up playing a role in linking the now old triplets together after seventy-nine years of their separation. In fact, if I had not brought in bloodline and the preference for male children among the Igbo, the saga would never have been complete. And mind you that we are talking about the pedigree, the common ancestry, of an African family that spans over four generations. Without bloodline, without the male child, it may be difficult for one to trace one’s roots. Have you ever wondered why the formidable Kizzy Waller, daughter of Kunta Kinte and Belle (called Kizzy Reynolds in the TV series), refuses to marry, even though she falls in love with a charming young man? The answer is simple: to propagate the name, Kinta Kunte. If she had married that man, the name will have gone into extinction. To hold her father’s dream, Kizzy makes the hardest decision of her life: obstinately putting herself in the position of a man in the family.
What made you decide to have three books in one?
Mmmmh . . . actually, I am now contemplating having them separated, so that they would become a trilogy. And to be frank with you, it was never my intention to have it like that. That I divided the saga into Books 1, 2, and 3 does not mean (to me) that I have three books in one. It was my readers around the world who have been suggesting to me that I separate the book in order to have a trilogy. To answer your question, however, I would like to start by referring you to such
family sagas as John Jake’s North and South, Alex Haley’s Roots, Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds, and Barbara Taylor-Bradford’s AWoman of Substance, which were all made into TV miniseries. These novels are as voluminous as the 600-page The Dust Must Settle. Both The Thorn Birds and North & South, for example, are well over 600 pages, yet each of them is just one novel. A Woman of Substance is about 800 pages, yet it is one novel. I think the confusion lies in my calling the three parts of The Dust Must Settle “Book One”, “Book Two”, and then “Book Three” — which is not strange, because I have read a lot of novels which are divided into Books, not Parts. Whether Books or Parts, they mean the same to writers. Just choose whichever you want. It is only the layman who does not understand it like that, hence all the “complaints” or “points of observation” that flood in, asking me why I put three books in one. And like I said early on, I never conceived the idea of separating the book into three separate books until I began to receive a torrent of mails and calls to that effect.
What’s your lineage?
First of all, I am of Igbo extraction, in South-East Nigeria, the first son—but the second after my elder sister—in a family of eight. I come from Ihiala in Anambra State. My (late) father, Mr. Benjamin Jude Enyika Ozoigbo, had a dual profession: he was a nurse/medical illustrator and, at the same time, a fine-arts lecturer. Well, he studied nursing, and after he got disenchanted with it, he proceeded to the university to study Fine Arts after meeting my mother who happens to be a nurse, too. He was the fourth son from his mother’s womb (his mother had five sons only in a polygamous family of three wives and twelve children). My grandfather, John Anisobi Ozoigbo, was among the well-known titled men in Ihiala. He had a lot of lands, and had a lot of dealings with the colonial administrators, hence my father’s and my uncles’ impressive educational backgrounds. I cannot go beyond my grandfather, because we do not have a family tree. In any case, I believe a little research can do that for me.
Are you currently working on any other novels?
Oh, yes. I am working on another one that hinges on gender. Just like The Dust Must Settle, it involves intensive research. It is a very important project in which I want to involve Virgin Unite (an NGO in Britain owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group), the United Nations Populations Fund, the ministry of Women Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Nigerian Women Trust Fund, and all women around the world who have dedicated, or are still dedicating, their creative energies to human rights activism, pacifism, and feminism. It is a project I want to finish in record time, so that the better part of its launching proceeds will go to the funding required for the treatment of VVF (Vesico-Vaginal Fistula) which is prevalent in Northern Nigeria. I came across an article in the Nigerian Health Journal of January 21, 2011. According to this article, it is estimated that 2 million women, globally, suffer from obstetric fistula, with approximately 400,000-800,000 of such cases in Nigeria alone, the northern part having over 85 percent of these cases. Obviously, these women are mostly very young, uneducated and inexperienced. Many of them die as a result of VVF. They do not have a voice. I want to lend them a voice, and financial help also for the corrective surgical procedures, through this project I am working on. The next project is exclusively a historical novel, and has to do with a descendant of slaves, who becomes the richest man in Nottingham, one ofthe conurbations of England. I won’t go into details. Let’s leave it at that for now.
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?
This question that is the most common in all the interviews I have had with both the print and broadcast media. In any case, I have to tell the budding writers to read extensively. Many of them have plunged into writing because they want to win awards. Writing is not for you to win awards. Writing is for you to pass a message, a satire, to society. It is akin to the work of a journalist. The only difference is satire which must be evident in every novel. Journalists tell the plain truth. And that is why some of them are assassinated. Do you want to write to simply tell a story to the people in your community in the whole world? Or do you want to just trade the story for money? The choice is yours. But note that you cannot go far if you make the latter choice. A lot of aspiring writers want to just write and get published. They don’t care about the impact of their writing on society. That is what I call writing without purpose. Still a lot want to write when they don’t read. Reading and writing go together. You can’t be a great writer when you do not read. I am presently involved in a world competition in which five or so participants who eventually win will have their works published on both sides of the Atlantic by the world-leading publishers of J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, and Dan Brown. We have begun to review the opening chapters of one another, which will take the whole of this June. I shake my head in wonder, and also in disgust, when I read for my own review what some of these young aspiring writers have submitted for the competition. And what is worse, some of them are not willing to take any criticism, no matter how constructive! So, every aspiring writer must be willing to learn, otherwise there are no prospects—and there will never be.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of reviewing another book written by an Igbo author who goes by the name Nwaonishe Ezenwanyi, entitled Conversations with the African Gods. Many of you might be familiar with the similarly titled “Conversations with God” series, written by Neale Donald Walsch, in which he has a number of conversations with “God.” To say that this book is the African version of that would be an understatement. Conversations with the African Gods is a journey for anyone who reads it, on humanity’s past, present, and future, from an African point of view. For far too long, perspectives, philosophies, and religions have been placed into a false dichotomy of being either Eastern or Western, with Africa being excluded. This book challenges that false dualism and brings forth commentary on world events from African gods and ancestors.
The author begins by describing her personal journey. Like many of us born during the African Dark Ages, she was raised as a Christian (specifically Catholic), but was still extremely curious about the other religious and spiritual traditions in the world. Her journey took her to exploring Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, amongst others. Eventually, after doing a lot of seeking and searching, her journey didn’t lead to her finding the “right” tradition, but to the tradition “finding” her. In fact, she ended up listening to the voices that had been calling her all along. She claimed her birthright and began practicing the spiritual science of her ancestors, Odinani.
Her spiritual awakening has also lead to her becoming aware of and developing different abilities such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, etc. One of the most interesting gifts that she learned was how to invoke spirits. The one that she was able to invoke the most was Onishe, who happened to be her “head deity”, or the one most in control of her life. For that reason, she goes by the name Nwaonishe, which means a child of Onishe. She also happens to be the spirit that makes the most commentary. She opens up the dialogue by stating:
“I am a prophetess, a chosen one, selected apart by god/dess to speak the words of god/dess. I am manifestation of god/dess as I surrender each moment to my essential nature. I am speaker of life and death. Avenger for the just, the pure, the clean. There is only one Onishe and she is here and now, in you, and in many. I am the word. Atu. Word that forms everything. Logos. Mami Wata, Supreme Water, Essence liquid, Nut of Khemet. I am the word of Nut, the goddess of creation.”
Statue associated with Onishe in Asaba
While Onishe is the Igbo Alusi (spiritual force) that speaks the most, others also make their voices heard including Eke, Ikenga, Amadioha, Ani, and Anyanwu. Two other African Gods who are typically associated with Ancient Egypt also make substantial contributions: Ausar (Osiris) and Auset (Isis).
Ausar and Auset: Real Love
Contrary to popular belief, while the gods of Ancient KMT (Egypt), especially Ausar and Auset, might have been popularized by that particular nation, they are actually much, much older than it and can be found all around the continent under different names and titles. This will be elaborated on in future posts.
These African Gods, as well as other ones including the popular ones made popular by Hinduism, Kali and Krishna (who both have names that mean “the Black One” ), as well Tehuti (Thoth) and Heru (Horus), make commentary on a wide range of issues, including the ancient “Golden Age” civilizations of Atlantis and Lemuria, climate change, 2012, colonization, slavery, civil rights as well as the possible “Golden Age” to come. The discourse on how Africa (and Nigeria in particular) should structure their economies and governments to actually work for the benefit of the people (for once) is very enlightening, but is sure to shock a few people (Ikenga’s comments in particular).
Kali is not one to mess with
Commentary is made on the lives of difference ancestors as well, with some of them even commenting on where they are currently in the spiritual realm. Some of these ancestors include Fela Kuti, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, Olaudah Equiano, and others. I found Fela’s mother, Funmilayo’s statements in reference to the Fela play to be pretty funny.
Another added bonus to the book is the use not only of the Nsibidi symbols associated with the different Alusi, but also practical rituals that one can do to commune with the Ndichie (ancestors) and Alusi, as well as attract abundance in one’s life. I totally recommend this book to all people of African decent, but it can speak to anyone interested in advancing on their spiritual path. To order the book, click here.
Imagine if Harry Potter were a she instead of a he? What if he was Nigerian instead of British? What if he were learning at Leopard Knocks instead of at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Enter Sunny, Nnedi Okorafor’s latest anti-Disney heroine. I say that she’s anti-Disney because unlike most Disney films, the main females in her stories serve not as damsels that need to be saved, but as the ones that do the saving. Furthermore, they have physical features that are typically considered to be undesirable by society, such as the protagonist Onyesonwu being biracial in her most previous work Who Fears Death, and Sunny being an albino in this one.
Same Script, Different Cast
Before we get into the contents of the book, let’s start with the name of the book first. What is an Akata? When I was growing up, I was taught that it was a slang (and somewhat derogatory term) that Nigerians used for African Americans. That was until I was referred to as one by a native born Nigerian. I then began to see that it could also be a term used to describe any black person born and raised in America. Like me, the protagonist Sunny was born and raised in the United States. At the age of nine, her family decides to move back to Nigeria. Like any girl, she feels out of place and spends the next couple of years trying to find her place, when she finds out that her place is nothing like she imagined it to be. She discovers that she is a “Leopard person”, a person that is born with mystical abilities and she is has to undergo intense training to learn how to utilize her powers while still living amongst the “Lamb people”, or regular folks. One of the best things I loved about this book was the name dropping by the characters themselves of the books that had a large role in influencing this novel, including In the Shadow of the Bush by P. Amaury Talbot, Her Stories by Virginia Hamilton, and The Witches by Roald Dalhl.
“The Witches” by Roald Dahl
Different locations were also named, the significance of which will go unnoticed to the general population. One such location is referred to as being the African American “Leopard person” headquarters. This place is referred to as the Gullah Islands off the coast of South Carolina. This area is usually overshadowed by New Orleans, even though it has had a much larger impact on African American history, and mainstream American history. It also has retained more African culture and tradition (including the folk magic) than any other region in North America, but thats a discussion for another day.
The most creative literary element used by the author is the technique of having a “book within a book” (another very popular example being the Necronomicon). As Sunny begins to learn and master her abilities, she reads from a book entitled Fast Agents for Free Agents by Isong Abong Effiong Isong. The wonderful part is that the reader gets to also read from this short book. So instead of doing a typical review of Akata Witch, I will actually do a review of the book within the book, and explain some of the terms used:
What is a Leopard Person?
“A leopard person goes by many names around the world. The term “Leopard person” is a West African coinage, derived from the Efik term “ekpe”, “leopard.” All people of mystical true ability are Leopard people. And as humankind has evolved, so have Leopard folk around the world organized…from Fast Agents for Free Agents“
One of the real life “Leopard people” that the writer is referring to are the Ekpe society of southeastern Nigeria. This society, which was started by the Ekik people, spread through to the rest of the Ibibio, Oron, Igbo and Ekoi peoples.
Ekpe Society members during a procession in Arochukwu
The Ekpe Society was introduced to Igboland by the people of Arochukwu. In fact, their lodge is in my home village of Atani. In Igboland, the Ekpe Society usually went by the name Okonko.
Ekpe Lodge in Atani Village, Arochukwu
They were the premiere secret society in Southeastern Igboland, and the highest grades held alot of the secrets of the mystical arts, including the magical Nsibidi script. An entire topic will be dedicated to discussing the Ekpe society and its legacy in the near future.
What is a Free Agent
“A free agent is one who isn’t privileged with even one pure Leopard spiritline from the survivors of the Great Attempt. She or he is a random of nature, a result of mixed up and confused spiritual genetics. Free agents are the hardest to understand, predict or explain. Learning will not come easy to you. you are a Leopard person only by the will of the Supreme Creator and as we all know, She isn’t very concerned with Her own creations.
After your initiation, make sure that someone is there to help you, for you will not be able to help yourself, so new the world will be to you and so fragile your ego. You’re likely an infant. You will be dumbfounded and disorientated. What’s most important is…from Fast Agents for Free Agents“
Initiation, which simply means “beginning”, plays a huge role in Igbo culture, as well as with other cultures all over Africa. Traditionally, both men and women would receive multiple initiations at different points in their life. A very good metaphor is employed by Okorafor when one of the character states: “Imagine that you are a computer that came with programs and applications already installed. In order to use them, they have to be activated; you have to , in a sense, wake it up. That’s what initiation is.”
Igbo boy being healed by a Dibia
What is chittim?
“Chittim is the currency of the Leopard people. Chittim are always made of metal (copper, bronze, silver, and gold) and always shaped like curved rods. The most valuable are the large copper ones, which are about the size of a dove’s egg. Least valuable are chittim made of gold. When chittim fall, they never do harm. So one can stand in a rain of chittim, and never get hit. There is only way to earn chittim; by gaining knowledge and wisdom. The smarter you become, the better you process knowledge into wisdom, the more chittim will fall and thus the richer you will be…from Fast Agents for Free Agents“
The real life chittim that the author refers to are commonly known as manillas. The most popular African name for manillas, Okpoho, comes from the Igbo language. They were used as currency (as well as worn as jewelry) all over West Africa, but particularly in southeastern Nigeria, Ghana and Guinea.
What are the Masquerades?
“Up to now you’ve known masquerades to be mere symbolic manifestations of the ancestors or spirits. Men and boys dress up in elaborate cloth and raffia costumes and dance, jeer, or joke depending on who they are manifesting. Up to now, you’ve believed masquerades to be nothing more than myth, folklore and tradition. Now that you are a Leopard person, know that your world has just become more real. Creatures are real. Ghosts, witches, demons, shape-shifters, and masquerades, all real. Masquerades are always dangerous. They can kill, steal your soul, take your mind, take your past, rewrite your future, bring the end of the world, even. As a free agent you will have nothing to do with the real thing, otherwise you face certain death. If you are smart you leave true masquerades up to those who know what to do with juju…from Fast Agents for Free Agents“
The above statements say it all. Masquerades in Igboland are known as mmanwu. Here are some pictures of some of them. Some of them are people in costumes, but the older pictures might be real ones. We will never know for sure:
Agbogho Mmuo (Maiden Spirits)
Masquerade at Igbo Farm Village
The Ijele masquerade originated in Anambra state is known as the “King of all masquerades.” In ancient times, it had 45 masquerades perform on top of it, which are now represented by 45 figures. It was also used to scare away some of the early missionaries in Igboland. Masquerades made their way into the Diaspora, and can still be seen in modified forms in the Carribean Carnival celebrations:
Carnival Masquerade in Brooklyn, NY
Carnival Masquerade in Brooklyn, NY
Carnival Masquerade in Brooklyn, NY
Chapter 4: Your Abilities
“How to discover your ability: Its doubtful that you have the intelligence to figure out something so important. But here is something to think about: one’s ability lies with those things that mark him or her. They can be talents, like an affinity towards gardening or being able to play the guitar well. Often they are things that Lambs make fun of, imperfections. They can be physical, psychological, behavioral. And I do not mean things that are a result of your actions like being fat because you eat too much and sit and play video games all day…from Fast Agents for Free Agents“
I really felt this was the most important chapter in the book. I truly feel that if more people did what they were naturally gifted at instead of trying to conform to the standards imposed on them by society, the world would be a drastically better place. By following these instructions, one could unlock their latent abilities, as Sunny and her cohorts were able to do. Who knows, you might even discover yourself to be a Leopard person 😉
“…So there you have it. All you need to know to get started. As I have repeated incessantly throughout this book, there is no direction you can turn that does not face you toward certain death. The best thing to do is be who you’ve been, don’t move, stay where you are, drop all ambition as a Leopard person. Relax. Don’t strive too high. Learn but do not use. And only learn the basics. It is best to remain in your protective shell. Ambition is not your friend. Be glad the Leopard world has been opened to you, but remain a mere spectator. And for the hundredth time, I repeat: “KEEP YOUR SECRET LIFE FROM YOUR LAMB RELATIONS AND ACQUAINTANCES. not only are there dire consequences for breaching secrecy, but you risk upsetting a very delicate, crucial hard earned balance. Now go well, free agent. Be well. And again I saw: Welcome…from Fast Facts for Free Agents“
This book is an essential read for Leopard people who know that they are free agents, free agents that think they are Lamb people, or for Lamb people who want to get a glimpse into the mystical and secret world of Leopard people. As of now, I cannot find any copies of Fast Facts for Free Agents, so the best way to get a glimpse of it would be by purchasing a copy of Akata Witch. It has an excellent story too 😀
Be sure to be on the lookout for an interview with the author on Igbo Kwenu Radio in the near future.