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Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: Proverbs and Meaning

Onye aturu ilu kowaa ya, ego eji luo nne ya efuola ohia.

Before I start this post permit me to greet Igbo people; those who own the proverbs I’m about to explore; Ndi Igbo kwenu! Ekelem unu o. Ndewonu.


•Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe on Igbo traditional Isi-agu attire

INTRODUCTION: PROVERBS

There are many definitions for proverbs but as it is said that all routes lead to Rome, we won’t go far. Instead we’ll look at a definition that highlights the key points we seek. Proverb (Ilu in Igbo language) is a phrase expressing a basic truth which maybe applied to common situations. The Igbo defined it thus: Ilu bu mmanu eji eri okwu, (meaning that proverbs are oil with which we eat words). This explains literally that words are eaten and that proverbs helps to digest it. Proverbs are at the center of every African conversation. The traditional village council convene in proverbs, the trader and blacksmith converse in proverbs, and children even play with it. Parents speak to little ones in proverbs, so a visitor may expose himself if he is unable to follow the community trend. It is common to hear people speak in proverbs in Africa. This proves that proverbs are very important in African societies. Likening it to the saying that the “Leopard can’t shed its spots” – the average African won’t speak much without using proverbs to oil the conversation. African proverbs are rich sources of wit and wisdom. Now let us look at the proverbs we encounter in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

PROVERBS IN THINGS FALL APART AND THEIR EXPLANATION

In the book “Things Fall Apart” the people of Umuofia which represented the larger African society used proverbs extensively. As a book set in pre-colonial times it dwells on the effects of colonialism and imperialism on the African society. In this section I’ll be exploring the proverbs Achebe mentioned in his book. I’ll explain its general meaning in context of modern usage. I will also set all proverbs on bolded letters.

1. Proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten.

This means that proverbs makes conversations easier and understandable. It suggests that proverbs are words of wit which gives deeper insight to statements.

2. If a child washes his hands he can eat with kings.

In ancient Igbo culture children are not allowed to eat with elders from the same plate. This is a show of respect and honour. So this means that a child is allowed to dine with his elders or the king only if he achieves or did something exceptionally great.

3. When the moon is shining the cripple becomes hungry for walk.

This may read hilarious, the cripple is basically someone who has lost ability to walk. This proverb is talking about enticing opportunities that may strike up unrealistic hope.

4. A man who pays respect to the great, paves the way for his own greatness.

Is it not said that respect is reciprocal? Only that in this case we are more tilted to giving honour to whom it is due. The Igbo is a very proud people, they are known to disregard unfavorable royal order. It is believed that every man is king in his own house. Respect is earned and not just attributed in Igbo and other African societies.

5. Let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too. If one says no to the other let his wings break.

In Igbo land the general philosophy is live and let live. This proverb summarize this philosophy.

6. An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned.

People tend to be uncomfortable when negative issues concerning them are discussed.

7. Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching.

This talks about understanding strategies one can use to overcome issues. Life is dynamic, and people must learn to change with it.

8. Looking at the King’s mouth one would think he never sucked at his mother’s breasts.

If you consider how arrogant people talk or behave you may think they are invisible. We can also say that the king actually is representing the crown and thus say that he is too confident that one may think he is fearless. Which may not always be the case.

9. Those whose palm-kernels were cracked by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble.

Some people are just privileged in life, while many are not. Some inherit wealth and empires while others had to build from the scratch as the case of Okonkwo in the book. The proverb speaks of being humble when one is more privileged than others.

10. A proud heart can survive a general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride.

This suggest that proud people may never know when they fail because of their attitude.

11. When mother cow is chewing grass its young ones watch its mouth.

This suggests that we teach by our actions or deeds.

12. A baby on its mother’s back does not know the way is long.

It is left for the one who works hard to determine how much hard work he did. You can feed people with your earnings but not everyone knows how much time and effort you had to work.

13. If one finger brought oil it soils the others.

This explains that one persons action may affect everyone.

14. There is nothing to fear from someone who shouts.

In Igbo land it is always assumed that people who make noise are cowards. The English version is the empty drum makes the loudest noise.

15. A child can not pay for his mother’s milk.

This explains itself. One won’t pay for what rightly belongs to him.

16. Whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, know that something is after its life.

People do not visit another for nothing. They might have come to ask for help. Something must be the reason for every action. Another version of this is the toad does not jump during the day if nothing is pursuing it.


The explanation for the Proverbs are my opinion. I’m available for discussion on African literature and Igbo culture/traditions. Drop a comment or query here or on the contact me page.

© Oke Iroegbu

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Africa culture/tradition folklore Igbo culture Nature Nigeria

Home: Africa

High up above the hills of Africa, the dark winged clouds of night were still folded above the village and surrounding valley. Man and the domestic animals that were his, slept. But the antelope of the forest and the small fleet-footed gazelle, were wide awake.

In a short time, early morning dew descend from ancient hills. Darkness play with light. Dancing figures of thick fog conceal their fight and the good or bad that wait for strangers. Huge trees stand like knights armed with branches and shield-like barks, their huge roots like the fingers of a masquerade waiting to grab their victim. Farther away, creatures of the dark retreat back to their caves and hideouts. Light must not befall them. Hunters retrace their step home.

When the sun rise, she threw her golden blanket over the land. Hills rise with it waking the inhabitants of green forest and man. Down the valley, birds began a chorus, strong enough to wake the heaviest sleeper. Bees, wasps buzz, crickets, hoppers quiz, and reptiles hiss, every life has got a role to play. There is joy and peace. Joy that comes with a beautiful sunny day. Peace that brought harmony between man and nature which he call home.

From afar pretty images of green submerged in bowels of earthly grey decorate the hilly scene. Smell of flowing stream rent the air above. Hawks call to the sunrise welcoming daylight, bush rodents nibble at cassava roots. The forest turn to a circus where Nature play her own tricks. Tree leaves shade the streams, so when fruits fall into the water little fishes scatter in excitement or fear. Waterfalls and huge rocks watch the quiet green below. Shy crabs watch too, amused and drunk with water. It is quiet in the morning but for birds building big nests in the forest. Few people went to the stream and farm. Little girls swept their compounds, older girls weaved baskets, little boys sat with their fathers, older boys visited traps and mischievous pets ran about playing. Up the trees monkeys muse picking fruits from trees. Little babies yell while mothers gather materials for breakfast. Fathers chew their kola or take tobacco snuff, as they prepare to visit farms. Weekend was a holiday and the villagers knew best to keep it so.

When the sun heat become mild, the play stage is set. Children roll out their games; football, cricket, chase, wrestling, high jump, sand games and more. Women visit their friends or market to buy provisions. Some men go to the beer parlor. The morning brew was ready and they must attend to it. Palm wine was healthy and fresh ones taste better than water. Many youth wait for noon to bath at streams and waterfalls.

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Evening was the best time for reflection. Old men and women sat quiet, reflecting on the hills they call home. Sunset brought memories of the days stress. It brought home the market women, the farmer and fishermen. When the sun set, hills throw their warm shadow of comfort upon vales and the village. Birds fly home, greeting the evening as they go, lizards seek refuge on cracks and holes while owls prowl seeking a quick snack. Scent of cooking rent the air and children challenge each other over the hut with the best smell. Sweet vegetable soup adorned with periwinkle, snail, crabs and crawfish sit on dinner tables under the full glare and admiration of children and adults. Cold water from traditional pots or freshly fetched from the spring sit closer to the dishes. Providence knew many ways to appease the hard worker, good food was one of it. The night may have a folktale if the mood was right. Life could be simple and sophisticated still.

After evening came the cold night. Dew return, the path is lost in thick fog. Night was nobody’s friend. Quietly lights go out in the valley. Sleep was next play for children and adult, yet the ancient hills slept before everyone, forever. As the village sleep, creatures of the night walk. But man and day must retire back home, to start the cycle all over again tomorrow.

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Africa culture/tradition education folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral Series

Diaries of a Village Boy: The Leopard Spirit 8

That morning before the early hunters left their homes for the forest, Papa was already on his way to Ndi-Ikele to welcome the priest, newly arrived from Trinidad and Tobago. It was breezy and cloudy that morning, it seemed it would rain any moment. Trees, especially the palm took to joyful procession when I stepped out to look around. Heavy breeze shook the forest and the skies grew darker. Birds took flight, stray dogs barked. People took in laundry previously spread to dry. The wind blew dust and tree leaves about and I had to retreat back to my room. It was dark inside but I could hear Nene playing with her dog near the kitchen fire while Mama prepared breakfast. Mama knew well enough to get food ready before Papa’s return and while Papa may not bother about himself, he will definitely want to know if his first son has been fed. Men’s queer world, I shrugged.

I took a pen from my school box and started writing on an old wooden seat in my room:

I’m but a soul in a cold tumbler
I catch the wind with my palms, but my life is lived by another

I only wake to live another’s dream…

I was still scribbling and thinking of this strange rhyme when Nene walked into my room without knocking. She quickly scanned my room with her eyes and then delivered her message. I was wanted by Mama. Nene was the inspector in the house and always had something to report to our parents. She was talkative only when she wants something and had a bossy way of getting things done. She was the miniature version of my father.

“My son, your food is ready.” Mama recalled me back from my thought.

“Thank you, Mama.”

“Nene, take his bowl of water to his room.” Mama said to Nene. After a short protest and smirks she finally took the bowl to my room, mumbling and spilling some water on the way.

“Be careful Nene. Don’t spill water on my mats.” I said to her. She took a short look at me and disappeared from the door.

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***

Tinkom tinkom, tibaliba
Dadi nkem o, Dadi nkem o
I we hapu m oo, wee jewe Lagosi
Muna onye ga ebi…

Children sang and played outside our compound. The noise wouldn’t let me reason or rest. Nene and Kiri, our cousin from few compounds away were the leaders. The game was played by softly hitting the palms of your opponents in numerous styles to rhyme with the beat sang by members of the two teams. Both led a team of three followers. The game progressed peacefully for a while, and Nene’s team led in total score. Suddenly she mistakenly put out her left hand instead of the right one and lost a game. Kiri and her teammates shouted and rejoiced over their gain and Nene pained with the mistake bursted out angry.

“It seemed that you’re happy for nothing. I still lead the total score… See your tummy like that of a pregnant frog.” She yelled at Kiri, hands akimbo.

“See this one, she is angry that she lost a game. You’re a loser!” Kiri retorted when she learned her rival was bitter.

“If you don’t close your mouth, I’ll help you deliver that foetus in your tummy.” Nene shouted again. Their team members were enjoying the scenario when Mama walked in from the back.

“Who are those children that won’t let us drink water and rest in this compound. Ssshussh children, run away!” She shouted and clapped her hands. The fighting parties disengaged and ran away from the compound to regroup somewhere else and continue with their game.

To be continued…

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Africa culture/tradition education folklore Igbo culture Lessons from Experiences lifestyle Nature Pastoral Poetry Series

African childhood Memories

I long for my childhood days in rural Africa,
To fill my lungs with morning air descending from hills
And to till farmland that stretch into sunset

Golden sunrise always kept everyone speechless
And when birds welcome the day with choruses
Sweet breezes gather to battle the sun warmth
Infants may resume their wailing culture
And somewhere up, away from the hamlet
Hawks and Eagles surf the blue wild skies
Little birds build their nests on Palm Trees
Filling quiet neighbourhood with joyful cries
Down by the riverside a school of silver fish swim
Scattering when a breadfruit plunge into the stream

After the morning chores
The boys move on to the green field
Sheltered and surrounded by big trees
From the pitch we pick team mates
And set up goal posts with bamboo
Now our football was unripe oranges or grapes
And when the game start our little legs race off,
Up and down the field, while monkeys watch from trees
I gladly remember the taste of Egusi biscuits,
The numerous fruits that grow on trees near home
And tasty Oha vegetable soup prepared by granny
Now the ancient hills and green trees are my brothers
I climb the guava and mango trees with bare hands
And race up those hills upon the evening tide
Waterfalls are my hideout when in mischief,
The streams my pool where I still my soul
The night is full of dreams, full of starry nights,
I retire with other kids to eat my warm soup
Listening as fire lick the wood outside, slowly
Dinner brings the day close to an end but not yet
As a generous story may be told
My favourite being a tale of the Giraffe
And how he ate the sickly moon half

I long for my childhood days in rural Africa still
To watch the sunset behind hills I call home

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Africa culture/tradition education folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral Poetry

Messenger

igbo-gong

Kokookoroko kokorokoro
A greeting called from afar
The children ran out excited
As if the message was for them
But then who knows?
Heads up, listen attentively
Komkom korookom
Another beat rang out
Pushing the mild hit
Into the ears of the heaviest village sleeper
‘Oh how cute, it is one of the King’s messengers’
‘A tall and fine one for that matter’
A group of young women chatter

The morning of a market day
Even before the sun starts his journey
The gong goes before the man,
A metal gong tells the whole clan
The tidings of the hamlet
The days not to visit the rivulet
The day to farm the deep forest
And when a service the King request,
The boxing day, a vengeful day,
Of long brooms stalked away
Up the roof barns where fish smoke,
And the wielder showing teeth tobacco soiled

When the messenger comes
Mama will always say
To bright little ones
‘Listen attentively, listen with your ears
They might have a message for you or you,
From the King or the brave hunters
Come from across the seven hills
And seven rivers of Far Away Land
So you must listen attentively
There must be wisdom in every muttering’

Then each time it all comes to me
Even now I on my face keep beards
I still listen when all is quiet
Then in my mind goes Krookoko-kom-kom!

***

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Krookokom… As in Onomatopoeia of sound made by gongs.

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Africa culture/tradition education folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral

Tradition: Breaking the Kola nut

Onye wetara oji wetara ndu (Igbo)

He who brings Kola brings life…

Kola nut is a symbol of hospitality and friendship in Nigeria. While other food can be cooked the Kola nut needs no special preparation before presentation. It’s a bitter fruit of the Kola tree¶ grown all over tropical Africa.

In Igbo land, Kola nut is a cultural staple held in high esteem. It is sometimes referred to King of all foods. It is a sacrificial lobe revered, no child or woman is allowed to tamper or joke with it. Every piece of it is considered sacred and can’t be wasted or destroyed unless it’s spoilt.

Usually, the oldest man among the host audience is asked to bless the Kola nuts. He will take one of the nuts in his right hand and makes a blessing, prayer or toast using a proverb, e.g.

Ihe dï mma onye n’achö, ö ga-afü ya.’

‘What ever good he is looking for, he will see it.’

Generally Kola nut is presented in festivities, in ceremonies and primarily used to welcome visitors. They are offered with prayers of thanksgiving and supplication to Chineke. After prayers are said then Kola nut can be broken and shared in bits to visitors. Sometimes it’s served with garden eggs, bitter cola, alligator pepper, peanut butter and palm wine.

As mentioned before, it is the breaking that is the significant part of the ceremony. The more parts the Kola breaks up to, the more prosperity it gives to its presenter and visitors. Though there is one exception: if the nut yields only to two parts, it signifies no good as it signals that the presenter has a sinister motive behind the Kola. Because of that, Kola nuts with only two parts are avoided for this ceremony and therefore the purple/reddish coloured nuts, cola acuminata are preferred over its greyish counterpart, the cola nitida, as the latter one only breaks up in two. Four parts coincide with the four market days of the Igbo week. Five or more broken parts mean prosperity for the family. In some parts of Igboland, when the Kola breaks into six, a separate celebration is required and sometimes even including the slaughter of a goat.

There are many other rules surrounding the Kola nut ceremony. Kola nut should only be presented with two hands at the same time, and also as the Kola tree is associated with man, only men can climb and pluck the Kola tree.

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¶ Don’t confuse the Bitter Cola with the Kola nut. They are quite different plants.
Chineke: God in Igbo language.
Nkwo, Eke, Afor, Orie: Market days in Igbo land.

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Africa culture/tradition education Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral

Tradition: Ohafia War Dance (Ikpirikpi Ogu)

Intro: Ohafia is a town in Abia State in Nigeria, it consists of 26 communities with Elu as the ancestral capital. Many people have asked questions about Ohafia War Dance.

In the olden days, Ohafia was known for their bravery during tribal wars. At present, Ohafia is still known as land of warriors. It was said that they were as strong as Lions. They engaged in so many wars and never lost in any battle. During any battle, they made souvenirs of their victims’ heads which they cut off and take home leaving the lifeless bodies to indicate that the person was killed in battle. Till this present Ohafia is addressed as Mba Bu Ishi Acho Ishi* (carrying a head and yet looking for another). It was indeed land of great warriors.

Ohafia War Dance is popular called Ikpirikpi Ogu (a practice of beheading the enemies). Ohafia War Dance is a dance of victory by Ohafia warriors, which included chanting war songs during inter tribal wars and drumming after defeating their warriors. This dance was indeed incomplete without the presence of a human head because this was an indication that they have defeated their opponents. But in this present day of civilization, human heads are no longer featured in the dance.

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*Ishi: Ohafia’s dialect says Ishi instead of Isi, which is Central Igbo language meaning head.

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Africa culture/tradition education folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral

Folktale: The Tortoise and His Broken Shell

Gather around friends, how was your day today? Good to know it was fine. Mine wasn’t bad either. I hope this breezy evening give us more than this wonderful folktale I’m about to tell. Remember to note the morals that accompany it. I have also italicized the proverb in the story.

Once upon a time all the birds were invited to a feast in the sky. They were very happy and began to prepare themselves for the great day. They painted their bodies with red cam wood and drew beautiful patterns on their bodies with uli*.

Tortoise saw all these preparations and soon discovered what was about happening. He was full of cunning and greedy. As soon as he heard of the great feast in the sky his throat began to itch at the very thought. There was a famine in those days and he had not eaten a good meal for two moons. So he began to plan how he would go to the sky. Tortoise had no wings, so he went to the birds and asked to be allowed to go with them.

“We know you too well,” said the birds when they heard him. “You are full of cunning and you are ungrateful. If we allow you to come with us, you will soon begin your mischief.”

“You do not know me,” said Tortoise. “I am a changed person. I have learned that a man who makes trouble for others is also making it for himself.”

Tortoise had a sweet tongue, and within a short time all the birds agreed that he was a changed person, and they each gave him a feather with which he made two wings.

At last the great day came and Tortoise was the first to arrive at the meeting place. When all the birds had gathered together, they set off in a body. Tortoise was very happy as he flew among the birds, and he was soon chosen as the person to speak for the party because he was a great orator.

“There is one important thing which we must not forget,” he said as they flew on their way. “When people are invited to a great feast like this, they take new names for the occasion. Our hosts in the sky will expect us to honor this age-old custom.”

None of the birds had heard of this custom but they knew that Tortoise, in spite of his failings in other directions, was a widely-traveled man who knew the customs of different peoples. And so they each took a new name. When they had all taken, Tortoise also took one. He was to be called “All of you.”

At last the party arrived in the sky and their hosts were very happy to see them. Tortoise stood up in his many-colored plumage and thanked them for their invitation. His speech was so eloquent that all the birds were glad they had brought him, and nodded their heads in approval of all he said. Their hosts took him as the King of the birds, especially as he looked somewhat different from the others.

After kola nuts were presented and eaten, the people of the sky set before their guests the sweetest dishes Tortoise had even seen or dreamed of. The soup was brought out hot from the fire and in the very pot in which it had been cooked. It was full of meat and fish. There were pounded yam and also yam pottage cooked with palm-oil and fresh fish. There were also pots of palm-wine. When everything had been set before the guests, one of the people of the sky came forward and tasted a little from each pot. He then invited the birds to eat. But Tortoise jumped to his feet and asked: “For whom have you prepared this feast?”

“For all of you,” replied the man.
Tortoise turned to the birds and said “You remember that my name is All of you. The custom here is to serve the spokesman first and the others later. They will serve you when I have eaten.”

He began to eat and the birds grumbled angrily. The people of the sky thought it must be their custom to leave all the food for their King. So Tortoise ate the best part of the food and drank two pots of palm-wine, so that he was full of food and drink and his body filled out in his shell.

The birds gathered round to eat what was left and to peck at the bones he had thrown all about the floor. Some of them were too angry to eat. They chose to fly home on an empty stomach. But before they left each took back the feather he had lent to Tortoise. And there he stood in his hard shell full of food and wine but without any wings to fly home. He asked the birds to take a message for his wife, but they all refused. In the end Parrot, who had felt more angry than the others, suddenly changed his mind and agreed to take the message.

“Tell my wife,” said Tortoise, “to bring out all the soft things in my house and cover the compound with them so that I can jump down from the sky without much danger.”

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Parrot promised to deliver the message, and then flew away with the others. But when he reached Tortoise’s house he told his wife to bring out all the hard things in the house. And so she brought out her husband’s hoes, machetes, spears, guns and even his cannon. Tortoise looked down from the sky and saw his wife bringing things out, but it was too far to see what they were. When all seemed ready he let himself go. He fell and fell and fell until he began to fear that he would never stop falling. And then like the sound of his cannon he crashed on the compound.

His shell broke into pieces. Luckily there was a great medicine man in the neighborhood. Tortoise’s wife sent for him and he gathered all the bits of shell and stuck them together. That is why Tortoise’s shell is not smooth.

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Africa culture/tradition education folklore Igbo culture lifestyle

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart is a novel written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. Published in 1958, its story chronicles pre-colonial life in the south-eastern part of Nigeria and the arrival of the Europeans during the late nineteenth century. It is seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, one of the first to receive global critical acclaim. It is a staple book in schools throughout Africa and is widely read and studied in English-speaking countries around the world. In 1962, Achebe’s debut novel was first published in the UK by William Heinemann Ltd. Things Fall Apart was the first work published in Heinemann’s African Writers Series.The novel follows the life of Okonkwo, an Igbo (“Ibo” in the novel) man and local wrestling champion in the fictional Nigerian clan of Umuofia. The work is split into three parts, with the first describing his family, personal history, and the customs and society of the Igbo, and the second and third sections introducing the influence of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on Okonkwo, his family and wider Igbo community.

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What’s in a name?

A name indicates a person, place or thing. It may reflect why a person bear it. For instance, one can say Akpan, the first born or Judy, the mechanic. So a name can serve as a trait, feature or attribute.

In African culture, people name their children after circumstances they passed through, events they evidenced or situations they find themselves in.

In the Igbo culture for instance, a tribe predominantly known to love and worship Chukwu, Chi or Chineke (God) value is placed on names linked to God’s name. So most Igbo names are attached to God. If you are familiar with Chinua Achebe’s and Chimamanda Adichie’s literature you will agree that there’s rich display of cultural names in African literary works. Names like Okechukwu, Uchechukwu, Chima, Chioma, Ekechukwu, Ikechukwu, Ogochukwu, Chidinma, Chukwuebuka, Chukwuemeka etc bear names of God and then what He did or a character of Him.

My name, Okechukwu means ‘My share from God‘. A typical Igbo name, suggesting that I am the share of God’s goodness in my family. Isn’t that beautiful?

Let’s look at the name Uchechukwu. Uche mean thoughts, wisdom or understanding depending on the usage. Chukwu, Chi and Chineke, as I mentioned before means God. So the name can go like this: Uchechi, Uchechineke and so on. But the most used is Uchechukwu which can be shortened to Uche or Uc meaning The Thought(s) of God. It can also be said to mean the will of God. There are variants in the name too. Uchennam means my Father’s will. As Nna in Igbo mean Father.

Consider another name, Obinna, Obinnaya or even Obichukwu (the Father’s/God’s heart/mind). This name is common in the East of Nigeria. Just like the biblical David who was tagged a man after God’s heart so is the name Obinna or Obichukwu or Obieze (King’s Heart). Amaka means Beautiful and Ebube is Glory.

Let us consider this name Chukwuemeka. Chukwu means God and Emeka translates to ‘has done it‘. So joining the two literally we have God has done it.Let’s talk about Chika or Chukwuka. A name translated to God is the Greatest! Also Chukwubuikem, a beautiful name which means God is my strength. Consider the name Chukwuebuka. Translated to God is the biggest or strongest.

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You may want to adopt a Nigerian name for yourself. Stay safe everyone.

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Africa culture/tradition education folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral

Nostalgia: Traveling memories

I remember my first attempt at hunting. I was a little boy then and just arrived my hometown for holidays. It was fun and I was glad I went home. As a town boy I had little experience in hunting and general country life. Traveling home was a great way to get in touch with my culture and loved ones. My granny lived in the countryside. I was always excited to see her, she was the reason I went home then. She was kind, generous and thoughtful of others. She always spared me some fish from her food basket. I was her boy and always sit looking at her pretty face each time she made dinner. The memories of her soup still make me salivate. How I miss those days. I wish I could pen down the exact feelings but it can’t be expressed in that manner. It can only be felt. True happiness grow from simple and funny things.

School holidays was an opportunity for traveling. I enjoyed every bit of it. The excitement to pack, to watch the clouds ride past, to eat my hometown’s egusi biscuits, to play with many kids and dream of killing a lion in the forest was enough to drive me home. I always fantasized, I always imagined. I dreamed too. This must be the origin of my love for traveling. Most times we traveled through rail and other times by road. The roads then were much better and I love the feel of fresh wind against my face. I really loved traveling with my aunt to stay with granny (God rest their beautiful souls).

I remember hunting with my playmates. We could hunt, swim, fish, dance, play games, farm and climb trees. We even played in the rain. We hunted anything available, lizards, rats, flies, bugs, grasshoppers and ants. I as a person, had a soft spot for living things. I could collect and study them. As a kid I couldn’t keep my captive pets alive because they won’t eat the food I offered them. Well, I cried each time I lost an insect. My parents thought I would become a medical doctor, but I wasn’t destined for that. My curiosity was something else. I wasn’t good in fixing inanimate objects (fans and TeeVee sets) like my elder brothers but I was more interested in life itself.

There were stories told by my aunt and granny. I also learned of Biafra from old veterans. Most of my friends were the elderly. While I loved hanging out with them I learned a lot from their stories. I imagined life in the time of no civilization. My aunt was my favourite story teller. She acquainted me with tricks of Nnabe, the cunny Tortoise. She even told me I was the reincarnation of her father and wished I met him and I wish I did too. He was a great man indeed. He farmed great expanses of land and had big yam barns, diji, he was also a great hunter, dinta, he was stubborn and courageous. I learned he fought in Hitler’s War in Libya and modern day Israel. My mom still retells her favourite story of how he beat up a racist who always intimidated black soldiers. It’s a good laugh. Maybe I will tell it some day.

I remember with joy, how fast things go by, how I miss those good nomad days and how life has changed. But beautiful memories still flood my mind. I’m grateful to have them.

Categories
Africa culture/tradition folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral Series

Diaries of a Village boy: The Leopard spirit 7

Papa said I had to be strong to attend the next Tales by Moonlight night. He also promised I could play and hunt with other children if I got well fast. So I took my medication and exercise seriously. The moonlight night tales come once in a fortnight, sometimes it may be delayed especially during the rainy and farming season. It was every child’s wish to listen to those ancient tales sitting outside, under a tree and the feel of fresh air on their bare skin. The old women who told the tales were called mama and sometimes brought fresh coconut juice and pieces of dried bush meat for everyone. The moonlight nights were secret rendezvous for young lovers. In fact, this was the major reason many teens looked forward to the event. Before the tales are told, some older children organise quizzes, talkshows, debates and games like wrestling, hides and seek and nchokotoro, which was girls favourite game. The boys will gather, not to play but to cheer their crush. I can’t remember exactly what moral I learned in the past tales but I was determined not to miss the next.

But who knew what may happen to me next? All the dibia, Papa brought had failed to cage the spirit and each time I came under an attack I was left at the mercy of other people. So I couldn’t control it. Each day, I grew afraid of myself and wished I could live my life as a normal boy. Who says you are not normal? I felt a voice question. There were strange voices in my head. Mild, sometimes harsh but never sinister. I could connect to it somehow, but not for long. This was a mystery unknown even to Papa and he was not happy seeing his son suffer for nothing. Maybe I could find out what I could achieve with this power. Just maybe, only that a Leopard is not faint hearted like myself. I shrugged at the thought of comparing myself to Leopards. In character and thought, I was just the opposite of it.

My friends came that afternoon to check on me. I smiled at their goofy locally made fishing suits. Odo had made one for himself from a fishing net. He wore it to my room and was narrating how the villagers admired and watched him as he walked through the clan. I knew he was bragging, I saw nothing special in his new fishing net suit. The boys brought some Udala and mango. Ah! I knew my friends were not privileged like myself to attend school but I would never trade them for anything!

“Thanks guys!”

“Have you heard that the strange crocodile has resurfaced and is even digging again?” Obi asked, cutting my greeting off.

“That’s old news. The animal has turned our clean stream water into mud, we can’t even use the stream anymore.” Odo replied.

“Really?” I asked. “I thought it was captured when I was away?”

“No nah. The hunters caught a beaver. A beaver is not a crocodile.” Chimdi answered. She was the only girl friend in our midst. She seldom spoke and will always be the first to laugh when the boys come to mischief.

“Can you cook or bath with mud?” Odo ignored her.

“Well, the Igwe has summoned a hunting party at his palace. I knew because my father is a volunteer for the hunt.” Ekeledi added. He was handsome. But he was a stammerer and pronounced each word after striking his foot on the floor. He got angry easily and will hit anyone with any available object…

To be continued…

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Africa culture/tradition education Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral

Another visit to Ovim’s Hills

If you encounter tablelands and rocks, hills and valleys, waterfalls and streams, abundant trees and virgin forests, all set in one quiet countryside, you will agree that Ovim is really blessed. Ovim is situated on ancient hills, a beautiful place for camping and outdoor fun. Each time I visit I get healed by her beautiful ambience. Welcome again to my home, Ovim. I was on transit, so couldn’t captured images exactly. The grasses had turned brown and I noticed that some ponds had dried up. I saw school children play in the fields, near their school and heard birds sing from the cover of trees in the forest. Don’t take my word for it, visit Africa. Want a blog or website like this one? Then click here.

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Africa culture/tradition folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral Series

Diaries of a Village Boy: The Leopard Spirit 6

That night I had another attack. It was midnight and everybody was settled for some sleep. The moon was white, there were no stars and the evening brought mild breezes. Wild dogs and wolves howled from the hilly distance and the night was deafened in their terrifying noise. Night was nobody’s friend those days. Travelers were adviced not to travel by night. If they do they risk being attacked by wild animals or if unlucky may be taken by slave or head hunters or even worse, as the villagers believed, killed by wandering spirits of dead men.

I can’t recall exactly how it started, but in few minutes I fell off my bamboo bed and continued struggling with some invincible power on the ground. The twist and turns created a scene. The fall and noise woke even the heaviest sleeper and my sentinel, Nene. She yelled in fear and ran out of the room. Her dog followed her. From the passage I heard her cry for she was afraid to leave the hut that night.

I heard someone call Papa, ‘Where you deh Papa? Come fast please! It must be your boy.’ It seemed that this man heard Nene’s cry and woke to find out what the matter was. A rush followed as Papa and some men came. I felt hands all over my body when they tried to lift me up from the ground. I felt everything but couldn’t move. My body was stiff, I couldn’t even blink an eyelid.

‘Place him on his bamboo bed, so that his chest will be elevated.’ A voice adviced. Then my body was taken up to my bamboo bed. I sighed in pain. I felt palms pulling away at my legs and hands, massaging my body with some hot ointment. Few palms rubbed mmanu aku into my eyes, nose, ears and mouth. I sneezed, heavily, again and again. The pain was indescribable but as a man leaned over and made incantations I fell asleep immediately. I learned later in the morning, that father hired a dibia.

***

Morning was picturesque and dramatic as usual. Palm trees started a happy procession with the wind, that may continue till noon. Tree leaves fall, scattering with the flirty wind all over the hamlet. Little girls wished away the leaves so they could lazy around without sweeping. Activities resumed, older boys to farms, older girls to streams, younger boys to check rodent traps, younger girls to sweep. The women and men left for their various chores; dogs, cats and poultry played in the early sun. The whole village sent an emissary to my father’s compound to hear the latest news. My father who didn’t like much drama sent most away with assurance that I was fine.

‘Papa.’ I called from my room.

‘I’m here, my son.’

‘My head hurts badly.’

‘I’m sorry nwam, ndo. You’ll be fine, you’ll see.’ He consoled me. ‘Woman bring him some breakfast!’ He called to my mother. She wasn’t allowed into the room initially but the food gave her the chance to.

The aroma of yam and goat meat pepper soup rented the room when Mama brought the food. As Mama put the tray on the table she started crying. Papa asked some women to lead her away from the room…

To be continued…

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Africa culture/tradition folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Nature Pastoral

African Folklore

Folklore are tales, legends, superstitions of a particular ethnic population. In Igbo culture and other African societies, story telling is unique, such that it is a passage to transmit the tradition of a place from one generation to another. These tales convey the history, ancient messages and old knowledge. They teach morals and virtues to younger people. I’m privileged to remember some tales I was told by Grandma. I was very close to the older folk in the community and it seemed I learned a lot fast. I loved and still adore rural life. During school holidays, I travel with my aunt to stay with my Grandma (God rest their souls). I learned rodent hunting, swimming, wrestling and other kinds of play from boys of my age. Countryside life was one of simplicity and I enjoyed every moment.

Learn Igbo language here.

On one occasion, I recall traveling with my aunt and in the hurry forgot all my shorts save from the one I went on. As my Grandma had no boy and so couldn’t provide shorts I was made to wear skirts. It amuses me till this day when I remember this. I played with other kids in a red skirt! I was very little then, but coming from town I knew playing naked wasn’t my thing. So I went with skirts. My family still tease me. They call me Mr Piper, after the kilt-wearing Scottish wrestler and we laugh over it.

Most times, tales are told in the evening, after dinner. In extended and nuclear families, tales are normally told near a charcoal fire outside, preferably under the shed of a tree, on a moon light night. If the tale was to be heard by all, then it will be somewhere more open, like the village square. The story teller most times will be an elderly person. The little ones will sit still, listen and watch them. I guess this was the origin of my interest in story telling.

Mbe (Mbo), the Tortoise is the primary actor or villain in Igbo tales. He is portrayed as a shrewd person who cunningly gets what he wants and sometimes fails. According to my Grandma and my aunt, Alibo is the name of the Tortoise wife. I can’t remember the son’s name but this will not matter. There are other notable characters in African folklore. There is the dog, snake, boar, elephant, lion, crocodile, cricket, leopard and the rest. Mind you, the names one ethnic group give their characters may differ from another. I hope you continue to enjoy these tales.

Have a good night everyone.

Categories
Africa culture/tradition folklore Igbo culture Lessons from Experiences lifestyle Nature Pastoral Poetry Series

The Rainmaker’s Tales: Beginning

When I am not making the rain fall
To flood the village and farms
And to make the river banks overflow
Then I will be watching the glittering stars
And talking to her, the night and moon
Well, the night is never complete without a tale
And this is for the sleepy little ones,
I shall tell you of the Forest and her folk

… The Rainmaker

***

Once when the Forests owned all the land
And the Forest King loved the valley greens
For it spread, such that the quiet mountain
Was covered with green grasses and plants,
The Wind adored the Mountain’s look
For during winter, she was terribly cold
That she felt absolutely nothing even for the Wind
She had no dimples, no smiles, no blushing
But the Tomato could blush and did a good job of it, anyway,
So each time the farmers called out to the tomato,
All she could was smile and blush deep red,
Now the Ice King wooed the Mountain and usually
Gathered around her face to give a warm kiss
But this never went down well with the Wind
For when the Ice King left with his captains,
And Summer came, the Forests grew their green
But the Wind felt awful all year round,
Thinking he was a big time loser!
The truth was that the lonely Mountain felt nothing
And was never meant for this young Wind

To be continued…

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Africa culture/tradition folklore Igbo culture Lessons from Experiences lifestyle Nature Pastoral Poetry

The Rainmaker’s Tales 2

Now it was tradition that young men
Cut wood in the neighboring forest
Before they are allowed to chose a maiden
There was no axe in the town and nearby hamlets
So young men did desperate things,

Mirtle was a young man, deformed in one hand,
Humbly dull, but very courageous
Youth of the hamlet, saw him as a weakling
And laughed for he was unfit for this great competition,
So they cared not to help him and such the men
Went deep into the heart of the green forest
Searching for wood, for there was no axe then,
Then appeared dwarves loitering about the wood,
Without food, water or warm clothing
Night came upon them each day
And they starved and want warmth
But no one cared or even looked at them
For the villagers loathed strangers
But not all, were bad mannered
Mirtle had compassion, though he was weak
And knew every night come gruesome
And that treacherous cold was her mistress
So Mirtle offered his food and warm cloths
To some of the weak and weary dwarves
Sharing with them till he had none left
So one night, the elder dwarf gave him a gift
Behold, it was a great axe!
And so Mirtle got some wood for a fair maid prize!
For his kindness to strangers who were in need

***

I had imagined and created this story to discuss compassion, love and kindness. It is even revealed that Abraham entertained angels without knowing it.

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Africa culture/tradition education folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Love and Christianity Nature Pastoral

True Leadership

Earlier this evening, I overheard the women talk; my mother, aunts, some helpers and my little sister. From my room window, I heard their discussion on the funeral and all they did to make it a success. Usually I don’t eavesdrop on women chats but I couldn’t help but listen to this particular discussion. I admire their ability to make things light even with their busy schedules. They did all the cooking, cleaned the house and compound, washed everything, and served the visitors who came for the funeral. What actually got my attention was their discussion on how they successfully implemented their plan. I admire and appreciate these women and their ingenuity. I wonder what they could do if they were in political posts. I think they will make good leaders and that African lawmakers should encourage female politicians to take up more political posts.

I sit in my room, trying to overcome the stress from the past week. I bared my mind to different thoughts. It is heart warming seeing people work to make things happen for others. I am grateful to you all for your prayers and wishes. Family still remain the greatest positive energy ever!

I am re-reading a drama, Robin Hood I found in my father’s box. I think my mind needs some education. 🙂 Goodnight everyone. 😗

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Africa culture/tradition folklore Igbo culture Nature Pastoral Poetry

I’m happy motherland!

I’m happy dear motherland, I’m happy!

I’m happy to lay my head on your shoulders
To sniff your wet hair that smells like cocoa butter!
My feet is swift to run to the wild
So I wash my feet on the stream’s slow tide
I fright mambas and laugh at mating frogs
All cold morning I watch the foraging hogs
So hills are my hideout and trees are my partners
You give me great joy and hope, dear mother!
Brown tree leaves drop silently before my gaze
When I stir I heard the wind sing from the sea wave
I stand before the sun like a tall coconut palm
And on white sands of beach, I kneel to write my psalms
You gave me a piece of yam tuber, not to eat,
But to guard and save for the time to plant it
Now the vast forest is my barn and home, I call you beauty,
I also call you mother; my sunshine and land of hope and piety
When I raise my eyes to watch the birds fly home when the sun set
I remember your love and smile at your pretty blue firmament

Now I see a beautiful land before my eyes!

Categories
Africa culture/tradition education Igbo culture Love and Christianity Nature Pastoral Poetry

My Soul Longs for Thee

My soul longs for thee, dear motherland
To run the patched dusty red muds
And to swim in the rivers crisscrossing all over you
Let me climb the trees of your forests
And drink from the shallow streams

My soul longs to nibble the tender pumpkin seeds
Freshly cut from hilly farms
To dance with warriors, home with wild beasts
Painted with scary colors of chalk and charcoal

My soul longs to scout the green forest and sniff out hares
To sit with and learn of the elders’ wisdom
And to eat the round, reddish bitter kola nut

My soul longs to see the appearance of the full moon
And how she may light the town center at night

My soul longs for the long, quiet and sunny day
In a far away hamlet, saved from wild bird calls
And dancing tall trees in the morning harmattan wind

My soul longs to hear the winds speak
To make rain fall and shepherd the cattle,
To calm a weary horse, and feed my chicken

My soul longs to see the wild
To ride through fields of Baobab
And to drink local juice brewed myself
To travel on a safari to East Africa
And dine with the Masai who fright Lions

My soul longs for thee beautiful African homeland!

Categories
Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture Nature Pastoral Poetry

Family is Energy

For more than a week, the waters of our rivulet Oko’pia has been chalky. Villagers say each time this happened, an animal (Atah – Alligator) is digging away at the source. I don’t know where the source is and honestly if I knew I wouldn’t go. 😐

Our farm lies further away from the village and we always cross Oko’pia to get there.

Yesterday we went to dig up yams and I got these images.

Now it’s almost time to go back to town. Work will resume in few days! I had fun helping my family in the farm and seeing good old friends. I feel refreshed and revived for work. Family is energy! 😌

I have a piece of advice for everyone this new year: Never forget your family and good friends.

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Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture Lessons from Experiences

Umukwu’s Masquerades

I never knew today was Ekpo (masquerade) day in Umukwu, Ovim. I was having a little nap when the noisy drummers arrived with the masquerades.

When I was growing up I witnessed many masquerade carnivals and took particular interest in Ebuluogu – the biggest and stout masquerade. They are known to be merciless and stubborn. This is evident in their imposing looks. A masquerade’s size may signify that the wearer is either huge or small and could be strong or weak physically and spiritually, as the case may be. Masquerades have different nicknames and come in different shapes, colors and attires. They normally move in groups and it is rumored that lonely masquerades are most dangerous and are always on a revenge mission. So here’s a tip: if you ever come across a lonely masquerade, run away!

Masquerades gather in each village square with their drummers to dance and entertain people. Afterwards they are offered gifts, food and drinks. They usually don’t speak and are armed with sticks and machetes.

In Igbo land, masquerades are perceived as messengers of spirits. It is believed that masquerades possess supernatural powers and when a man dress as one, becomes controlled by spirits.

Tip 2: It is taboo to unmask or beat a masquerade. It is a serious offense and may have grave consequences!

I remember how these masquerades turned me into a sprinter. They hit people with their sticks. Each time I encounter them, I had to outrun them or get beaten!

I will be back with poetry. See ya.

Learn Igbo language and culture here.

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Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture Nature

Back Home

This morning I and Jindu traveled back to our village. Thanks to the holidays we have enough time to explore and enjoy the quiet countryside.

We took the 6.30AM bus and arrived 10.23AM. It wouldn’t take that long but for bad roads and many checkpoints. It is common for Governments to abandon capital projects here.

We arrived Umuahia by 9.36AM and took the bus to Akara. We completed our journey from Akara to Umukwu, my granny’s place on motorcycle. It is a pretty quiet place. There’s so many trees and hills.

Now it is a cold evening and I may write a poem before retiring. Have a good night everyone.

Categories
Africa Igbo culture Nature

In Ovim

I’m back to Ovim Isuikwuato, my hometown. It has been a long week for me, marking and grading students’ math exam. Coupled with the noisy neighbourhood, the stress nearly overwhelmed me. Thank God it’s Friday.

Now far away from work and town’s hustle bustle, I can feel myself heal. The surrounding hills – notably Ugwu Uwaoma, make this village cold at night and early morning. It’s hot sometimes but with the Harmattan wind there’s an unequal balance between cold and heat. The only problem here will be sunflies. Ach, little vampires and I, a fair skinned person attract them a lot. But I have learned some ways to keep them off: wearing long sleeves (not effective for they attack the face, neck and legs too), using insect repellent creams (these makes one sweaty) and a more traditional way – smearing scent leaf juice all over myself.

One reason I love this quiet countryside is that it inspires me a lot. Blue skies, wonderful sunset and sunrise, ancient rocks, magnificent waterfalls, exotic bird watching and observing manmade roads cockroach up breathtaking hills. I even imagine myself the sole monarch of numerous anthills and the wild forest. Aha, how lucky I would be! I’m grateful for all the beauty I see. I feel attached to the streams, rivers, waterfalls, hills, forests, wildlife and happy, peaceful people. I’m thrilled by simple things. There’s a full moon out here and a host of insect choir. It’s good to be home!

BTW, this image was taken during my last visit. As I arrived late this evening, it was too dark to take pictures. I’ll try to in the morning. Have a good night everyone.

Categories
Africa culture/tradition folklore Igbo culture Pastoral

The Animal King

Do you know why there is no king in the animal kingdom? Here is a story narrating why. I wrote this poetale a longtime ago. Have fun.

Once upon a time
In a land far away,
Across seven rivers
And seven hills
Lived a clan of animals
They knew no strife
No envy, no rivalry
Between the animal clans
For then there was no king
No ruler, no master of any sort
But animals who lived freely,
Tilled their land as they wished
And lived as they wanted…
Suddenly some stronger animals
Felt they could bully the little ones
So many animals started trespassing
On the rights of others, taking others lands
Destroying harvest of crops
And even hijacking others wives!
So Anarchy spread
Her blanket of no good
Upon the animal clan
Until the Cricket suggested
That all animals should meet
To resolve this…

During the meeting
Every animal sat quietly,
Waiting for others to talk, first
Mumblings filled the arena
Guilt of crimes wont let anyone speak
So the mosquitoes, carefree buzzed aloud
“Wait!” the Cricket yelled
“I greet you all”, he began politely
“The way to solve this problem
Is to appoint a King who will rule us
Someone who will bring justice
And fairness to all, big and small”
“Nice idea”, his relatives called after him
“Now I am the brain of the meeting
I should be allowed to nominate
My humble self as the King of the clan!”
“What?” an angry Elephant trumpeted
“You little thing, so minute, so irrelevant!
How dare you even think of that
When someone like me is here?
I should be the King undisputed!”
“You all must be joking!” the Giraffe laughed
“How can you be the King
When you are round like a football
And can barely move a leg?”
The Giraffe made fun of the Elephant
“No no no, it just doesn’t fit you
Well, take a look at my height,
I even interact with the moon
And when angry I eat her half!
I should be the King instead!”
The whole clan went dead with silence
They thought the Elephant would retaliate
So they waited for the worst to happen
But nothing happened…
“Let me be the King”, the ape called out
“None of you is capable of tree climbing
And infact I can dance up the skies
Do you know this feeling of tree dwelling?
The skies are my playground… Can’t you see?”
“Talking about playground, you don’t belong!”
The bald Eagle whined…
“I live in mountain peaks
Where none of you can reach
Or dare to reach, I am the master-
Master of the blue clouds and wind
Make me your King!” he demanded
“Talking about flying you are not alone in it”
A feeble mosquito stood to talk
“How many of you can sing in a human ear
And make him mad so that he slaps himself?”
“No way, who speaks now?” the Lion growled
“The kingship belongs to I and the pride
The pride is strong and courageous
And can defend and take care of the clan
My roars frighten our enemies
My claws are perfect killing machines!”
“No sir”, a scared animal said
“Was it not one of your pride members
That ate an innocent sheep the other day?
We can’t let you be our King”
Someone supported from the crowd
“So what do we do right now?”
Let us then nominate from those
Who showed interest in the position”
An elderly Parrot suggested
“Please everyone should pick a candidate”
To the crowds surprise
Everyone pointed to their kith
The Giraffes to the Giraffes
The Apes to their kind
The Pride to the Lions
And so on…
And when no progress was made
Everyone nominated himself for Kingship
Since everyone wants to be King
They all left fighting and arguing
And so is the animal clan to this day
In much disagreement and confusion!

Categories
Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture

African Proverbs 14

Consider this proverb from Ethiopia; The mouse is silent while laboring, but when the baby is conceived, she cries.

Categories
Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture Nature

Nature: Best Vacation

Nothing heals faster than Nature and this healing feeling is unexplainable. It’s something everyone should experience.

Most vacations should include moving away from hustle bustle and noisy streets of familiarity and town.

I can’t say what works for everyone but if you need inspiration or thinking space, I recommend travelling to the countryside, where serenity and Natural things abound.

I shot this video in hilly Ovim, my hometown. I’m so much in love with natural places and hope to spend more time in the countryside.

Have a beautiful weekend everyone.😊

Categories
Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture

Significance of Breaking the Kola nut

Onye wetara oji wetara ndu (Igbo)

He who brings Kola brings life…

Kola nut is a symbol of hospitality and friendship in Nigeria. While other food can be cooked the Kola nut needs no special preparation before presentation. It’s a bitter fruit of the Kola tree¶ grown all over tropical Africa.

In Igbo land, Kola nut is a cultural staple held in high esteem. It is sometimes referred to King of all foods. It is a sacrificial lobe reverred, no child or woman is allowed to tamper or joke with it. Every piece of it is considered sacred and can’t be wasted or destroyed unless it’s spoilt.

Usually, the oldest man among the host audience is asked to bless the Kola nuts. He will take one of the nuts in his right hand and makes a blessing, prayer or toast using a proverb, e.g.

Ihe dï mma onye n’achö, ö ga-afü ya.’

‘What ever good he is looking for, he will see it.’

Generally Kola nut is presented in festivities, in ceremonies and primarily used to welcome visitors. They are offered with prayers of thanksgiving and supplication to Chineke. After prayers are said then Kola nut can be broken and shared in bits to visitors. Sometimes it’s served with garden eggs, bitter cola, alligator pepper, peanut butter and palm wine.

Learn Igbo language here.

As mentioned before, it is the breaking that is the significant part of the ceremony. The more parts the Kola breaks up to, the more prosperity it gives to its presenter and visitors. Though there is one exception: if the nut yields only to two parts, it signifies no good as it signals that the presenter has a sinister motive behind the Kola. Because of that, Kola nuts with only two parts are avoided for this ceremony and therefore the purple/reddish coloured nuts, cola acuminata are preferred over its greyish counterpart, the cola nitida, as the latter one only breaks up in two. Four parts coincide with the four market days of the Igbo week. Five or more broken parts mean prosperity for the family. In some parts of Igboland, when the Kola breaks into six, a separate celebration is required and sometimes even including the slaughter of a goat.

There are many other rules surrounding the Kola nut ceremony. Kola nut should only be presented with two hands at the same time, and also as the Kola tree is associated with man, only men can climb and pluck the Kola tree.

****

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****
¶ Don’t confuse the Bitter Cola with the Kola nut. They are quite different plants.
Chineke: God in Igbo language.
Nkwo, Eke, Afor, Orie: Market days in Igbo land.

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culture/tradition Igbo culture Uncategorized

Why you should visit Africa 3

From Nature reserves to rivers/lakes and from beautiful valleys to exotic wildlife, Africa has a lot to offer. Welcome to this edition of Why You Should Visit Africa brought to you by Oiroegbu.com

1. Adventure: If you really love nature and adventure, then you should visit Africa. There’s so much to do and participate in. You can join a hunting party. You can learn how to craft spears, arrows and bows and how to use them! You can hike on mountainous terrains and ride on the back of Ostriches and Camels. You can navigate streams and crawl through caves. You can learn to climb the Palm tree without ropes or even swim with harmless Pythons and huge cat fishes!

2. Culture/Tradition/People: Africa is blessed with diverse traditions. These cultures are something you are not familiar with unless you have already been to Africa. The mode of dressing, socializing, language, history and folklore are some things you won’t see elsewhere. There’s taboo, there’s voodoo. If you visit Africa, you will experience unique cultures.

3. African Food/Delicacies: African dishes can be mouth watering. Have you heard of kunu, burukutu, fura, mmai nkwu, ngwo, mqobothi? These drinks are local brew which will keep you wanting more. You can enjoy some Suya too, a delicacy you won’t forget in a hurry. If you love good food and happen to be in Africa, you will definitely get affordable treats.

4. Safari/Nature Reserves: This perhaps is the main reason people visit Africa. With beautiful landscapes, tourism/hospitality businesses are on the rise. There are countless numbers of game and nature reserves. Large expanses of forests and wildlife are protected by the government. This also translates to opportunities for researchers and academicians. Tourists can camp in the wild, travel with guides for Safari, have dinner while watching the sun set in Africa and enjoy the best of natural things.

5. Industry/Economic Opportunities: Africa has been tagged the land of hope. There are numerous opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs. With abundant raw materials, arable land and warm climate, cheap and young human resources, Africa is a growing hub for foreign investment. There are coal and Crude oil in Nigeria, gold and diamonds in South Africa, uranium in Niger republic, Timber and Iron ore in Congo Kinshasa and many more.

6. Warm climate/Tranquility: Rural Africa is a great place to live and heal. For holidays, rural campings are good escape from noisy towns and cities. There are many cities in Africa though but if you would like to make the most of your time in Africa, camp for a while in the countryside, socialize with locals and learn a thing or two from them. You will fall in love if you visit Africa.

7. Music/Dance: African music is enjoyed all over world. Most African songs are energetic in style and rhythm. Have you seen a live performance by natives? African songs are soul lifting and crave for dance. If you need to let out steam and have fun, witness a live performance by an African band.

This is all for now. I will write more on why you should visit Africa some other time. It’s a good night from Africa.

Categories
Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture Uncategorized

Sunset in Ovim

Yesterday I trekked to the market square. During my lonely trek I met old friends and distant relatives. As noted before, in Africa we place much value on family and friends.

My trek was short, because the market was just around the corner. I bought two pieces of dried meat from a vendor, one for myself and the other for a distant relative who I ran into. After several pleasantries were exchanged with people and observing the sudden change in evening breeze, I decided to leave. Night was on her way.

Nothing changed since I left. The sunflies still bother me and other fair skinned people. The flies disturb before and after sun rise. Sun light is their nemesis.

I’m laying down enjoying the quiet evening, listening to the crickets and bugs quiz themselves. From the background, I hear children play outside and smell of cooking in the community. My dinner will be Fufu and Egusi soup, haha! Fufu is uhm, we call it swallow. It’s made from Cassava.

There’s an image of sun set. Nothing compares to quiet places.

Categories
Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture Nature Pastoral

A poem for Ovim, Isuikwuato

Morning wakes with the sun
Windy clouds, happy yawns
Quiet town, down the hill
Misty paths, birds sing
With the forest’s inhabitantsTall palm trees stand guard
From their branches, birds tweet
Squirrels look down in fright or excitement
Dropping oily snacks on trespassers
Forest pathways are hijacked by monkeys
Protesting when a group of boys trod byHappily, mornings start with simplicity
For Ovim; void of stressful traffic,
Human or machine, blesses the humble
Now weekends supply fresh palm beer,
And restates vows of friendship, of family
And of those who love their homeland***Good morning everyone. Ovim, Isuikwuato is my hometown. I have been here for two days and I really admire the scenario. It’s a quiet and inspiring place, a special retreat for me when working on a major writing project.

Categories
Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture

African Proverbs 8

What do you make of this Ovambo saying?

A Parasite can not live alone.

Categories
Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture

Anunebe: The Masquerade as reported by Okoroji Chidiebere Alexander

The moment is almost here as people in the village are all dressed to watch the great Anunebe perform in the village square, one occasion that is performed once in a year, and this makes the event one of the greatest anticipated events in Ibeme, Isiala-Mbano, a small village in Imo State, Eastern part of Nigeria. The Villagers are eager, anxious and nervous to welcome the Great Anunebe to the village square where all the displays, dramas and performances will be carried out. Anunebe is a godlike Masquerade. He is very tall— spiritually taller than the Iroko tree. With his deified attire, with a stag of bull around his head, in a guise to give way for the ways of the gods, and with a cloak which conceals; a disguise or pretext of his person and with a beautiful artifice with all sorts of symbol— that of a Serpents, a red Python; a very strange one, and skulls of human heads; heads of Great Warriors of the land “The Ikembas” (those who died in the battle field), not “The Efulefus” (those that ran away). And with all manners of charms and musical instruments, that makes sonorous sounds when he jump or shakes his body. He is invisible, as one can’t identify the person behind the Masquerade. It was an arcane knowledge known to few. Although, rumor holds it that; those behind the Masquerade are one of the Great Idibias’ (Herbalist/ Chief Priest), one that is very close to the oracle and the gods of the land. Prophecy holds it that, anyone behind the Masquerade is a spirit that bring the people closer to the gods and their ways—as the person won’t be able to control himself— the gods will be in possession of the person. That fateful day, on Afor Market day, the Village Elders are all prepared wearing their “Chieftaincy and titled red and black caps and an Aguiye Attire”, with the faces of Tiger and Lion displayed on it. While the Women, especially the Ezinnes, are also prepared in their colourfully blazing uniform, “the blouse and Joge”. The youth: the boys and the girls are also prepared as they dressed in their respective native attire; while the boys mimics the men, the girls do same with the women. Here comes the drummers; the Ogene boys, the Ocha boys and the Ofikpo boys. We also have the Wondrous Dancers, the Omalicha girls, Odum girls and Ocherigo girls. As they beat the drums proficiently while the Dancers dances to Entertain everyone, the Young, and the Elderly especially the women among them; were filled with joy and happiness as they remembered their youthful days, how awesome their dancing styles, the shaking of the waists was. The men too, they remembered how they arouse their audience by climbing the trees while chanting, the flexing of muscles to the amusement of the beautiful girls who admires them. Everyone stood still as they welcome the Great Anunebe, who only comes in when the sun is down. The chants, the grunts, the chunters, while the man behind the flute melt the chord with his melody. Everyone is energized and invigorated; the welcoming displays is appreciated by the Elders, as the Oyesiala (The head of land) pave way for the Great Anunebe to enter the scene as he uses Dry Gin to pray and blessed the land where he will be performing. Although, the rituals behind the scene has been completed. The demands actualized! Twelve heads of Guinea fowl, four heads of white native Goats, A Python’s tongue, two eyes of a crocodile, the urine of seven virgins and a Lion’s blood. Has he enters, everyone becomes scared and frightened, ” What a mighty creature of a Masquerade”. He bends out from the hut shrine where he was, with his chanter who sings all manners of praise to him while he walks majestically to the field that’d been decorated with all sorts of creatures, dead tortoise, vultures, bats…., before he enters the field, he uses his back and walks slowly while taking a bow to recognise the goddess of the earth “Ani” when he gets there; he raises his head up, “Wow” as it marvels the crowd. He’s bodily and bossily built. “A Giant of a Masquerade” Very huge and Tall! A dwarf have to be careful not to loss his head. One can’t see the eyes but can hear his strange voices with his crafted, red painted Tiger head, a very big one. He chanted and invoked the presence of the gods as he speaks in strange language only those gifted by the gods can be able to comprehend. He recognises everyone as he greets them. Now the moment everyone has been waiting for, the magical dance. He change his steps severally, raises is head, shakes his body and gave the audience a spectacular display of a dance as all became speechless and astonished, “More than what one bargain for”. That golden moment that comes once in a blue moon. It seems the gods as posses those beating the drum, as they were doing it diligently. The style and manner is totally different. The Great Anunebe danced, and danced and danced in a godlike to the amusement of those that came. Some were even crying, while others were dancing along. That moment changed Chike’s and Obi’s life, has they appreciated their culture and heritage more!

Okoroji Chidiebere Alexander is a Business Education and Business Administration graduate of UNN and OOU. He authored: The Perfect me, My Village is now a Town, The Grid, The Engrieved and Aberration.

Categories
Africa Igbo culture Uncategorized

Muse: Homecoming

Nada o! O nada o! Nada o! I’m back o!
Kuje kusanar, go and tell them!
Bring my jug, bring me kola, bring a mat,
For justice will be done to Mama’s soup pot
I must lay under the mango tree tonight
To watch the stars glitter and hear the crickets sing
Ah… I’m glad! I’m happy! Ina murna!
Go and inform them, I’m back!
Tell me who slept on my bamboo bed in my absence?
Who won the Okpa village wrestling competition?

Did the hunters bring any quarry
Or some palm wine tapper’s brew?
I long to dip in the cold currents of Kpere
And swim with the shy fingerlings…
I missed the Waterfalls,
And her sound when her water fall!

I missed the Hawk’s call from the hills
When the sun shine in the hot noon
I missed you crazy masquerades
And faces that blessed my childhood

Where you deh Oyine Mama?
Where you deh Oyine Papa?
I’m happy to see you again!
When you look at me, Mama nawa
When you smile at me… Ina murna!
Come and hear my story
Come and dine with me
Celebrate with my joyful self
It’s good to be back home!

***
Nada o: I’m back in Hausa language of Nigeria.
Kuje kusanar: Go and inform them
Mama nawa: my mama
Ina murna: I’m happy
Where you deh Oyine Papa/Mama: where are you my father/mother

Categories
Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture

Kedike by Chidimma

This is a nice song with (Igbo) African beats.

Learn Igbo language and culture here.

Categories
Africa culture/tradition Igbo culture Uncategorized

African Proverbs 2

Here’s a Guinean Proverb: Knowledge of leadership is not plucked from the air, one is born with it.

Explanation: Selflessness, honesty, compassion and every other qualities of Leadership are groomed from good home training, personal decisions to live upright and treat others right.

Categories
Africa folklore Igbo culture Lessons from Experiences Love and Christianity Nature Pastoral Poetry Uncategorized

Poetale after the Days work

Now we gather by the fireside
Waiting for yams to roast
Warming our hands in the heat
On this evening, cool and mild

The dreams we wait to dream
The waiting pillow beckoning
The tales in hopes of telling
And a joyful evening it seems

The hot day had gone up those hills
Releasing a warm blanket
Bought in the busy Orie market
To shade all from Night’s will

To my little pieces of paper
Hanging here and there
I gather with extreme care
Getting ready a story to prepare

And today was gone like before
Running away from me
Though why, I could not see
Croaky frogs outside bother me more

Then a short prayer I knee to say
Oh Dear Lord, keeper of my soul
I come before Thee with my folklore
Let my tales be for Thy Glory I pray

***

Note: Orie market: Generally Orie is one of the market days in many parts of Igbo land. Market days in Igbo land include Orie, Eke, Nkwo and Afor. In my hometown, the market centre bears the name Oriendu- a market that buys and sells in intervals of 8days.

Categories
Africa culture/tradition folklore Igbo culture Pastoral

The Goose that laid the Golden Egg

You may agree with me that evenings are best for story telling. In Africa, evenings are valuable family time. Dinner or sitouts allow time to reflect on the days work: achievements and disappointments, and to tell tales. Tales don’t just act as lullabies but convey moral virtues (and vices) as well.

Now when a story is told in the open countryside, there’s always a fire for warmth and the moon 🌕 will be out to listen. This time around, I’m writing from my bed’s comfort and there’s no fire but a radio here.

Though this Aesop’s tale is old, the moral will never go out of fashion. I hope everyone enjoys it. I will retire for the day, good night!

A man and his wife had the good fortune to possess a goose that laid a golden egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough, and, imagining the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it in order to secure the whole store of precious metal at once. But when they cut it open they found it was just like any other goose. This, they neither got rich all at once, as they had hoped, nor enjoyed any longer the daily addition to their wealth.

Much wants more and loses all!

Categories
Africa Igbo culture Nature Poetry Uncategorized

Nigeria

In the morning, the sun rises
Above the horizons and cliffs
And on the smiling faces on the farms
Hope rises with the sun,
As the children roll out their bicycles
To the tanned fields of the hamlet
Followed by their pets, puppies and kittens

A proud cloud draws a huge smile
And on the clay the infants draw theirs
The men in groups of duties
Hunt in the forests almost barehanded
And when off duty, drink kaikai in the village square
The women make soup, pound yams
And brew the local gin for the men
The boys march through the Woods

In hopes of a catch on hidden traps
Tucked away, somewhere I know not
Monkeys dance on their paths
Mocking them that walk on two legs only
And the boys would laugh it off

The girls with all basket sizes
Giggle as they walk towards the streams
Now and then, a small rodent shake the bush
And all will race off the spot in fear
The toddlers are not left behind
They wail all day, as the dogs sleep
Pythons silently leave the roadsides
Once disturbed from their sun tanning exercise
Rivers lay here and there, rivulets, streams

Waterfalls and happy fishes
Lakes and huge Crocodiles lay undisturbed
There are coastlines and islands
There are hot beaches with lots of trees
Nature washes her garments on the Waterfalls
And we could hear her sing
The Hyenas laugh not too far away
And the kids retrace their straying steps
All birds twitter, this is their home
Now the Egrets move with their land bride-
The cattle, and all sweet green grasses
The hot lands remain like a painted scarf

A valley of enchantment at Mambilla
The life giving Benue river
A calm and cloudy seaport in Calabar
The snaky terrains of Udi hills
The serenity of Victoria Island
Ancient Kano town and her suya
A busy street in Pitakwa
The red muds of the East
The rich African culture

A lake somewhere up the Niger
Home of the lion and elephant
And all bush dwelling fauns
The sun would never leave here
The land of the waking sun
This is my love, Nigeria
And it’s morning
The Sun has risen
So has our hope

**

This piece was written in 2014 and made finalist to the AwaNaija 360 poetry contest.

Line 12 kaikai, a locally brewed gin.
Line 47 suya, spicy but tasty, skewered pieces of meat meshed in dried crushed groundnut, pepper, onion and other condiments. Predominately made by peoples of the Northern Nigeria.

Categories
Africa Igbo culture

African Myths 2

I biala. That’s Igbo for ‘you are welcome.’ Tonight I will be updating my post on African myths. So sit tight and read some of Africa’s do’s and don’ts!

Have you heard that you shouldn’t call a 🐍 by name during night time? Well, we were told that if you do, a 🐍 will visit you. I guess this was a way to scare children from playing in the night. Should you want to talk about errr… snakes during night time, use ropes and strings as similes instead.

It is believed that when your eyes or palms are itchy, something good was on the way! Wouldn’t it be nice if itchy palms equate to good luck? Just saying.

This one really gets to me. Maybe you will even agree with me. If you hear your name and answer without seeing the caller, you just answered a ghost call! Honestly, some part of me still thinks that this is true.

There’s this constant reminder then, that if you walk over a pregnant woman’s leg, she will give birth to a child that looks like you. If you are pregnant, you shouldn’t let me walk over your leg, unless you want your child to have a big head!

Now hear this: if you swallow the †Udala seed, you will have yourself to blame for a great tree will sprout through your head! When I eat fruits, I mistakenly swallow their seeds, including this Udala. Nothing ever grew out of my head except my hair!

And here I shall draw the curtain for the day. Let’s do more next time. Good night.

Udala is a tropical fruit tree that grows in West Africa. I am not sure what it is called in English.