Categories
Africa culture/tradition education Igbo culture

Quote on Greatness

“You cannot plant greatness as you plant yams or maize. Whoever planted an Iroko tree — the greatest tree in the forest? You may collect all the Iroko seeds in the world, open the soil and put them there. It will be in vain. The great tree chooses where to grow and we find it there, so it is with the greatness in men.”

— from Chinua Achebe’s NO LONGER AT EASE (1960)

Categories
Africa folklore Igbo culture

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe was born on November 16, 1930 in Ogidi, Nigeria.”The sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them.” — Chinua Achebe, THINGS FALL APARTABOUT THINGS FALL APARTTHINGS FALL APART tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Igbo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society. The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. THINGS FALL APART is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as seen from within.https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/565351/things-fall-apart-by-chinua-achebe/

Categories
Africa Africa, Poetry and Love culture/tradition education folklore Igbo culture lifestyle Nigeria opinion proverbs

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

Categories
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.

Learn Igbo language here.

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

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.

Learn Igbo language and culture here.

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