Original (correct) names/spellings for Igbo City's/Towns/Villages
Abakaliki is Abakaleke; Afikpo is Ehugbo; Asaba is Ahaba; Awgu is Ogu; Awka is Oka; Bonny is Ubani; Enugu is Enugwu; Ibusa is Igbuzor; Igrita is Igwuruta; Oguta is Ugwuta; Onitsha is Onicha; Owerri is Owerre; Oyigbo is Obigbo; Port Harcourt is Diobu; Ogwashi-Uku is Ogwa Nshi Ukwu... any more will be added.

Friday, January 12, 2018

"Study the native from the native point of view..."

Charles Partridge, Assistant District Commissioner in Southern Nigeria, photographed by an interpreter at Ndiya, present day Akwa Ibom, February 10, 1905. British Museum.
Study the native from the native point of view is the motto which all my senior officers have given me since I joined the service of the Protectorate. When I first landed in Southern Nigeria in July, 1901, the government was being administered, during the absence of the High Commissioner, by Mr. Probyn, […] [he] “laid stress on the importance of our being patient and tactful in our dealings with the native chiefs."
[...] Mr. C. H. Read, F.S.A. […] at the British Museum: [...] “[anthropological studies] is, in fact, the necessary training of a diplomatic service for dealing with primitive peoples, with the important difference that whereas the diplomatist can have recourse to argument and common sense on the occurrence of a blunder, such an opportunity is rarely given to the white man in dealing with the savage, whose method is to act first and leave the argument to the end. [...] [I]f it [anthropological work] should serve no other purpose, it at least demonstrates the necessity for intimate knowledge of tribal customs before attempting any but the most perfunctory relations with a primitive people.
[…] [T]he following apposite remarks occur in a leading article in The Morning Post on France and Morocco “[…] It is largely because we have known how to respect native institutions, and to preserve whatever is good in them, that we have been so successful in our dealings with races on a different plane of civilisation [...] A few thousand pounds spent in the early stages of our contact with peoples brought under our influence, or a systematic inquiry into their administrative systems, manners, and customs might save us hundreds of thousands of pounds in punitive expeditions."
— Charles Partridge (1905). Cross River Natives. pp. vii–ix.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Effects of British Colonialism on Indigenous Technology in the Nkwere Axis

Farmers from Nkwere, in present day Imo State, Nigeria. Catholic Mission of the Lower Niger. Early 20th century.
[…] The colonial educational system disorientated the people and the effect was so conspicuous that it emphasised on clericalism and neglected artisan and technical training. The educational system created no links with traditional occupation and skills; rather, it tended to divorce the recipients from traditional skills. The dysfunctional nature of the system had adverse effect on the traditional milieu of the people. The view is supported by Walter51 when he maintained that it was not an educational system that grew out of the African environment or one that was designed to promote the most rational use of material and social sources. He further averred that it was not an educational system designed to give young people confidence and pride as members of African societies, but one which sought to instil/inculcate a sense of deference towards all that was European and capitalism. Colonial schooling was education for subordination, exploitation, the creation of mental confusion and the development of underdevelopment.
Therefore, the net effect of colonialism was that it foisted negative change on Nkwerre traditional technology and other communities in Igboland. The people became dazzled and stupefied by the events such that their response became mimetic rather than analytical; thus, they despised their emerging civilisation and technology for similar foreign-made products and they took to schooling but made paper qualification and end in itself.
— Uzoma Samuel Osuala (2012). Colonialism and the Disintegration of Indigenous Technology in Igboland: A Case Study of Blacksmithing in Nkwerre. Historical Research Letter. [PDF]. pp. 16–17.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Igbo School Teacher

Postcard, Igbo school teacher, CMS Bookshop Port Harcourt.

European Segregation of Nigerian Cities

Postcards, areas reserved by the British colonial government for Europeans and for "natives" in Port Harcourt. Segregation was part of the British system of indirect rule, indigenous people were kept as far away as possible with exception to servants and those invited.

Many British-African cities (Enugu, Harare, etc.) were segregated as such with well planned and built-up European areas and 'native' settlements usually growing as slums as people moved to the new urban areas to work. Photo: European Hospital, Port Harcourt (postcard).

European court, Old Calabar, Southern Nigeria; uniformed Africans sitting behind a table and Europeans behind them; two banners bearing Union Jack flags with "NEW PROVIDENCE | OLD CALABAR" on them, 1894-1908. Photo: W J Sawyer.

Echoes of segregation linger on; European reservations were usually central and better built with important administrative buildings nearby, independence turned them into GRAs (Government Reserved Areas) which are usually still among the wealthier parts of Nigerian cities today.

Eze Nri Obalike

Eze Nri Obalike photographed by Northcote Thomas during his ethnographic tour of the northern Igbo area around Onitsha and Awka, around c. 1910, coloured by Ụ́kpụ́rụ́ 2017.

Eze Nri Obalike sounding his gong on his Ọzọ stool, round him is the Ọzọ na Nze priestly sect distinguished by their okpu mme (red hats) [or perhaps the Nzemabua council of the Eze], beside the Eze Nri is a young Adama boy, who are called “wives” by the Eze Nri according to Northcote Thomas and leave the service of the Eze Nri in later puberty. The building behind is one of the temples and meeting houses that once dotted Nri, the epicentre of northern Igbo religious life. Eze Nri Obalike is the 14th recorded Eze Nri (15th when including Eri) and headed Nri, the oldest continuous kingdom in the area, from 1889 till 1935. Eze Nri Obalike was appointed as a warrant chief of the Awka Native Court by the British in the 1900s, but relinquished the position afterward; the Eze Nri’s status isn’t simply that of a king but as the head, and origin, of all leaders (also priests) in the area.

The British and Christian missionaries conspired to remove Nri authority in the area by threatening the massacre of the Igbo highlighting the function of Christian missionaries as an arm of European conquest (including the function of aiding in the removal of religious control and reliance within the people and moving it to Rome for Catholics and England for Anglicans, etc.); in order to avoid the mass killing of his people, Nri Obalike, against tradition, left Nri after the British failed to capture him and he was made by the British colonial government to abrogate the codes that governed his Eze status, including taboos and abominations. Before the British, the Eze Nri was not easily accessed or seen, but this changed when he left Nri in the early 20th century. When Eze Nri Obalike was summoned to the native court at Awka in 1910, the government anthropologist Northcote Thomas reported that “the whole assembly rose and [fled]” as the belief was that the Eze Nri’s status was that of a spirit-man. Warrant chiefs introduced to the area by the British were made to renounce the Eze Nri; since then the Eze Nri’s influence has been confined to Umunri, the village-groups of the Nri people. As mushroom kingdoms continued to pop up around Nri and as Christianity dominated Igbo life, the social and religious significance Nri held over the Igbo around today’s Anambra State, northern Imo State, southern and central Enugu State, and some parts of Aniocha in Delta State, retreated.

More about warrant chiefs here.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Okonko Masking

Ọ̀kọ́ńkọ̀ masqueraders with raffia costume on the cover of African Arts journal. Umuowa, central Igbo area, Nigeria. March 1988. Photo: Eli Bentor.

"The Okonkor is the leading secret Society among the people of these parts. It originated from Arochuku. It was an innocent play organized by a few members just to amuse themselves; the inviting sounds of the drums they used in their play, the curious sounds produced in the Okonkor private chamber from what they call cloth, the funny dances, soon brought the elders and notable men who are curious to know how and by what these sounds are produced, to join the new play. In short as many were desirous to join, and as many important men and elders join the club, they soon make it to gain supremacy over other clubs .... Every member is sworn not to disclose the secrets of the Society excepting at the formation of a Branch Society in some other countries for the purpose of money making. In this way it spread among the countries but the Aro people being cunning use the greatest care to introduce it to a certain limit. The Okonkor of the Coast towns was not introduced by the Aros but by the offenders of Okonkor laws and who were sold away as slaves to the Coast towns by the Aros. Chiefs and elders of every town soon invited the Okonkor and make it the channel by which they rule the affairs of the country."

— Memorandum by A.O. Ockiya of the Delta Pastorate Mission, Aba, [1920] (NAE Abadist 1/12/54). via Robert D. Jackson (1975). The Twenty Years War.

Arochukwu, 'Punitive Expedition', Progress

Image: "Burning Arochuku" Charles Partridge, 1902.
During the year 1902 the Protectorate was freed for ever from the evils of slave-raiding and slave-dealing on an organised scale. On April 1st, 1901, ‘The Slave Dealing Proclamation’ was published, and on the 26th November, 1901, the provisions of that law, making slave-dealing in all its forms a penal offence, were applied by Order to all parts of the Protectorate, but it was not until the termination, in April, 1902, of the successful military operations in the Aro country, that the system of tribal warfare, for the purpose of making slaves, could be accurately regarded as an evil of the past.... Slave-raiding had been repressed for many years previous to 1902 in the delta country and in all the hinterland, except that part of the latter which lies between the Niger and the Cross River (a distance of 100 miles), and it was throughout this region that the Aro influence was predominant.
The most noteworthy fact brought to light by the military operations in the last stronghold of slavery above described, was that the Aros were not a military race, and that their influence was due to their relatively great intelligence, as compared with other native tribes. The strength of this influence was such, that not only was it paramount in the Aro country, but was also felt in many places in the delta region between the Niger and the Cross River, and also to the east of the latter. Whenever a tribe attempted to avoid acting in accordance with the Aro policy, it was fought by warlike tribes under the direction of the Aros, who recompensed such mercenaries by allowing them to loot the conquered tribe and to seize and sell as slaves those who survived the conflict. Within the area of the direct Aro influence, no important dispute could be settled save by reference to the oracle in the Juju or sacred grove, situated in a ravine near Ibum (Aro Chuku). Each of the contending parties attempted to propitiate this oracle by large offerings, and the party against whom judgment was pronounced, was believed by his tribes to have been destroyed by the hidden power, while, in reality, he was almost invariably sold secretly into slavery. As the tribe supposed to be specially favoured by this oracle, the Aros were able to gain wealth in the shape both of propitiatory offerings and of slaves. In addition to being a constant source of wealth, the Juju oracle also afforded the Aros a means whereby anyone opposing or supposed to be desirous of opposing their authority could be easily removed, as they could at any time contrive that a charge should be made against the rebel, thus forcing him to appeal to the oracle and then, on his arrival at Ibum, he would either be made powerless through parting with all his wealth as an offering, or, if his gifts were insufficient, his doom would be pronounced by Aro priests hidden in a concealed cave in the sacred ravine, and thereafter the Aro opponent became the Aro slave. The Aros do not appear to have resorted to trial by ordeal.
The military operations which were brought to a successful close in 1902 destroyed the system of slave-making above described, and the dreaded Juju oracle ceased for ever to exercise its baneful influence. The Aros themselves, however, were not destroyed, but, on the contrary, immediately gave further proof of their intelligence by adapting themselves to the new conditions of life. It had been their practice to prevent tribes within their influence from attempting to do a direct trade with the delta country, and thus they alone had experience in trade. They at once began to utilise this experience, they readily learnt to appreciate the superior value of English currency, as compared with the native mediums of barter, manillas, brass rods, etc., and, by their activity, showed that for many years they would be probably the principal gainers in any increased trade which might result from their country having been thrown open to the delta traders.
— Mr. Probyn, Acting High Commissioner, in the preface to his Report on Southern Nigeria for 1902.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

An old kind of warrant chief, from The Nigeria Handbook, 1936

As a largely acephalous people*, the British colonial government found it difficult to incorporate Igbo communities into the imperialist system of indirect rule, in response to this the British set up a system in which Igbo communities elected one of their members as a “Warrant Chief” who would be given a ‘warrant’ to act as a representative of the colonial administration in their community under the 'native court’ system, including the responsibility of collecting tax. The system was not well understood by the Igbo who came to decisions via consensus which often included a debate; with the misunderstanding of what the Warrant Chief’s powers entailed, many communities elected individuals in their communities who hadn’t necessarily been significant in terms of leadership, other communities elected lineage heads and other leaders. The system became widely abused and many Warrant Chiefs amassed wealth through their positions and quickly became despised by their communities.

It was the abuse and threat of taxes by the British through Warrant Chiefs that sparked the Aba women’s movement of 1929 in which women led protests and demonstrations and skirmished against Warrant Chiefs and the colonial administration. After 1929, Warrant Chiefs were removed from power, although some of them and their descendants became big men and took up chieftaincy titles. The British then devised Native Authority Councils in which they tried to 'prefect’ indirect rule by matching it with what their intelligence reports had told them were traditional organisational structures, this included a council of elders and an elite leading the community, however, women’s roles in traditional Igbo organisation were not recognised in this system. After the exit of the British at independence, many of these leaders and their descendants sought traditional legitimisation in many ways, one such example of this was the changing of their official title of 'Chief’ to 'Igwe’ and 'Eze’ in order to further root their status in tradition, it’s not unusual to see monarchies in Igboland that were started by an individual originally and officially referred to as 'Chief’ but whose descendants are titled 'Eze’ for example.

[*Excluding some communities and excluding priest kings and the system of lineage heads who are (originally) fundamentally priests of the lineage, e.g Okpara, Di Okpara, Dede, etc, and senior communities and households.]

More information: Axel Harneit-Sievers (1998). Igbo 'Traditional Rulers’: Chieftaincy and the State in Southeastern Nigeria. Africa Spectrum Vol. 33, No. 1.

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