Igbo Cultures And Values – What Are The Igbos Known For?

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 Igbo Cultures And Values – What Are The Igbos Known For?

Cultures are traditions, customs, and behavioural attitudes laid down for a particular people and society. Cultures are people’s way of life and are passed down from generation to generation. Values are simply components of culture. They are the traits a group of people uphold and are generally known for.

The Oxford Dictionary defines culture as ” The way of life, the customs and beliefs, arts, way of life, and social organization of a particular country or group.”

Values, on the other hand, is defined as “A set of ethical beliefs and preference that determines our sense of right and wrong”

Families also set rules and call it a “family culture”. It is done because it doesn’t change; they are known for what they do. What is your culture?

For some Igbos who grew up abroad and knew little or less about their cultures, you got the right piece.

Igbo, which is among the biggest ethnic groups in Africa, not only Nigeria, is mostly comprised of the states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Northern Delta, and Rivers. These people cover a whooping sum of 17% of Nigeria’s population.

They are unique and resilient. People usually mistake how they strive to live and adapt to the “love of money”. Well, who doesn’t like the money?

“Ndi Igbo”, as they’re fondly called, are found in several countries of the world.

What Are The Igbos Cultural Values?

Cultural values are the fundamental beliefs and principles that form the foundation of a community’s/group’s existence, providing protection and fostering harmonious relationships. These values are the ethical and moral principles an individual or group considers significant.

The term Ọmenala ndị Igbo refers to the customs, traditions, and practices of the Igbo people. It encompasses both traditional practices that have been passed down through generations and newer concepts that have been added to the culture due to cultural evolution or external influences.

The Igbo culture is rich and diverse, including various forms of visual art, music, and dance, as well as their attire, cuisine, and different language dialects. The diversity of the culture is further heightened due to the various subgroups within the Igbo community.

The Igbo Cultural values encompass:

Ancient Religion:

Although many Igbo individuals are now practising Christianity, the traditional religion that the ancient Igbo people practised is called Odinani. Within the Igbo mythology that was part of this religion, the ultimate deity was known as Chineke, or “the God of creation.”

According to this belief system, Chineke was responsible for creating the world and everything in it and was associated with all aspects of life on Earth. The Igbo people divided the cosmos into four complex parts: Creation (Okike), Supernatural Forces or Deities (Alusi), Spirit (Mmuo), and World (Uwa).

Alusi are minor deities in Igbo mythology, each with its own purpose and worshipped within each community. A Chief Priest or Dibia helps to return the deity to its source when it is no longer needed. Mmuo means spirit and can be good (mmuo oma) or evil (mmuo ojo).

ÌMỌ̀ DÁRA
Picture of the Igbo Alusi, ÌMỌ̀ DÁRA

The Ogbanje spirit is seen as evil, and possessed individuals are given spiritual attention to casting out the spirit through deliverance or traditional African methods of digging out their “iyi uwa”.

Ogbanje refers to a person who claimed to die and be born repeatedly by the same person. In some instances, Igbo cultural practices attempted to banish people with Ogbanje spirits to hinder their influence.

Dance:

The Igbo people have various ways of showcasing their exceptional culture, and dancing is one of the ways they express it. Some eye-captivating Igbo cultural dances include Atilogwu,Ogene, Mmanwu, Egedege and Abigbo dance, to mention a few.

Igbo Traditional Dances - HubPages
Igbo cultural dancers performing-Atilogwu Dance

Music:

The Igbo community has developed a harmonious and rhythmic type of music that is produced using cast iron instruments. The instruments used in Igbo music include Opi, also called Oja, a wind instrument similar to a flute, as well as igba and Ichaka.

Igbo Traditional Music Instruments – MUSIC AFRICA AWAKE
Image of the Igbo Traditional Music Instruments – MUSIC AFRICA AWAKE

Highlife is another type of music popular among the Igbo people. It blends traditional music and jazz and is widely enjoyed in West Africa. Modern-day Igbo highlife music can be attributed to the works of famous musicians such as Oliver De Coque and Chief Osita Osadebe, considered among the greatest {of the 20th century.

Igbo Traditional Attire:

In the past, Igbo people wore minimal clothing to cover their private parts. Elders were fully clothed, while children were often naked until adolescence. Uli body art and wool hats were also popular. However, colonialism and Western culture brought about the replacement of traditional Igbo clothing with Western-style clothing.

Igbo women carried their babies on their backs and didn’t cover their chests, while maidens wore short wrappers with beads. Both men and women wore wrappers, and the baby-carrying technique is still used today in modernized forms.

Beautiful family photos of actress Chacha Eke Faani in matching traditional outfits
Image of Chacha Eke and husband in a modern traditional Igbo attire.

Men in Igbo culture wore loin cloths for everyday activities like farming due to the intense heat. They could also tie a wrapper over the loin cloth. For special occasions like traditional weddings, they would wear more expensive materials like a gorge and Isiagu, which was popular among wealthy and traditional title holders.

Modern Igbo traditional attire for men consists of an Isiagu top with lion head embroidery, worn with trousers and a traditional hat. Women wear an embroidered blouse, two modern Hollandis material wrappers, and a headscarf.

Masquerades:

There are two primary categories of masquerades: visible and invisible. Visible masquerades are intended for the public and tend to be more entertaining. The masks used in these masquerades are visually appealing, showcasing various shapes and forms. They involve performances that include harassment, music, dance, and parodies.

Ijele Masquarade Festival, Festivals and Carnivals In Anambra State :: Nigeria Information & Guide
Popular Ijele masquerade performing at a festival.

On the other hand, invisible masquerades occur during the nighttime and rely heavily on sound. The masquerader uses their voice to scream, ensuring the sound carries throughout the village. The masks used in these masquerades typically have a fierce appearance, and their significance is fully understood only by members of society.

Ọjị (Kolanut):

Kolanut is a type of fruit that is native to tropical Africa and is derived from different species of Cola trees. It is known to contain caffeine and is commonly used as a stimulant to aid in digestion.

In the cultural life of the Igbo people, Ọjị holds a unique position. It is typically the first thing that is offered to visitors when they enter an Igbo home. It is also served before any significant event, such as a marriage ceremony, resolution of family disputes, or entering into any form of agreement.

The Kola nut is traditionally broken into pieces by hand; a special celebration is usually arranged if it breaks into three pieces.

New Yam Festivals:

The Igbo people highly value yam, which is their primary crop. They commemorate the yam harvest with festivities like the New Yam festival (Iri Ji), held yearly to ensure a bountiful harvest. This festival is commonly observed in Nigeria and other West African nations.

Igbankwu (Traditional Marriages):

The traditional Igbo marriage, known as Igbankwu or wine carrying, involves several customs and rituals. Before the wedding, the groom and his father must visit the bride’s compound to seek her father’s consent. If the bride’s father is deceased, a male relative fills in.

On a subsequent visit, kola nuts are exchanged, and the fathers negotiate a symbolic bride price. This process may take multiple evenings. Once the bride price is settled, a feast is held. During the ceremony, the bride offers palm wine to the groom amidst the crowd.

They find the bride’s father, receive his blessings, and then dance. Refreshments, gift presentations, and closing prayers follow before the conclusion of the event. The Igbo people in various parts of Eastern Nigeria have a rich cultural heritage and adhere to traditional customs daily, including marriage rituals.

Apprenticeship:

The Igbo people have a distinctive apprenticeship system where young individual, often in their teenage years, joins another family or community member to work for them. This arrangement lasts until the apprentice reaches adulthood.

At the end of this period, the head of the host household, typically an older man who initially took in the apprentice, would “idu” (establish) the apprentice. This involves helping the apprentice set up their own business or providing them with money or tools to make a living.

Unfortunately, this apprenticeship system was exploited by Europeans during the slave trade. Olaudah Equiano, an Igbo person, was forcibly taken from his home and compelled to serve an African family.

Although he felt a sense of belonging within that family, his experience drastically changed when he was transported to North America and enslaved in the Thirteen Colonies.

Iguafo Igbo (Calender):

According to the traditional Igbo calendar, a week (known as Izu) consists of 4 days (called Ubochi): Eke, Orie, Afo, and Nkwo. A month (known as Onwa) comprises seven weeks, with each month consisting of 28 days. There are 13 months in a year, and the last month has an additional day.

The names of the days are rooted in the mythology of the Nri Kingdom, where it was believed that the kingdom’s founder, Eri, had embarked on a journey to unravel the mystery of time.

During his trip, he greeted and counted the four days using the names of the spirits that governed them. Thus, the spirits’ names (eke, orie, afo, and nkwo) became the days of the week.

Conclusion:

Values are timeless and remain consistent, while culture manifests our values. Culture comprises various components, including customs, which pertain to traditions and rituals, values, which refer to beliefs; and culture itself, which encompasses all the principles that guide a particular group.

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