Igbo people, also referred
to as the Ibo(e), Ebo(e),
Eboans or Heebo ( ) are an
ethnic group living chiefly in
southeastern and south Nigeria.
speak Igbo, which includes various Igboid languages
and dialects; today, a
majority of them speak English
alongside Igbo as a result of British
. Igbo people are among the largest and most
influential ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Due to the
effects of migration and
the Atlantic slave trade, there
are Igbo populations in countries such as Cameroon and Equatorial
Guinea, as well as outside Africa. Their exact population
outside Africa is unknown, but today many African Americans and Afro Caribbeans are of Igbo descent.
In rural areas in
Africa, the Igbo are mostly farmers. Their most important crop is
; celebrations are held
annually to celebrate its harvesting. Other staple crops include
, and taro
Before British colonialism
, the Igbo
were a politically fragmented group. There were variations in
culture such as in art styles, attire and religious practices.
Various subgroups were set according to clan, lineage, village
affiliation and dialect. There weren't many centralized chieftaincy,
hereditary aristocracy, or kingship customs except in kingdoms like
that of the Nri, Arochukwu and Onitsha.
political system changed significantly under British colonialism in
the 19th century; Eze
introduced into most local communities by Frederick Lugard
as "Warrant Chiefs". The
Igbo became overwhelmingly Christian under colonization. Chinua Achebe
's Things Fall Apart
is one of the most
popular novels to depict Igbo culture.
By the mid-20th century, a strong sense of an Igbo identity
developed. Certain conflicts with other Nigerian ethnicities led to
the Igbo dominant Eastern Nigeria
seceding from Nigeria to create the independent state of Biafra
. The Nigerian-Biafran war
(6 July 1967 – 15
January 1970) broke out shortly after. The end of the war led to
the defeated Republic of Biafra being reabsorbed into
It would be difficult to define a single Igbo identity because of
the group's heavily fragmented and politically independent
communities. Before knowledge of Europeans
and full exposure to other ethnic groups neighbouring
, the Igbo did not have a strong identity as one people.
Upon engaging in a close textual reading of Olaudah Equiano
's 1789 narrative, historian
Alexander X. Byrd argues that the Igbo identity had its origins in
, emerging in the
"holding patterns" of coastal towns in West
As in the case of most ethnic groups located in sub-saharan Africa
, the British and
fellow Europeans identified the Igbo as a tribe
. Chinua Achebe
among other scholars, challenged this because of its negative
connotations and possible wrong definiton. The suggestion was that
the Igbo should be defined as a nation
similar to the Cherokee
, although the Igbo do not have an
official recognized state
Twins were a sin!!! There are several theories regarding the
of the word Igbo
presumed that it has Sudanic origin,
derived from the verb gboo.
Charles Kingsley Meek,
writer of Law and Authority in a Nigerian Tribe
that it may originate from the neighboring Igala
, coming from the word onigbo
, a word
for slave. As of now, the origin of Igbo
had been spelled Ibo
by British colonialists
until the 20th century. Ibo
can still be found being used,
is considered the correct and preferred spelling
by the Igbo and has been used in many different publications. The
word now has three uses, to describe indigenous Igbo territory,
domestic speakers of the language and the language spoken by
dated at around 4500 BCE showing similarities with later Igbo work
was found at Nsukka, along with
pottery and tools at nearby Ibagwa; the traditions of the Umueri
clan have as their source the Anambra
valley, and in the 1970s the Owerri, Okigwi, Orlu and Awka divisions
were generally supposed to have been from linguistic and cultural
evidence "an Igbo heartland".
evidence that the ancestors of the Igbo people and most of their
neighbors were the proto-Kwa group, which came
from the African Great
Lakes and Mountains of the Moon of
East and Central Africa and settled at the old
Sahara grasslands. It was the
desertification of the Sahara that forced some of the Kwa people to
migrate farther south to the north of the Niger Benue confluence
and founded Nok.
Elements of the Kwa people migrated south of this confluence and
later became the Igala
, Igbo, and
possibly the Tiv
peoples. The Kwa people's first
areas of settlement in Igboland was the
North Central uplands (Nsukka-Afikpo-Awka-Orlu) around 5000
BCE Elements from the Orlu area migrated south, east, and northeast
while elements from the Awka area migrated westwards across the
Niger river and became the Igbo subgroup
now known as the Anioma.
share linguistic ties with the Bini
Yoruba, and Idoma peoples.
The city of Nri is considered to be the foundation of Igbo culture
. Nri and Aguleri, where the Igbo
creation myth originates, are in the territory of the Umueri clan,
who trace their lineages back to the patriarchal king-figure,
. Eri's origins are unclear,
though he has been described as a "sky being" sent by Chukwu
(God). He has been characterized as having first
given societal order to the people of Anambra.
Elizabeth Allo Isichei says "Nri and
Aguleri and part of the Umueri clan, a cluster of Igbo village
groups which traces its origins to a sky being called Eri."
Archaeological evidence suggests that Nri hegemony
in Igboland may go back as far as the
ninth century, and royal burials have been unearthed dating to at
least the 10th century. Eri, the god-like founder of Nri, is
believed to have settled the region around 948 with other related
Igbo cultures following after in the 13th century. The first Eze
Nri (King of Nri), Ìfikuánim
, followed directly
after him. According to Igbo oral tradition, his reign started in
1043. At least one historian puts Ìfikuánim's reign much later,
around 1225 AD.
Each king traces his origin back to the founding
Each king is a ritual reproduction of Eri.
The initiation rite of a new king shows that the ritual
process of becoming Ezenri (Nri priest-king) follows closely the
path traced by the hero in establishing the Nri kingdom.
E. Elochukwu Uzukwu
The Kingdom of Nri was a religio-polity, a sort of theocratic state, that developed in the central
heartland of the Igbo region. The Nri had seven types of taboo's which included human (such as the birth of
twins), animal (such as
killing or eating of pythons), object, temporal, behavioral, speech
and place taboos. The rules regarding these taboos were used to
educate and govern Nri's subjects. This meant that, while certain
Igbo may have lived under different formal administration, all
followers of the Igbo religion had to abide
by the rules of the faith and obey its representative on earth, the
Three Igbo women in the early 20th
Traditional Igbo political organization was based on a
quasi-democratic republican system of
government. In tight knit communities, this system guaranteed its
citizens equality, as opposed to a feudalist system with a king
ruling over subjects. This government system was witnessed by the
Portuguese who first arrived and
met with the Igbo people in the 15th century. With the exception of
a few notable Igbo towns such as Onitsha, which had
kings called Obi, and places like the
Nri Kingdom and Arochukwu, which had priest kings; Igbo
communities and area governments were overwhelmingly ruled solely
by a republican consultative assembly of the common people.
Communities were usually governed and administered by a council of
Although title holders were respected because of their
accomplishments and capabilities, they were never revered as kings,
but often performed special functions given to them by such
assemblies. This way of governing was immensely
different from most other communities of Western Africa, and only
shared by the Ewe of Ghana.
Umunna are a form of patrilineage maintained by the Igbo. Law
starts with the Umunna which is a male line of descent
from a founding ancestor (who the line is sometimes named after)
with groups of compounds containing closely related families headed
by the eldest male member. The Umunna can be seen as the
most important pillar of Igbo society.
Mathematics in traditional Igbo society
is evident in their calendar, banking system and strategic betting
game called Okwe. In their indigenous calendar, a week had
four days, a month consisted of seven weeks and 13 months made a
year. In the last month, an extra day was added. This calendar is
still used in indigenous Igbo villages and towns to determine
market days. They settled law matters via mediators, and their banking system for loans and
savings, called Isusu, is also still used.
Used as a ceremonial script by secret societies, the Igbo had a
traditional ideographic set of symbols
called Nsibidi, originating from the
neighboring Ejagham people. Igbo people produced
bronzes from as early as the ninth century,
some of which have been found at the town of Igbo Ukwu, Anambra state.
A system of slavery existed among the Igbo after and before the
arrival and knowledge of Europeans. Slavery in Igbo areas was
described by Olaudah Equiano in his
He describes the conditions of the slaves in his community of
Essaka, and points out the difference between the treatment of
slaves under the Igbo in Essaka, and those in the custody of
Europeans in West Indies:
…but how different was their condition from that of the
slaves in the West Indies!
With us, they do no more work than other members of the
community,… even their master;… (except that they were not
permitted to eat with those… free-born;) and there was scarce any
other difference between them,… Some of these slaves have… slaves
under them as their own property… for their own use.
The Niger coast acted as a contact point between African and
European traders from the years 1434–1807. This contact between the
Africans and Europeans began with the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British. Even prior to European contact, Igbo trade
routes stretched as far as Mecca, Medina and Jeddah.
Transatlantic slave trade
The transatlantic slave trade which took place between the 16th and
late 19th century affected the Igbo heavily. Most Igbo slaves were
taken from the Bight of
Biafra (also known as the Bight of Bonny).
included modern day southeastern Nigeria, Western Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and parts of Northern Gabon.
trade ports for goods and slaves in the area included Bonny and
Calabar Town. A large number of slaves from the
Bight of Biafra would have been Igbo. Slaves were usually sold to
Europeans by the Aro Confederacy who
kidnapped or bought slaves from Igbo villages in the hinterland.
About 15 percent of slaves were taken from the Bight of Biafra
between 1650 and 1900, the third greatest percentage in the era of
the transatlantic slave trade. Igbo slaves were known for being
rebellious and having a high count of suicide in defiance of
slavery. For still unknown reasons, Igbo women were highly sought
Contrary to common belief, European slave traders were fairly
informed about various African ethnicities, leading to slavers
targeting certain ethnic groups which plantation owners preferred.
Ethnic groups consequently became fairly saturated in certain parts
of the Americas. The Igbo where dispersed to colonies such as
Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Barbados, the United States, Belize and Trinidad and
Tobago, among others. Elements of Igbo culture can
still be found in these places. For example, in Jamaican Patois the Igbo word unu,
meaning you plural, is still used as well as the term
red Ibo (or red eboe) which describes a black person with fair or "yellowish" skin.
This term had originated from the reported prevalence of these
skin tones among the Igbo.
Bim, a colloquial term for Barbados, was commonly used among enslaved Barbadians (Bajans).
This word is said to have derived from bi mu in the Igbo
language (or either bem, Ndi bem, Nwanyi
ibem or Nwoke ibem which means My people),
but may have other origins (see: Barbados etymology). In the United Sates
the Igbo were found most common in the states of Maryland and Virginia, where they remained the largest single group of
Africans. Recent Igbo-speaking immigrants are still common
in the state of Maryland.
The arrival of the British in the
1870s and increased encounters between the Igbo and other
ethnicities near the Niger River led to
a deepening sense of a distinct Igbo ethnic identity. The Igbo
proved remarkably decisive and enthusiastic in their embrace of
Christianity and Western education. Due
to the incompatibility of the Igbo decentralized style of
government and the centralized system required for British indirect
rule, British colonial rule was
marked with open conflicts and much tension. Under British colonial
rule, the diversity within each of Nigeria's major ethnic groups
slowly decreased and distinctions between the Igbo and other large
ethnic groups, such as the Hausa and
the Yoruba, became sharper.
Colonial rule drastically transformed Igbo society as seen in the
book Things Fall Apart.
British rule brought about changes in culture such as the
introduction of Warrant Chiefs as Eze
(traditional rulers) where there had been no such monarchies.
Christianity had played a great part in the infiltration of foreign
ideology into Igbo society and culture, sometimes shunning parts of
the culture. The rumours that the Igbo women were being
assessed for taxation sparked off the 1929 Igbo Women's War in Aba (also known
as the 1929 Aba Riots), a massive revolt of women never encountered
before in Igbo history.
Living conditions changed under colonial rule. The tradition of
building houses out of mud walls and
thatched roofs died while houses started
being built with cement blocks and zinc roofs.
Roads for vehicles were built. Buildings such as hospitals and
schools were erected in many parts of Igboland. Along with this
change came electricity and running
water in the early 20th century. Electricity brought new
devices such as radios and televisions which are now common place
in most Igbo households.
A series of ethnic clashes between Northern Muslims and the Igbo (and other peoples) of Eastern
Nigeria living in Northern Nigeria took place between 1966 and
1967. This was followed by the assassination of
the Nigerian military head of state General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi by elements in
the army and by the failure of peace talks between the military
government that deposed Ironsi and the regional government of
Eastern Nigeria at the Aburi Talks in
Ghana in 1967. These events led to a regional
council of the peoples of Eastern Nigeria deciding that the
region should secede and proclaim the Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967. General Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu had made this
declaration and became the Head of state of the new republic. The
war, which came to be known as the Nigerian Civil War or the
Nigerian-Biafran War, lasted from July 6, 1967, until January 15,
1970, after which the federal government reabsorbed Biafra into
Nigeria. Several million Eastern Nigerians, especially Igbo, are
believed to have died between the pogroms and
the end of the civil war. In their brief struggle for
self-determination, the people of Biafra earned the respect of
figures such as Jean Paul Sartre
and John Lennon, who returned his
British honor, MBE,
partly in protest against British collusion in the Nigeria-Biafra
In July 2007, the former leader of Biafra, General Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, renewed calls
for the secession of the Biafran state as a sovereign entity. "The
only alternative is a separate existence...What upsets the Igbo
population is we are not equally Nigerian as the others", General
Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, July
After the Nigerian–Biafran War, Igboland was devastated. Many
hospitals, schools, and homes had been completely destroyed in the
war. In addition to the loss of their savings, many Igbo people
found themselves discriminated against by other ethnic groups and
the new non-Igbo federal government. Some Igbo subgroups, such as
the Ikwerre, started disassociating
themselves with the larger Igbo population after the war.
post-war era saw the changing of names of both people and places to
non-Igbo sounding words such as the changing of the name of the
town of Igbuzo to the
Due to the discrimination, many Igbo had trouble finding
employment, and the Igbo became one of the poorest ethnic groups in
Nigeria during the early 1970s. Igboland was gradually rebuilt over a period
of twenty years and the economy was again prospering due to the
rise of the petroleum industry in
the adjacent Niger
Delta region. This led to new factories being set
up in southern Nigeria. Many Igbo people eventually took government
positions, although many were engaged in private business and
constituted and still constitute the bulk of Nigerian informal
economy. Recently, there has been a wave of Igbo immigration to
other African countries, Europe, and the
Igbo culture includes the various customs,
practices and traditions of the Igbo
people. It comprises archaic practices as
well as new concepts added into the Igbo culture either through
evolution or outside influences. These customs and traditions
include the Igbo people's visual art, music and dance forms, as
well as their attire, cuisine and language dialects. Because of their various subgroups, the variety of their
culture is heightened further.
Language and literature
The Igbo language was used by John
Goldsmith as an example to justify deviating from the classical
linear model of phonology as laid out in
The Sound Pattern of
English. It is written in the Roman script as well as the
Nsibidi formalized pictograms which is used by the Ekpe society and Okonko fraternity. Nsibidi is not
widely used. These pictograms existed among the Igbo before the
1500s, but died out after it became popular among secret societies,
who then made Nsibidi a secret form of communication. Igbo is a
tonal language, like Yoruba and Chinese. There are hundreds of different
dialects and Igboid languages in
the Igbo language, such as the Ikwerre and Ekpeye
In 1789, The
Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano was
published in London, England, written by Olaudah Equiano, a former slave. The book
featured 79 Igbo words. In the first and second chapter, the book
illustrates various aspects of Igbo life based on Olaudah Equiano's
life in his hometown of Essaka. Although the book was one of the
first books published to include Igbo material, Geschichte der
Mission der Evangelischen Bruder auf den Carabischen ( ),
published in 1777, was the first book to publish any Igbo
In 1939, Dr. Ida C. Ward led a research expedition on Igbo dialects
which could possibly be used as a basis of a standard Igbo dialect,
also known as Central Igbo. This dialect included
that of the Owerri and Umuahia groups, including the Ohuhu
dialect. This proposed dialect was gradually accepted
by missionaries, writers, publishers, and Cambridge
Perhaps the most popular and renowned novel that deals with the
Igbo and their traditional life was the 1959 book by Chinua Achebe,
Things Fall Apart. The
novel concerns influences of British colonialism and Christian
missionaries on a traditional Igbo
community during an unspecified time in the late nineteenth or
early 20th century. The bulk of the novel takes place in Umuofia,
one of nine villages on the lower Niger.
The Igbo people have a musical style into which they incorporate
various percussion instruments: the udu, which
is essentially designed from a clay jug; an ekwe, which is formed from a hollowed log; and the
ogene, a hand bell designed from forged iron.
Other instruments include opi, a wind instrument
similar to the flute, igba, and ichaka.
Another popular musical form among the Igbo is Highlife. A widely popular musical genre in
West Africa, Highlife is a fusion of
jazz and traditional music. The modern Igbo
Highlife is seen in the works of Dr Sir
Warrior, Oliver De Coque,
Bright Chimezie, and Chief Osita Osadebe, who were among the
most popular Igbo Highlife musicians of the 20th century.
Masking is one of the most
common art styles in Igboland and is linked strongly with Igbo
traditional music. A mask can be made of wood or fabric, along with
other materials including iron and vegetation. Masks have a variety of uses, mainly
in social satires, religious rituals, secret society initiations
(such as the Ekpe society) and public
festivals, which now include Christmas
time celebrations. Best known are the Agbogho Mmuo ( ) masks of the Northern Igbo
which represent the spirits of deceased maidens and their mothers
with masks symbolizing beauty.
Other impressive masks include Northern Igbo Ijele masks. At high,
Ijele masks consist of platforms in diameter, supporting figures
made of colored cloth and representing everyday scenes with objects
such as leopards. Ijele masks are used for honoring the dead to
ensure the continuity and well-being of the community and are only
seen on rare occasions such as the death of a prominent figure in
There are many Igbo dance styles, but perhaps, Igbo dance is best
known for its Atilogwu dance troops. These performances include
acrobatic stunts such as high kicks and cartwheel, with each rhythm from the
traditional instruments indicating a movement to the dancer.
Visual art and architecture
Igbo art is generally known for various types of masquerade, masks and
outfits symbolising people animals or abstract conceptions. Bronze castings found in
the town of Igbo Ukwu from
the ninth century, constitute the earliest sculptures discovered in
Igboland. Here, the grave of a well established man of distinction
and a ritual store, dating from the ninth century AD, contained
both chased copper objects and elaborate castings of leaded bronze.
Some popular Igbo art styles include Uli designs. The majority of the Igbo carve and
use masks, although the function of masks vary from community to
community. Igbo art is also famous for Mbari architecture.
houses of the Owerri-Igbo, which
are large opened-sided square planned shelters, are examples of
Igbo architecture. They house many life-sized, painted
figures (sculpted in mud to appease the Alusi
(deity) and Ala, the earth goddess, with other deities of thunder
and water). Other sculptures are of officials, craftsmen,
foreigners (mainly Europeans), animals, legendary creatures and ancestors. Mbari
houses take years to build and building them is regarded as sacred,
therefore new ones are constructed and old ones are left to
Everyday houses were made of mud and thatched roofs with bare earth floors with
carved design doors. Some houses had elaborate designs both in the
interior and exterior. These designs could include Uli art designed by Igbo women.
It is near impossible to describe a general Igbo art style because
the Igbo are heavily fragmented. This has added to the development
of a great variety of art styles and cultural practices.
Religion and rites of passage
Today, the majority of the Igbo people are Christian, well over half of whom are Roman
Catholics. There are a small population of Igbo Jews. The ancient Igbo religion and
traditions are known as Odinani. In Igbo
mythology, which is part of their ancient religion, the supreme God
is called Chukwu ("great spirit"); Chukwu
created the world and everything in it and is associated with all
things on Earth. Chukwu is a solar
deity. To the ancient Igbo, the Cosmos
was divided into four complex parts: creation, known as Okike;
supernatural forces or deities called Alusi;
Mmuo, which are
spirits; and Uwa, the world.
Chukwu is the supreme deity in Odinani as he
is the creator in their pantheon and the Igbo people believe that
all things come from him and that everything on earth, heaven and the rest of the spiritual world is under
his control. Linguistic studies of the Igbo language suggests the
name Chukwu is a portmanteau of
the Igbo words: Chi (spiritual being) and Ukwu
(great in size). Alusi, alternatively known as
Arusi or Arushi (depending on dialect), are minor deities that are worshiped and served in Odinani.
There are a list of many different Alusi and each has its own
purpose. When an individual deity is no longer needed, or becomes
too violent, it is discarded.
The Igbo believe in reincarnation.
People are believed to reincarnate into families that they were
part of while alive. Before a relative dies, it is said that the
soon to be deceased relative sometimes give clues of who they will
reincarnate as in the family. Once a child is born, he or she is
believed to give signs of who they have reincarnated from. This can
be through behavior, physical traits and statements by the child. A
diviner can help in detecting who the child has reincarnated from.
It is considered an insult if a male is said to have reincarnated
as a female.
Children are not allowed to call elders by their names without
using an honorific (as this is considered
disrespectful). Children are required to greet elders when seeing
them for the first time in the day as a sign of respect and good
upbringing. Children usually add the Igbo honorifics Mazi
or Dede before an elder's name when addressing them.
After a death, the body of a prominent member of society is placed
on a stool in a sitting posture and is clothed in the deceased's
finest garments. Animal sacrifices may be offered to them and they
can be well perfumed. Burial usually follows within 24 hours of
death. The head of a home is usually buried beneath the floor of
Different types of deaths warrant different types of burials. This
is affected by an individual's age, gender and status in society.
For example, children are buried in hiding and out of sight, their
burials usually take place in the early mornings and late nights. A
simple untitled man is buried in front of his house and a simple
mother is buried in her place of origin in a garden or a farm-area
that belonged to her father. Presently, a majority of the Igbo bury
their dead in the western way, although it is not uncommon for
burials to be practiced in the traditional Igbo ways.
The process of marrying usually involves asking the young woman's
consent, introducing the woman to the man's family and the same for
the man to the woman's family, testing the bride's character,
checking the woman's family background and paying the brides
wealth. Sometimes marriages had been arranged from birth through
negotiation of the two families.
In the past, many Igbo men practiced polygamy. The polygamous family is made up of a man
and his wives and all their children. Men sometimes married
multiple wives for economic reasons so as to have more people in
the family, including children, to help on farms.
Christian and civil marriages have changed the Igbo family since
colonization. Igbo people now tend
to enter monogamous courtships and create nuclear families, mainly because of Western
influence. Adopted Western marriage customs, such as wedding in
church, are sometimes accompanied
by a traditional wedding.
There are circumstances where a marriage between two women is allowed,
such as when a woman has no child and the husband dies.
Traditionally, the attire of the Igbo generally consisted of little
clothing as the purpose of clothing originally was to conceal
private parts, although elders were fully clothed. Children were
usually nude from birth till their adolescence (the time when they were considered
to have something to hide) but sometimes ornaments such as beads
were worn around the waist for spiritual reasons. Uli body art was used to decorate both men and
women in the form of lines forming patterns and shapes on the
Women traditionally carry their babies on their backs with a strip
of clothing binding the two with a knot at her chest, a practice
used by many ethnic groups across Africa. This method has been
modernized in the form of the child
carrier. In most cases Igbo women did not cover their breast
areas. Maidens usually wore a short wrapper with beads around their
waist and other ornaments such as necklaces and beads. Both men and
women wore wrappers.
Men would wear loin cloths that wrapped
round their waist and between their legs to be fastened at their
back, the type of clothing appropriate for the intense heat as well
as jobs such as farming.
Equiano's narrative, Equiano describes fragrances that were
used by the Igbo in the community of Essaka;
Our principal luxury is in perfumes; one sort of these
is an odoriferous wood of delicious fragrance: the other a kind of
earth; a small portion of which thrown into the fire diffuses a
most powerful odor.
We beat this wood into powder, and mix it with palm oil; with which both men and women perfume
In the same era as the rise of colonial forces in Nigeria, the way
the Igbo dressed changed. These changes made the Igbo adopt
Westernized clothing such as shirts
and trousers. Clothing worn before colonialism became "traditional"
and worn on special occasions. The traditional clothing itself
became westernized with the introduction of various types of
Western clothing including shoes, hats, trousers, etc. Modern Igbo
traditional attire, for men, is generally made up of the Isiagu top which resembles the Dashiki worn by other African groups. Isiagu (or
Ishi agu) is usually patterned with lions heads
embroidered over the clothing and can be a plain color. It is worn
with trousers and can be worn with either a traditional title
holders hat or with the traditional Igbo stripped men's hat. For women, a puffed
sleeve blouse (influenced by European attire)
along with two wrappers and a head tie are worn.
The yam is very important to the
Igbo as it is their staple crop. There
are celebrations such as the New yam
festival ( ) which are held for the harvesting of the yam.
During the festival yam is eaten throughout the communities as
celebration. Yam tubers are shown off by individuals as a sign of
success and wealth.
They are also famous for creating dark chocolate. They have it with
every meal as a ritual to their sun god, Azebo.
Rice has replaced yam for ceremonial occasions. Other foods include
cassava, garri, maize and plantains. Soups or
stews are included in a typical meal, prepared with a vegetable
(such as okra, of which the word derives from
the Igbo language, Okwuru) to which pieces of fish, chicken, beef,
or goat meat are added. Jollof rice is
popular throughout West Africa. Palm wine
is a popular alcoholic beverage among the Igbo.
in Nigeria are found in
Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Delta and Rivers
State. The Igbo language is predominant throughout
these areas, although English (the national language) is spoken as
well. Prominent towns and cities in Igboland
include Aba, Owerri, Enugu, Onitsha, Abakaliki, Afikpo, Agbor, Orlu, Okigwe, Umuahia, Asaba and Port Harcourt among others.
a significant number of Igbo people found in other parts of Nigeria
by migration, such as in the city of Lagos.
The official population count of ethnic groups in Nigeria has remained
controversial as a majority of these groups have claimed that the
government deliberately deflates the official population of one
group, to give the other numerical superiority. The CIA World Factbook puts the Igbo
population between 24 and 25 million, which includes the various
subgroups of the Igbo.
Southeastern Nigeria, which is inhabited primarily by the Igbo, is
the most densely populated area in Nigeria, and possibly in all of
Africa. Most ethnicities that inhabit southeastern Nigeria, such as
the closely related Efik and Ibibio people, are sometimes regarded as Igbo
by other Nigerians and ethnographers who are not well informed
about the southeast.
After the Nigerian-Biafran War,
many Igbo people emigrated out of the traditional Igbo homeland in
southeastern Nigeria due to an absence of federal presence, lack of
jobs, and poor infrastructure. In
recent decades the Igbo region of Nigeria has suffered from
frequent environmental damage mainly related to the oil industry. Igbo people have moved to both Nigerian
cities such as Lagos and
Abuja, and other countries such as Gabon, Canada, the
United Kingdom and the United States. Prominent Igbo
communities outside Africa include those of London in the
United Kingdom and Houston, California, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. in the United States.
With genealogy tracing by means of DNA testing, the roots of the
African diaspora is being uncovered
by descendants of the victims of the atlantic slave trade who are
researching their family history. In the 2003 PBS program African American Lives, Bishop
T.D. Jakes had
his DNA analyzed; his Y
chromosome showed that he is descended from the Igbo. American
actors Forest Whitaker, Paul Robeson, and Blair Underwood have traced their genealogy
back to the Igbo people.
The 1930s saw the rise of Igbo unions in the cities of Lagos and
Port Harcourt. Later, the Ibo Federal Union (renamed the Ibo State
Union in 1948) emerged as an umbrella pan-ethnic organization. Headed by Nnamdi Azikiwe, it was closely associated
with the National Council
of Nigeria and the Cameroons , which he co-founded with
Herbert Macaulay. The aim of the
organization was the improvement and advancement (such as in
education) of the Igbo and their indigenous land and included an
Igbo "national anthem" with a plan for an Igbo bank.
In 1978 after Olusegun Obasanjo's
military regime lifted the ban on independent political activity,
the Ohaneze Ndi Igbo organization was formed, an elite umbrella
organization which speaks on behalf of the Igbo people. Their main
concerns are the marginalization of the Igbo people in Nigerian
politics and the neglect of indigenous Igbo territory in social
amenities and development of infrastructure. Other groups which
protest the perceived marginalization of the Igbo people are the
Igbo Peoples Congress (IPC).
before the 20th century there were numerous Igbo unions and
organizations existing around the world, such as the Igbo union in
Gambia in 1842, founded by a prominent Igbo trader and
ex-soldier named Thomas Refell. Another was the union
founded by the Igbo community in Freetown, Sierra Leone by 1860, of which Africanus Horton, a surgeon, scientist and
soldier, was an active member.
Decades after the Nigerian-Biafran
war, the Movement
for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra , a
seccesionist group, was founded in September 1999 by Ralph
Uwazurike for the goal of an independent Igbo state. Since its
creation, there have been several conflicts between its members and
the Nigerian government, resulting in the death of members.
For the promotion of the Igbo language and culture, the Society for
Promoting Igbo Language and Culture (SPILC) was founded in 1949
by Frederick Chidozie Ogbalu, and has since created a standard
dialect for Igbo.
- ; excerpted in " Cultural Harmony I: Igboland — the World of Man and the
World of Spirits", section 4 of Kalu Ogbaa, ed.,
Understanding Things Fall Apart (Westport, Conn.:
Greenwood Press, 1999; ISBN 0313302944), pp. 83–85.
- Tradition of same gender marriage in Igboland,
Leo Igwe, Nigerian Tribune, June 19, 2009; accessed September 30,