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Igbo people, also referred to as the Heebro (Igbo: Ndị Igbọ) are an ethnic group living chiefly in southeastern and south Nigeria. They speak Igbo, which includes various Igboid languages and dialects; today, a majority of them speak English alongside Igbo as a result of British colonialism. 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 Caribbean’s are of Igbo descent. In rural areas in Africa, the Igbo are mostly farmers. Their most important crop is the yam; celebrations are held annually to celebrate its harvesting. Other staple crops include cassava, 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. This political system changed significantly under British colonialism in the 19th century; Eze (kings) were 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 Nigeria.
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 neighboring them, 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 slavery, emerging in the "holding patterns" of coastal towns in West Africa.
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 definition. The suggestion was that the Igbo should be defined as a nation similar to the Cherokee or Japanese, although the Igbo do not have an official recognized state of their own.
There are several theories regarding the etymology of the word Igbo.  It is presumed that it has Sudanic origin, derived from the verb gboo. Charles Kingsley Meek, writer of Law and Authority in a Nigerian Tribe, suggests that it may originate from the neighboring Igala, coming from the word onigbo, a word for slave. As of now, the origin of Igbo is still unclear.
Igbo had been spelled Ibo by British colonialists until the 20th century. Ibo can still be found being used, but Igbo 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 them.
Main article: Origins of the Igbo people
Pottery 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".
There is 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, Idoma, Yoruba, 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. The Igbo share linguistic ties with the Bini, Igala, 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. 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 ancestor, Eri. 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.
The Kingdom of Nri was a religio-polity, a sort of theocratic state, just like you find in the ancient Judaic kingdom of ancient Israel under King Sennecharab. That Igbo theocratic state 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/pigs), object, and 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 Eze Nri.
Three Igbo women in the early 20th century
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 elders.
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 (the most backdated form of parliamentary system in history) 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.
An Igbo man with facial scarifications, known as Ichi, early 20th century
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 narrative. He describes the conditions of the slaves in his community of Isseke (in present day Ihiala local council of Anambra State), and points out the difference between the treatment of slaves under the Igbo in Isseke, 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 has… 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
Paul Robeson was a multi-lingual American actor and writer whose father was of Igbo descent.
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).This area included modern day southeastern Nigeria, Western Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and parts of Northern Gabon. Major 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 after.
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 Igbo (or red eboe) which describes a black person with fair or "yellowish" skin which many Igbos possess. This term had originated from the reported prevalence of these skin tones among the Igbo. The word 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, because they find many cultures especially those highlighted in the New Testament very common with their cultures and values. And Christianity preach of individual freedom marries exactly with Igbo sense of individualism in thinking an decision making, rather than one person dominance of others through royalty.
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. And 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 rumors 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. As a people who are not use to be told what and what not to do, they fid themselves always in conflict with the new invader of their land and these led the well organized and executed Aba women riot in as far back at the 1920s and many historians had argued that, that action in Aba laid the foundation of trade unionism in black Africa.
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 at an astonishing pace even to the surprised of the awed Europeans. Roads for vehicles were built. Buildings such as hospitals and schools were erected in many parts of Igboland with only the expertise of the Europeans but through indigenous funding. British find this astonishing that these people are not waiting for things to be done for them but rather always asking what they can do to help thing move quickly.
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.
The iconic Flag of the Republic of Biafra (1967–1970), sometimes regarded as the ethnic flag of the Igbo.
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 was then authorized by the council to make this declaration and subsequently 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, of the Beatle fame, who returned his British honor, MBE, partly in protest against British collusion in the Nigeria-Biafra war.
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 2007.
After the Nigerian–Biafran War, Igboland was devastated. Many hospitals, schools, and homes had been completely destroyed in the war by the Nigeria forces. 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. In desperation, some Igbo subgroups, such as the Ikwerre, started disassociating themselves with the larger Igbo population after the war and this was encouraged and rewarded immensely by the central government as a means of curbing a future Biafra. The 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 Anglicized Ibusa.
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 and thousands of them, especially the middle class migrated enmass, especially to the United States for better life. Igboland was gradually rebuilt over a period of twenty years through well orchestrated age group organizations, Town Union organizations and community clubs nd mandatory community levies and the economy was again prospering.
This led to new factories being set up in southern Nigerian cities like Nnewi, Aba, Onitsha, Owerri and Asaba.
Very few Igbo people eventually took government positions, although many were engaged in private business and constituted and still constitute the bulk of Nigerian informal economy. And still control an estimated 70% of Nigerian micro economic wealth. Recently, there has been a wave of Igbo immigration to other African countries, Europe, and the Americas.
Main article: Igbo culture 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
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, perhaps the most popular and renowned novel that deals with the Igbo and their traditional life
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.
Igbo language is written in the Roman script as well as the Nsibidi formalized pictograms which is used by the Ekpe society and Okonko fraternity in Igboland.
Nsibidi is not widely used. These pictograms existed among the Igbo before the 1500s, but died out after it became popular among secret societies, which 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 dialects.
In 1789, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano was published in London, England, written by Olaudah Equiano, a former Igbo born slave and first known literate African 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 Isseke. Although the book was one of the first books published to include Igbo material, Geschichte der Mission der Evangelischen Bruder auf den Carabischen (German: History of the Evangelistic Mission of the Brothers in the Caribbean), published in 1777, was the first book to publish any Igbo material.
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 University and as used in translating the Bible into Igbo.
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 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 Igbo: Maiden spirit) 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 12 feet (3.7 m) high, Ijele masks consist of platforms 6 feet (1.8 m) 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 the community.
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 cartwheels, 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 symbolizing 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 carves and uses masks, although the function of masks varies from community to community. Igbo art is also famous for Mbari architecture.
Mbari 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 decay.
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 along families and lineage. 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, no wonder that one the most senior hierarchy in Vatican Francis Arinze is Igbo born and many honestly believe that if not his skin colour, would had been the present pope.
There is 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 suggest 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 is 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. 
Wooden sculpture of Ikenga, an Alusi, in the British Museum dates back more than 3000 years.
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 with wild spices. Burial usually follows within 24 hours of death. The head of a home is usually buried beneath the floor of his house.
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 single 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 but not very popular. 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 with fewer children, mainly because of Western influence. Adopted Western marriage customs, such as wedding in church, are sometimes accompanied by a traditional wedding.
There are special circumstances where a marriage occurs even though, no living man abound 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 Unclad 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 (Tattoo) body art was used to decorate both men and women in the form of lines forming patterns and shapes on the body.
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.
In Olaudah Equiano's narrative, Equiano describes fragrances that were used by the Igbo in the community of Isseke;
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 themselves.
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 holder’s 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 (Igbo: Iwaji) 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.
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.
The Igbo in Nigeria are found in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Delta and Rivers State, Cross River ad Benue States. 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, Nnewi, Awka among others.
There is 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 Fact book puts the Igbo population between 38 and 45 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.
Igbo people celebrating the New Yam festival in Dublin, Ireland
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/destroyed 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, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, 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. According to recent IMF/World Bank report on African economic capita, it’s estimated that over 60%of Gabon, Cameroon economy individual wealth belong to the Igbo’s with over 65% in Equatorial Guinea.
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 too.
The 1930s saw the rise of Igbo unions in the cities of Lagos and Port Harcourt. Later, the Igbo Federal Union (renamed the Igbo 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 (NCNC), 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, which eventually transformed into the Nigerian first indigenous owned and run back called the African Continental Bank (ACB).
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).
Even before the 20th century there were numerous Igbo unions and organizations existing around the world, such as the Igbo union in Bathurst, 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 descendant of former Igbo slave, 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 (MASSOB), a secessionist group, was founded in September 1999 by a young Barrister, Ralph Uwazuruike, for the goal of an independent Igbo state. Since its creation, there have been several conflicts between its members and the Nigerian government and their security forces, resulting in the extra judicial death of its 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.
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