The southeastern Nigeria, homes the Igbo people in Nigeria. It is divided by the lower Niger River into two unequal sections geographically. They are the third largest ethnic group in Nigeria, and one of the largest in Africa, of which they form less than 20% of the total Nigerian population. They are natives of five states in Nigeria, which includes Imo State, Ebonyi State, Anambra State, Abia State, and Enugu State.
The Igbo people are believed to be the most dispersed ethnic community in Nigeria. This is evident, as famous African-American figures have claimed to be of Igbo origin. It all started during the slave trade many years ago. These famous figures include Paul Robeson, Forest Whittaker, Blair Underwood and Bishop T.D. Jakes to mention a few.
About 97% of them practice Christianity, an Abrahamic monotheistic religion, based on the lifestyle and teachings of Jesus Christ. This makes Christianity their major religion. Few of them also practice Odinani, Islam, and Judaism.
Yam is an important crop for the Igbo people in Nigeria which they termed as “King Of All Food”. At the end of every raining season, they hold a festival, called the New Yam Festival, to celebrate the harvest of the crop. This is a cultural practice, which they hold every year.
Another notable event, celebrated by the the Igbo people in Nigeria is the Masquerade Festival, natively called ‘Mmanwu’. It serves as a form of entertainment mainly during the harvest seasons.
It may interest you to know that the first president of Sierra Leone was an Igbo man by the name Christopher Okoro Cole. He was made the president on April, 1971. Before Christopher Okoro Cole was made president, he served as the Governor-General of Sierra Leone. Again in 1992, an Igbo man became the Military Head of State of Sierra Leone.
In 1957, an Igbo ex-slave, Simon Jonas wrote the first manuscript written in Igbo language, titled ‘Isoama-Ibo Premier’. This book was written and published in Sierra Leone for emancipated slaves from Igboland. Simon Jonas wrote the book, but it was published by the Yoruba ex-slave, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, after they were shipped to Sierra Leone from Lagos.
It should be noted that Sierra Leone served as home to freed slaves, after slave trade was abolished. It was mapped out and named by the Portuguese in 1462. In 1807, the British had organized a colony for ‘Black Loyalists’ at free town, which became the capital of Sierra Leone.
The origin of the Igbo people in Brazil dates back to the time Brazil obtained 37% of all African slaves. According to records, 4 million slaves were sent to Brazil. During this time, slavery was a mainstay of the Brazilian economy, especially in mining and sugar cane production.
Slaves from some parts that later made up Nigeria were also sold to Brazil. Many of which were the Yoruba people. The Igbo people also formed a big number of slaves sent to Brazil. This was how the Yoruba slaves and Igbo slaves were introduced into Brazil.
At the time when slavery ended, Afro-Brazilians faced a number of cultural challenges, which was state-sponsored and societal. A discriminatory immigration policy was established to see that the people with black skin were replaced by white European immigrants, from diverse origins. This was furthered by a national doctrine of racial “whitening”, whereby, miscegenation was encouraged by the state to eliminate blacks.
Many laws were further established to frustrate blacks until 1985, when the dictatorship form of leadership ended. The blacks were finally free indeed, and could live peacefully in the country. They continued to multiply and formed their own communities.
Two of these ethic groups are the Yoruba and the Igbo, whose ancestors were taken as slaves to the foreign land. These ethnic groups still speak their native languages till date and consider Brazil as home.
During the time of slave trade, Igbo slaves in the United States were known to be rebellious. Many of them committed suicide during the time they were serving their masters. Most Igbo slaves served in Maryland and Virginia. Today, their generation dominates these two cities.
There are two classes of people with Igbo ancestry in the United States, those whose forefathers were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade and those who migrated during the Nigerian Civil War in the 1960s. Majority of Igbo Americans are Christians. They attend the Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist and other non-denominational churches.
The Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia completed an Igbo single-family farmers compound to acknowledge the prevalence of the Igbo in the 19th century. There is an historic site at Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia called ‘Igbo Landing’. It was a setting of a mass suicide by Igbo captives who took control of their slave ship and refused to submit to the United States. They believed that by committing suicide, their spirits would return to their land.
Between 1790 and 1909, a time when the British had just passed the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, Jamaica experienced the influx of the Igbo race. Majority of the slave ships from the Igbo land heading to the Caribbean Island landed in Jamaica.
It is impossible not to mention the Igbo race in the history of Jamaica. The Igbo people had a great influence on the culture, idioms, music, language, and the way of life of the Jamaicans. Due to the inability of the Igbo people to speak the Jamaican language, they introduced some words, which have now become infused into the Jamaican Patois.
The yam festival and masquerade festival held in Jamaica were introduced by the Igbo people. The Igbo people now have communities, where they dominate today. They are the northwestern and southern sections of Jamaica, like the Maroon Village and Montego Bay.
The Jamaicans and the Igbo people have a good relationship, and sometimes, you find Jamaicans watch Igbo Nollywood films. The Igbo people have also showed themselves to be people of peace.
It is important to note that Igbo ethnic group is beyond the corridor of Nigeria, hence we should be able to comprehend when we see similar culture being practiced by other countries especially in those ones mentioned above.
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