Friday, August 19, 2022

THE ANCIENT FEMINISM OF OLD IGBO TRADITION

(The Female POPES of IGBO Ethnic Group)
THE QUESTION
A child belongs to his fatherland and not his motherland; and yet, we say 'NNEKA' - 'Mother is Supreme.' Why is that?'
(Things Fall Apart - pg 106)
I was born in the eastern part of Nigeria, Igbo Tribe. It does not in any way designate the whole of Africa, but allow me to tell you about my forefathers and the place of a woman in the ancient Igbo tradition and custom. One of the largest lies in the world's history is the record that claimed that women were objectized in Igbo Land. There is no truth in it.  


In as much as Igbos - like every patriarchal organization of the old -preferred male children, their daughters were their pride. A woman permanently belongs to her father's house. It is called 'Okputolokpu' - everlasting, that is why every Igbo community calls grown daughters born in a family - Umu okpu. This illustrates why a man can never finish the marital rites of a woman in Igbo land. During bride price, no Igbo community would receive everything offered as dowry. The cause is that the woman is priceless.
That is why, in Igbo tradition and custom, when a man whips his wife, the wife can return to his father's house. It is not a taboo, and before the husband can take the woman he MUST -according to the tradition - go to his in-laws with a pot/bottle of wine. 

NO ONE IN HISTORY HAS EVER FINISHED PAYING THE DOWRY OF AN IGBO WOMAN FOR SHE IS PRICELESS
One of my most aged relatives had only sons and no daughters; he usually said to his sons, 'You do not have a sibling yet.' 
In the Igbo ethnical group, a child belongs to the fatherland but is directed as the child of the mother. The term 'Siblings' is commonly known as 'Nwanne'  (trans. the child of my mother because men were polygamous, the children of your mother are your siblings). 

A male sibling is 'Nwanne m Nwoke' (The male child of my mother)
A female sibling is 'Nwanne m Nwanyi' (The female child of my mother). 
That is why the people of the Igbo Ethnic group practice what is known to this day as 'Nwadiana' (meaning The Child of the Soil)
NWADIANA
'Your' Nwadianas are the children whose mothers were married to your family. 
Example: My sister's children are my Nwadianas. In Igbo custom, I am their Nna Ochie - ancient fathers. 


I represent their most trustworthy protector. No matter what they do - I repeat, no matter what they accomplish, once they come to me, I must defend them. They have rights in my family. If they were ostracized in their fatherland, they can come to me and I must share with them our inheritance. 
This is a tradition that lives in Igbo Land till today. 
Like most traditional of the old, women were not entitled to the custody of their fathers, but in Igbo land, once a woman is married to a house, she inherits her hut (Mkpuke Nne - the hut of the mother) which she has the power over. It is traditional for her to give 'Mkpuke Nne' to her last son, and neither the man of the house nor any of the brothers can impact that.

Moreover, when an Igbo man took a wife and did not bear a child before his death, his widow would inherit all his possession as long as she remained back in his dead husband's house and gave birth to kids. Those children would bear the late man's surname; and if a man died without an heir but had daughters, one of the daughters would become his heir, and reproduce in his house. The daughter's children would maintain the family's name.
Obiechina is the term that means 'A Bloodline would not Terminate'. It is the duty of the male child and the female child as well.
(Ref: The Joy of Motherhood: Buchi Emecheta)  

Though this practice is dying, the corpse of every Igbo daughter was still buried in her fatherland, not in her husband's house. There was a famous saying in the days of our youth - 'Ozu Nwada adighi ato na mba' (the corpse of the daughter cannot be trapped in an unknown land). 
Igbos till today practice an extended system of communalism, and the strongest unit in every family is the Umuada - the daughters. They partake in dispute solutions, they were or are a part of the traditional judicial system, and they are the owners of the dead. Till today, if you bury anyone in a family and Umuada - the daughters were not satisfied, you must repeat the burial or appease them.

THE FEMALE POPES.
Of all things regarded by men of old, Religion is the most wonderful, the Igbo tribe had no Kings. Igbos were absolutely loyal to the gods. In Igbo theology, spirituality has only five characteristics:
Chukwu - the supreme.
Anyanwu - the revealer of everything. Mark of omniscience.
Agbala - the fertility of the Earth, the fertility of the people, and the spirituality.
Chi - a sub-deity
Okike - the creator of laws that controls the visible and invisible.
Because AGBALA represents Harvest, the fertility of the womb, and high spirituality, it served as the Supreme aspect of God on the earth. 

Men till today totally trusted Harvest and fertility, so Agbala was the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH of the age-old Igbos, and women stood as the POPES. 
(In Chinua Achebe's book,' Things Fall Apart', two Popes were mentioned - 
Pope Chika: the Priestess that reigned in the time of Uloka, Okonkwo's father; and 

Pope Chielo: the Priestess that cautioned Okonkwo not to speak while she spoke.)
Just to make this post as short as possible, I would have touched on how judgments were given, the position of a woman that got pregnant in her father's house (Ime Mkpuke), the case of the unmarried woman, and what occurs when a woman did not like her marriage. All these are indicators of how women were ministered in the Igbo land - old and present. 
Women may not be the leader of the house, but the family depended on them - the term 'Nwa Nne' implies that the children belong to the mother; and the Almighty characteristic of God, Agbala, chose women over men. 

Every clan revered Agbala, and her priestess was feared. So, I can say that we did not have a system that excluded women from ruling the clan. The only reason we do not allow Igbo women as Bishops and Cardinals today is that the new creed forbids it.

THE QUESTION: 
A child belongs to his fatherland and not his motherland; and finally, we say Nneka - 'Mother is Supreme.' Why is that?

THE ANSWER:
'It is true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father manhandles his child, it seeks tenderness in its mother's hut. A child belongs to his father when something is good and life is sweet. But when there is resentment, he finds shelter in his motherland. That is why we say 'NNEKA' - mother is supreme.'
(Things Fall Apart - pg 106 - 107)

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