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The Extended Family

Updated: Jun 13, 2020

In Igboland, the boundaries of extended family were once extremely flexible. The extended family included a wide range of affinal and blood relatives. Some of the relatives were immediate and interacted in the day to day affairs of the extended family; others were remote and were articulated by large family gatherings. In an extended family, relatives other than husband, wife and unmarried children shared residences or lived adjacent to the nuclear family. There was often joint ownership of resources which was usually formalized or legally recognized and these resources normally included symbolic estates, that is, the inheritance of familial rights in relatives. Extended families shared allegiance to common ancestors and worshiped the same gods.

While the husband/wife relation is gaining in importance nowadays, it was seldom the most important part of the traditional Igbo family structure. The father/son or mother's brother/son relationships were the traditional emphases. In the Umunna belt of Igbo sub-culture, there was immense value placed on lineal continuity. When a woman was widowed, she was ‘inherited’ as a wife by a close relation, often a brother, so as to preserve her children’s strong familial connection. In this family system, plural marriages, or polygamy, were the norm. #igbohistory#nzuko#nzukobrand


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