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The Origins of Igbo

The origins of the Igbo are a mystery and a great source of debate within the anthropological and scientific community. Inte

restingly the Igbo are not a homogeneous stock, but rather a linguistic cluster of distinct peoples who speak very similar, [and for the most part] mutually-intelligible languages and have over time intermingled and come to share similar traditions, values, and cultures. Further complicating the matter, many of these groups claim to have migrated from one another or from non-Igbo speaking areas, while others go as far as claiming autochthony, professing that they have lived in their current locations for as long as their collective memory can recall.

With regards to their origins, the Ezinihitte people of Mbaise profess a creed known in their dialect as ‘Nfunala’, which translated into English means ‘first’ or ‘primordial’. According to Ezinihitte oral traditions, the market square of Orie Ukwu Oboama na Umunama, situated in their community, was the site of the birth of humanity and the creation of the universe. At a holy site known as ‘Ihu Chileke’, or ‘the presence of the creator’ in English, it is believed that Chileke, the supreme deity of Igbo cosmology, created the first human being, Nfunala, the father of the human race and gave him the kola nut for ritual purposes. Nfunala founded Ezinihitte and his descendants scattered the earth, introducing the kola nut to all corners of the Igbo-speaking world and beyond.

The mythological introduction of the kola nut to the human race via Nfunala and his descendents presents a major pillar of the religious beliefs of Ezinihitte and the greater Mbaise people, and is commemorated annually in the Oji Ezinihitte festival. Taking place on the first day of every year, the festival is rotated amongst the various communities of the clan and culminates with the ceremonial blessing of kola, after which it would be received by traditional leaders, who would then take it home to be shared in their individual villages. Although the popularity of this festival is waning due to Western influences, numerous customs which celebrate the sanctity of the market still exist today.#igbohistory


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