The Tale of Nri

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

In the beginning, the great sky god, Chukwu created an anthill. Chukwu sent a servant, Eri, to sit upon the hill. Eri sat alone in the vast wetland and asked Chukwu for assistance and company. Chukwu dried the wetness and created plants and animals. He gave Eri yams and Eri became the first Eze Nri (King of Nri). With the yams. Eri was able to cultivate human life. From then on, the Eze Nri had the right and duty to dictate the harvesting and distribution of yam. The Eze Nri also had a vested interest in human being’s relationship with the earth. The Eze Nri would enlist helpers to travel amongst all of his kingdom dwellers to supervise and repair their moral relationship with the earth, upon whose good will both survival and long-term prosperity, depended.

The last formal Eze Nri was recognized in 1936. This colorized photograph features Nri Obalike who ruled from 1889 - 1936. The photograph was taken in 1910 by Northcote Thomas who spent some time studying the Igbo for the colonial regime. Nri Obalike was Eze Nri during the height of British colonial imposition into the north-central Igbo area (now Anambra and surrounding areas). He was the Eze Nri who was made to repeal the laws of Nri which went against British colonial interest, and also the first Eze Nri to leave Nri as he was compelled to do by the British.

Photo Colorized by Ukpuru.

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