FEATURE ARTICLE

Prof. Herbert EzeFriday, September 9, 2011
[email protected]
Fullerton, CA, USA

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A TRIP TO THE IGBO-UKWU MUSEUM, ANAMBRA STATE

gbo-Ukwu museum is in Ngo village, Igbo-ukwu, along Nnewi- Ekwulobia Road. Coming from Nnewi to Igbo-Ukwu through Nnobi, Awka-Etiti, and Ichida, the museum is at the left side of the road not far from the boundary between Ichida and Igbo-ukwu.


Mrs Chizoba Okeke, Senior Cultural Attendant, Igbo-Ukwu Museum, Anambra State, Nigeria

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The town, Igbo-Ukwu is of great historical and cultural significance in Igbo land. It is in recognition of this that the Federal Government in Nigeria granted approval in 1989 for the hosting of an annual National New Yam Festival in Igbo- Ukwu to promote the culture and tradition of Ndigbo and new yam festival. The festival takes place at National Yam House built by the Federal Government in Igbo- Ukwu since 2005.

The museum is a large compound fenced round with an iron gate in front. A big sign board on the road notifies the visitor of arrival to the Igbo-Ukwu Museum, Anambra State. The compound is covered with grasses including plants, such as guava, kola nut trees, flowers etc.

The museum was built and donated to the Igbo-Ukwu Development Union by Chief (Sir) Timothy Chukwubunna Umeweni KSC (Ikenga Igbo-Ukwu) on 29 December, 1989. Later it was commissioned by His Excellency, the Ministry Administrator of Anambra State, Captain Rufai D.Garba on Wednesday, 21 May, 1997.

I talked with Mrs Chizoba Okeke, the Senior Cultural Attendant of the Museum during my visit and later sent some students to her on field trip. On the same day, I had a phone conversation with Mr. D. O. Enemuo after Mrs Okeke introduced him as her boss in Awka. I noticed their openness to receive visitors. Other staff of the museum include Uju Nnabuike, a cleaner, three security guards and a gardener.

Students of True Light Academy, Nnewi whom I directed to the Museum on a field trip said it was quite an exciting and enlightening experience for them. They were taken around by Mrs Okeke the Senior cultural attendant to observe artifacts. She attended to their questions patiently and adequately. The charge per student for entry into the museum is N20.00 (Twenty Naira) apart from the fee paid for taking pictures. It is explained that this is for the up-keep of the place.

The museum building is large in the form of a hall with a left wing at the rear. However, the bad condition of the ceiling and the roof indicate that the state government needs to give attention to the maintenance of the museum and not allow the staff feel abandoned. It was disclosed to me that the incumbent governor has not visited the Igbo-Ukwu museum since he assumed office. There is no doubt that this is a State museum though it is not located at the state capital. The staff are paid by the state government and the museum belongs to Anambra State.

The usefulness of a museum cannot be over-emphasized. It helps to preserve our cultural heritage through artifacts which bear a lot of information about our past. Museum plays a significant role in our history which is not only useful for our people but for other people(s) and. communities. My visit to the Jewish Museum of Tolerance at Los Angeles in 1999 was quite enlightening and shed light to my past in many ways though I am not a Jew.

The following are among the artifacts observed at the Igbo-Ukwu Museum, Anambra State during the trip by staff and students of True Light Academy on 18 July, 2011.

Ozioma Evangeline Eze reports on three drawings of bronze pot at the museum: Igbo-Ukwu bronze pot, Bida bronze pot, Cylindrical bronze pot shown to be 16cm in height and dated 1958. The Igbo-Ukwu bronze pot was found by three brothers: namely, Isaiah Igbo, Richard Igbo, and Jonah. These brothers discovered the bronze pot while digging a well in 1939. The bronze pot was later donated to the Federal Department in 1964.


Igbo- Ukwu Museum, Anambra State, Nigeria in disrepair

Chiamaka Igwebuike reports on the different idols in the museum such as: Ogwugwueke, Ikenga, Ojenamuo, Agbara- Nwanyi and prefers to dwell on what the visitors were told particularly about Ikenga by the Cultural Attendant of the Museum. Ikenga symbolizes the achievement of an individual, strength and success. Different marks given to the Ikenga means different things.

Two up-thrusting horns are seen in most Ikenga figures with two curved horns like a ram symbolizing strength, power and endurance. Ikenga with "Ichi" marks on the face shows high rank and high social status. Ikenga holding a matchet with the right hand and human skull or a shield on the left hand means achievement, power and might. When a man dies, his Ikenga is broken into two and thrown away.

The various functions of Ikenga are as follows: 1.Celebrating the success of a man's achievement, eg. hunting, farming, Ozo title. 2.Celebrating the success of a lineage or the achievement of a clan/ group.3.Ikenga as a drive for achievement. 4.Ikenga art as a historical record. 5.Ikenga as an object of religious veneration and worship.

Other idols in the museum that represent various gods as reported by Ozioma are: Onwu-ero, Agbara Nwanyi (goddess of the barren woman), Isi- Mmuo (one face, one eye, two faces, one eye). Ogwugwu- Eke goddess, Atulugo-mma, Ekwu-eme god, Ichie idol (Oje na muo). In addition to these gods are masquerades namely, Atu, Ogwugwu, Adamma, Ogene, White angel, Odogwu anyamiri, Ichoku, etc.

Other artifacts noted by Ozioma, Chiamaka, Meydad, Chidiebube, Ebuka, Chinelo and Marvelous are: 1."Nzu" (white chalk) which was used in olden days for prayers in welcoming visitors in Igbo land, known as "Igo ofor ndu." It symbolizes peace, purity and clean heart. It is also a symbol of mystical powers. A diviner paints the region of his eyes with "Nzu" which signifies his ability to see beyond the visible. 2."Ofor" (Strong stick that falls from some specific trees). The "Ofor" is a ritual staff which symbolizes authority, justice and power.

The traditional title "Di Okpala" (the first and eldest male in a family) uses the "Ofor" to pray, bless or curse. 3."Oji Igbo" (Igbo Kola nut). "Oji" is the first thing you offer a visitor to show that he is received with clean heart. It is used for rituals and prayers during ceremonies, such as, welcoming visitors, introducing important discussions, marriages, title taking, etc. Kola nut may have two to seven cotyledons symbolizing peace and unity including other meanings among different people in Igbo culture. 4. Elephant tusk: This is kept in the house to signify status of wealth.

Artifacts in Igbo- Ukwu Museum include the following musical instruments and ornaments reported by Aunty Peace Gaius, Chinelo Nancy Obimma and Ozioma Evangeline Eze: 1."Igba ihu abua" (Double face music drum, Age 85 years). 2."Ubo- Akwara" (String thumb guitar, Age about 850 years). 3."Okpokoro" (Wooden gong). 4. "Nja" This is a metal spiral for marching out ceremony during "Ahia-Mbibi, Nso Ebe, or Iru- mgbede." 5."Ichaka" (metal bangles, Age 80 years). 6. "Odu-Aka" (Elephant tusk bangle, Age 150 years). 7. "Jigida" (Beads, Age 80 years). 8. "Ekpili" (Seed rattle, Age 90 years). 9."Oyo" (Age 70 years). 10. "Uhie" (Red Cam- wood for the body).

Others are: 1."Egbe- Ntu." (Local gun). 2.Statue of a Colonial soldier. 3."Ojii" (Used by masquerades and native doctors). 4."Mpi- Atu" and Bufalo horns for drinking wine in olden days. 5."Oku" (Local plate made of clay). 6. Structure of the stool used for "Iru- mgbede." 7. "Mgbo" (Local wooden door). 8. "Mpata" (Royal stool). 9. Ritual clay pot (Height 30 cm, Year 1988). 10. Very heavy cooking pots. 11. "Ite- Ike" (A special pot dropped at the center of a compound during festivals where wine is poured for general use. The "Ite- Ike" is said to serve as an anti-dote to poison. 12. "Uli- Oku" (Local candle).

13. Drawing of an angry looking Okonkwo in "Things Fall Apart."14. Drawings of a Festival Art by Tony Kamon; of a Peacock by Jude Ilom; a River Pot by Nsikan Essien; "Atilogwu" dancers; "Nkpokiti" Acrobat dance; Drawings of Bronze pots: Igbo-Ukwu bronze pot found in 1939 and donated to the Federal Department in 1964; Bida bronze pot, Cylindrical bronze pot, 16cm, 1988. 14. Stone age tools, U shaped cleave, Rock, Iron- slay, Polished stone axe, and hand axe.15. There are past currencies and coins, such as: Ibiri Coins, Manilla and "Ego- ayoro" (Cowries, 120 cowries = a penny. Abolished in 1973); Nigerian coins; and Biafran currency (One pound).

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