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The Cost Of Widowhood In Igboland Is Very High

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The Cost Of Widowhood In Igbo Land | Fab.ng

In some parts of Igbo land, there used to be customs about how widows mourned their husbands. These practices, which could involve periods of seclusion, weren’t always easy for women. That is why many people would refer to it as “the cost of widowhood.”

In some places, like Nimbo in Enugu State, it could take a whole year after a king’s burial for his wife to start living normally again. In Anambra, widows might spend nearly two years secluded and even go without bathing for long periods.

Thankfully, things have changed in many areas thanks to the spread of Christianity. Now, it’s more common for widows to be shaved soon after their husband’s funeral and then get back to their lives after a period of mourning. The length of that time can vary depending on the local customs and traditions of the people.

It’s important to remember that these customs aren’t practised everywhere in Igbo land, and even where they are, they may have changed over time. Today, the focus is on supporting widows through their grief and helping them reintegrate into their communities.

Let’s take a look at the following Eastern states and what “the cost of widowhood” is like in these places:

Anambra

In some communities in Anambra, to ease tensions over widowhood practices, certain measures have been adopted. For instance, in communities where a man leaves multiple wives, rather than the late man’s brothers scrambling for them, each male child of their mothers gives a cock to his own mother to act as “her husband” until death. This has reduced tensions over the late brother’s wives.

However, a contentious issue persists between the church and the community regarding the dust-to-dust burial rite. In the Catholic Diocese of Awka, objections arise when women are required to pour sand into the graves of their husbands, as per church tradition.

The community fears that this act may bind the widow to the late husband, potentially leading to consequences for any man involved with the widow. Despite interventions, the disagreement persists.

Widowhood in Igboland - Five Things You Need To Know - AnaedoOnline

The Catholic Church insists that the dust-to-dust ritual is optional and not forced on anyone, only for Catholic adherents who request it. The community contends that the church is violating local customs, and the church argues for its right to perform the rite at the request of its members.

In Onitsha and neighbouring communities, widowhood practices for Christians and non-Christians have similarities. The mandatory mourning period, wake-keeping, and lying-in-state have been reduced or abolished in some places to minimise contact with the deceased’s remains, curb disease spread, and ease the hardships faced by survivors.

Cases of maltreatment of widows, including denial of rights, physical assault, and property seizure, persist in some areas of this state. These issues are typically resolved through the intervention of family unions, kindred, village councils, or town unions.

Prevention of widows from participating in burial ceremonies

In some places, if a wife and husband weren’t living together due to big fights, divorce, or other bad things before the husband died, she might not be allowed at his funeral ceremony.

This can also happen if the wife is blamed for doing something terrible and needs to go through special rituals before joining the ceremony.

Oath-taking and covenant

In some communities, if a woman is accused of wrongdoing, especially related to her husband’s death, she might be asked to perform rituals or take oaths to prove her innocence.

For Christian women, this might involve swearing to the Bible. For others, it could involve drinking water used to bathe the corpse or even touching the body directly.

These practices are based on the belief that if a woman is truly guilty, she will suffer misfortune or even die within a certain time. If she remains unharmed, she’s considered innocent, and those who accused her might face consequences.

It’s important to remember that these traditions are complex and vary greatly within different communities. This is just a simplified explanation, and it’s important to respect different cultural beliefs and practices, even if they seem unfamiliar.

Also, it’s crucial to note that these practices can be harmful and exploitative, especially when they involve coercion, pressure, or potential health risks. It’s important to promote understanding and respect while also advocating for the protection of individuals from harmful traditional practices.

Abia

Life for widows in Abia can be tough. Though the mourning period has shortened to 3-6 months in most communities, accessing their husband’s property remains a big issue. Many are pushed out of their homes or denied inheritance.

Churches like the Anglican Communion, through Bishop Nwosu, strongly condemn this maltreatment and offer support through housing, prayers, and even business grants for vulnerable widows.

For this, men are advised to choose legal marriages, where Wills protect inheritance rights. However, Abia currently lacks a specific law protecting widows.

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Young widow shares the 'inhumane' treatment she was subjected to after losing her husband at 23 [VIDEO] - BarristerNG.com

Enugu

In Enugu, mourning traditions for widows vary greatly across communities. Some practices have softened over time, reflecting changing beliefs and the influence of Christianity.

In Imufu Community, men and women mourn for only one month, thanks to the progressive leadership of a former chief who challenged the longer periods common elsewhere.

Ezeagu Local Government Area is where widows of prestigious “Ozo” title holders face stricter customs. They’re confined to secret rooms for two weeks, served by female virgins, and undergo cleansing rituals before rejoining the community.

In the Nimbo Community, it is a unique case. Nimbo buries its kings after seven years, leading to extended mourning periods for their widows, who remain secluded for eight years.

While some areas like Nimbo hold firmly to tradition, Christianity has brought changes in others. Black mourning attire has shifted to white in many communities, and mourning periods have shortened. In Olo, even the “Ozo” tradition has adapted to Christian values.

Some communities are addressing the exploitation of widows. Town Unions work to uphold social justice, protecting widows from property grabs based on outdated customs.

While progress is evident, challenges remain. Widows in Ibagwa Ani are still pressured to marry relatives of their deceased husbands, and Lejja sees mourning periods ranging from six months to a year.

The story of widows in Enugu highlights the complex interplay of tradition, religion, and evolving social values. While harmful practices persist in some areas, others demonstrate a commendable willingness to adapt and prioritize the well-being of widows.

Imo

The widowhood practice in the southeastern part of Nigeria, particularly in Imo State, is still prevalent and has become more sophisticated and severe over time. The tradition originated from historical practices and was often imposed on women suspected of causing their husband’s death. It served as a severe punishment for women perceived as irresponsible, wayward, or disrespectful to their husbands, families, or community traditions.

In some cases, even if a man had a harmonious relationship with his wife, people might still claim that the woman used diabolical means to control her late husband, adding a bizarre aspect to the practice. The belief is that no man is considered to have died a natural death; some factors are always linked to his demise.

The absence of a written constitution specifying the rules and limits of the practice results in variations across communities in Imo State.

Common practices include forcing widows to bathe with floodwater, water from traditional receptacles, or any available dirty water. This is done to symbolize the devaluation of the woman’s pride, represented by her late husband. Married and single women are typically responsible for carrying out this ritual.

Widows are also subjected to eating restrictions, using disused or disfigured plastic plates considered suitable for feeding dogs. They are prohibited from eating with others, and their cutlery differs from those used by everyone else. These practices contribute to the complexity and harshness of the widowhood tradition in the region.

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ARTS & CULTURE

Cultural Group To Celebrate Yoruba New Year On July 7

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Cultural Group To Celebrate Yoruba New Year culture | Fab.ng

The Atelewo Cultural Initiative organised a Yoruba New Year culture celebration happening on July 7th! The event will be held at the racecourse in Adamasingba, Ibadan, Oyo state.

Get ready for a fun-filled day packed with traditional Yoruba music, fashion, food, and activities. These activities will teach you about the Yoruba way of life. There will even be competitions and quizzes to test your Yoruba knowledge.

The organizers are encouraging everyone to wear traditional Yoruba clothing, new or old styles. This is to showcase the evolution of Yoruba fashion. This celebration is a great way to learn more about Yoruba culture and traditions, all while having a good time.

According to one of the founders, Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, this event is important for keeping Yoruba culture alive and thriving.

He added, “We are fostering a deeper appreciation and understanding of our rich cultural heritage.”

Ayo Adams, who also organized the event, encouraged everyone to join the celebration. Even if they aren’t Yoruba, you are welcome to join. This is a great opportunity to learn about a new culture and have fun!

“We invite all to join us in experiencing the beauty of Yoruba culture, from its music and dance to its fashion and food. It is a fantastic opportunity to engage with and celebrate the Yoruba New Year in a lively, communal setting.”

The Atelewo Cultural Initiative is on a mission to bring Yoruba traditions and language back to life. They work to make Yoruba culture interesting and relevant again and to encourage people to speak the Yoruba language.

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ARTS & CULTURE

5 Nigerian Proverbs That Will Make You Think

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Proverbs | Fab.ng

Ever wonder how to hold your own in conversations, especially in situations where respect and authority matter? Nigerian proverbs can be powerful tools for getting your point across in cultures that value tradition and wisdom.

Proverbs are short, memorable sayings that condense years of experience and knowledge into a single, impactful phrase. By using Nigerian proverbs skillfully, you can add weight to your words, command attention, and show your understanding of the situation.

1. Being short does not make a man a boy.

In Nigerian culture, traditionally, the man is seen as the head of the household. This doesn’t necessarily mean it has to do with physical stature. Respect is earned through one’s actions, character, and decisions, not physical appearance.

2. An ugly-looking goat must have a buyer at the market.

This Nigerian proverb carries a powerful message that tells us that:

  • Everyone has worth. No matter how difficult someone’s situation may seem or what challenges they face, they still have value as a person.
  • Even if someone feels limited by disability or disadvantage, they can still have a positive impact on the world in their own unique way.
  • Everyone has something special to contribute, whether it’s their talents, skills, experiences, or simply their kindness.

This proverb reminds us to celebrate the potential within everyone and to never underestimate the positive impact we can all have on the world.

3. The same sun that melts wax is also capable of hardening clay.

This proverb can mean two things:

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end. This reminds us that even a bad situation or a failure can be a powerful motivator. The disappointment or frustration can push us to work harder and achieve even greater success in the future.

The proverb also suggests that what seems like a negative outcome for one person might actually have a positive twist for someone else. Life can be full of unexpected turns, and sometimes what appears to be a setback can lead to a new opportunity down the road.

4. Hot anger is not capable of cooking yam.

This means getting angry is a natural human emotion, but holding onto that anger can actually hurt you in the long run. This saying reminds us that letting go of anger is the best thing for our well-being.

Instead of fuming, take a deep breath and try to calm down. Once you’re feeling more centred, you can start to forgive the person or situation that made you upset.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting what happened, but it allows you to move on from the negative emotions and avoid letting anger control you.

5. If you sleep with an itching anus, you will wake up with smelling hands.

This proverb suggests that things we try to keep hidden eventually come to light. It’s a reminder that honesty and transparency are important in the long run.

There’s a popular saying in Nigeria that captures this idea well: “Every day is for the thief, but one day is for the owner.” This means that even if someone gets away with something wrong for a while, eventually the truth will come out.

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ARTS & CULTURE

Ijaw Proverbs: A Window Into Tradition, Wisdom, And Culture

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Ijaw Proverbs: A Window Into Tradition, Wisdom, Culture | Fab.ng

Ijaw Proverbs are the timeless treasures of culture. They encapsulate the wisdom, beliefs, and values of a community. Among the Ijaw people of the Niger Delta region, proverbs hold a special place in everyday communication. They are vessels of ancestral knowledge and social guidance. 

In this article, we delve into the world of Ijaw proverbs, exploring their significance, themes, and cultural context.

Introduction to the Ijaw people

The Ijaw people, also known as the Izon, are one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, primarily inhabiting the coastal regions of the Niger Delta. 

With a rich history steeped in fishing, farming, and trade, the Ijaw have preserved their cultural heritage through language, rituals, and oral traditions. Central to these traditions are proverbs, which play a vital role in communication, education, and social cohesion.

The significance of Ijaw proverbs in Ijaw culture

In Ijaw society, proverbs serve multifaceted purposes, ranging from communication to entertainment, moral instruction, and conflict resolution. They are passed down from generation to generation, ensuring the preservation of cultural identity and knowledge.

Ijaw proverbs are often used in everyday conversations, ceremonies, storytelling, and traditional songs, enriching the fabric of community life.

Themes in Ijaw proverbs

Ijaw proverbs cover a wide range of themes that reflect the values, experiences, and worldviews of the people. Some common themes include:

Wisdom and knowledge

Many Ijaw proverbs impart timeless wisdom and insights into human behaviour, relationships, and societal norms. For example, “A bird does not fly so high that the hunter cannot shoot it” underscores the importance of humility and caution in the face of danger.

Community and unity

Proverbs emphasising the strength of unity and cooperation are prevalent in Ijaw culture. “When brothers fight to the death, a stranger inherits their father’s property” highlights the destructive consequences of internal conflict and the need for harmony within families and communities.

Nature and environment

As a people deeply connected to their natural surroundings, Ijaw proverbs often draw inspiration from the environment. “A tree does not make a forest” emphasises the collective effort needed to achieve significant goals. This mirrors the interconnectedness of ecosystems and human society.

Resilience and adaptability

Given their history of overcoming adversity and environmental challenges, Ijaw proverbs celebrate resilience and adaptability. “When a tree falls, the birds scatter” acknowledges the inevitability of change and the need to adapt to new circumstances.

Ijaw Proverbs: A Window Into Tradition, Wisdom, Culture | Fab.ng

5 Ijaw proverbs and their meanings

1. “Mèn wàrà fín, fín ébè pèrè.”

“When the water recedes, the fish trap is exposed.”

This proverb illustrates the idea that hidden truths or secrets are revealed when difficult times pass. Just as the receding water exposes the fish trap, challenges or obstacles can reveal hidden aspects of a situation or individual.

2. “Á dí èèrè, mèn fí di àrè.”

 “One who sows in haste will reap in hunger.”

This proverb emphasises the importance of patience, diligence, and careful planning in achieving long-term success. Rushing through tasks or decisions without proper consideration can lead to negative consequences and unfulfilled desires.

3. “Ì kè gbòpèrè àghòpè ì ní dí bòròbòrò.”

“The river that forgets its source will dry up.”

This proverb highlights the significance of remembering and honouring one’s origins, heritage, and ancestral wisdom. Just as a river depends on its source for sustenance, individuals who disregard their roots risk losing their identity and connection to their community.

4. “Ì wàrà è rípè, è sí è lè rípè è ní gbónù gbónù.”

“The palm wine tapper climbs high, but when he falls, he falls heavily.”

This proverb warns against arrogance, overconfidence, and the dangers of pride. It suggests that those who attain success or ascend to high positions should remain humble and mindful of the potential consequences of their actions, as a fall from a great height can be especially painful.

5. “À tòrò tènè, mèn kè bò, mèn gbá tènè.”

“The rope of a canoe never breaks when it is in the hands of those who know how to paddle.”

This proverb underscores the importance of competence, skill, and experience in achieving success and overcoming challenges. It implies that individuals who possess the necessary knowledge and expertise are better equipped to navigate life’s obstacles and steer towards their goals effectively.

Preservation and revitalization efforts

While Ijaw proverbs continue to thrive in oral tradition, modernization and globalisation pose challenges to their preservation. Efforts are underway to document and archive these proverbs, ensuring their accessibility to future generations. 

Additionally, cultural festivals, educational programmes, and community initiatives play a crucial role in revitalising the use of proverbs and promoting cultural pride among the youth.

In conclusion…

Ijaw proverbs are not merely linguistic expressions but repositories of culture, wisdom, and identity. They reflect the resilience, values, and collective wisdom of a people deeply rooted in tradition yet adaptable to change. 

By cherishing and preserving their proverbs, the Ijaw community sustains a vital link to its past while navigating the complexities of the modern world. As guardians of this rich oral tradition, the Ijaw people continue to inspire generations with the timeless wisdom encapsulated in their proverbs.

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