Members of the Jewish community mostly come from the Igbo tribe, which is the third largest ethnic group in the country. Members of the Igbo believe that they are descendants of Jews who had migrated to western Africa over many centuries via migrations south into sub-Saharan Africa, as well as west across North Africa, possibly following the path of the Arab conquests. Some Nigerian Jews hold that families amongst the community are descendants of Kohanim and Levites, the Jewish priests and their assistants who functioned in the Temple of Jerusalem. Descendants could also have arisen from migrants from Djerba, Tunisia who had fled to North Africa after the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples in Jerusalem. The Jewish community is said to be comprised almost entirely by descendants of Kohens.
Several Israelite/Jewish tribes settled in Western Africa during the glorious days of the Songhai, Mali and Ghana empires. As the early Jews were mainly traders, it is quite likely that Jewish traders made the treck across the African continent and eventually settled in various places of West Africa, just as Jewish traders had settled in Kaifeng, China due to their activity in trade along the Silk Route. Some sources have explained that a Jewish presence was present in Nigeria as early as 638 BCE. The Igbos are not the only group that claims such a heritage; the Sefwi people of Ghana too believe they are descendants of Jews that made their way to West Africa.
In Mali, there had been a documented community for quite some time until all Jewish families were forced to convert to Islam and till today there remains a Jewish Culture Society in Mali where those descendants of Jews seek to explore their culture and heritage.
Perhaps the Jews of Nigeria suffered the same fate and with the arrival of Islam were either forced to leave the territory or submit to the Islamic domination. It is believed that Judaism first came to the region many centuries ago, as many as 1500 years by traders, a profession that Jews during that time were prolific at. The Igbo Jews traditionally claim descent from three particular Israelite tribes: Gad, Zevulun, and Menashe. The Jews of Manipur and Mizoram, the Bnei Menashe, also claim descent from the tribe of Menashe. It is thought that these Jews fled to Africa after the destruction of the biblical Temples in Jerusalem and established communities all across the African continent.
Israel has, to date, not recognized the Igbo as one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. It took many years before the Chief Rabbinate recognized the Bnei Menashe as Jews, and it is thought that in due time the Igbo will also be recognized as descendants of Israel. One of the theories as to why Israel is reluctant to recognize the Igbo is because it has enjoyed good relations with Nigeria, and as the Igbo are a secessionist tribe, recognizing them as part of Israel may injure political and economic ties between the two countries.
According to the Igbo lore of the Eri, Nri, and Ozubulu families, Igbo ethnic groups with Israelite descent comprise the following 3 lineage types:
Benei Gath: Igbo people said to have descended from the Tribe of Gath ben-Ya`aqov ( Gad), who was the 8th son of the Israelite patriarch Ya`aqov (Jacob). This group traces its lineage through Gath’s son Eri ben-Gath. The groups from this lineage comprise the Aguleri, Umuleri, Oreri, Enugwu Ikwu, Ogbunike, Awkuzu, Nteje, and Igbariam clans.
Benei Zevulun: Igbo people said to have descended from the tribe of Zevulun ben-Ya`aqov (Zebulun), who was the 5th son of Ya`aqov (Jacob). These groups comprise the Ubulu Okiti and Ubulu Ukwu clans in Delta State who settled in Ubulu Ihejiofor. According to oral tradition, it is said that a descendant of the Tribe of Zevulun named Zevulunu, on the advice of a certain Levite, married a woman from Oji, who was descended from the Tribe of Judah, and from this union was born Ozubulu ben-Zebulunu. It is said that Ozubulu then went on to have 4 sons of his own who settled in other regions. These sons were: Amakwa, from whom a clan in Neni, Anambra State is descended, and Egbema, from whom the Egbema Ugwuta clan in Imo State and the Ohaji Egbema clan in Rivers State are descended.
Benei Menashe: Peoples whom Igbos theorize may be descendants of the Tribe of Menasheh ben-Yoseph (Manasseh). Menasheh who was one of the grandsons of Ya`aqov (Jacob) through his 11th son Yoseph ( Joseph). According to the Torah, Jacob claimed both Menasheh and his brother Ephrayim as his own sons. It is theorized that the Igbos of the Amichi, Ichi and Nnewi-Ichi clans are descended from this lineage.
Argument for the Historical Migration of the Igbo Jews
The Igbo Jews are said to have migrated from Syrian, Portuguese and Libyan Israelites into West Africa. Historical records shows that this migration started around 740 C.E. According to UCLA Jewish Historian Chinedu Nwabunwanne of Aguleri, “the migration started when the forces of Caliph Mohammed—the last leader of the Umayyads—and his Qaysi-Arab supportes defeated the Yamani-Arab Umayyads of Syria in 744 C.E; sacked the Yamanis and their Jewish supporters from Syria. The Syrian-Jewish migrant tribes Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher resettled in Nigeria where they became known as Sambation Jews. In 1484 and 1667 Judeans and Zebulonians from Portugal and Libya respectively joined Sambatyon Jews of Nigeria. Thus, Nigerian Jews originated from the following six Israelite tribes: Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher and Zebulon.
It is interesting to note that these six tribes are the same tribes Moses repeated their names twice when he blessed the Children Of Israel. These six tribes mentioned above are The House Of Judah and the children of Israel his companions (Ezekiel 37:16). Those remaining six tribes not mentioned above are The House Of Ephraim and the children of Israel his companion (Ezekiel 37:16).”
Stories affirming relationships between peoples now widely separated in spatial, historical, and cultural terms persist today, not only in Igboland but throughout Nigeria, in other parts of Africa, and in Europe, the United States, and beyond. Their roots in the example under consideration here lie in the assumption of a Judeo-Christian (and Islamic) Biblical framework as applicable to all of human history. In reference to West Africa this has taken the form of the “Hamitic hypothesis” (originally so-called for the putative descent of Africans from Noah’s son Ham), a model which firmly centered the beginning of West African history in the Near East rather than in West Africa itself.
Remarkably, for the Igbo, a very early (and widely influential) statement of this point of view came from an Igbo man, Olaudah Equiano, a Christian-educated freed slave who remarked in his autobiography of 1789 on “the strong analogy which… appears to prevail in the manners and customs of my countrymen and those of the Jews, before they reached the Land of Promise, and particularly the patriarchs while they were yet in that pastoral state which is described in Genesis — an analogy, which alone would induce me to think that the one people had sprung from the other.” For authoritative support, he gives reference to “Dr. Gill, who, in his commentary on Genesis, very ably deduces the pedigree of the Africans from Afer and Afra, the descendants of Abraham….
Outreach to Nigerian Jews by the wider Jewish world community gained official status in 1995–1997, when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sent a team to Nigeria in search of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Western rabbis and educators such as Rabbi Gorin have visited the community at times and Jewish communities in the West support those in Nigeria by sending books, computers, and religious articles. However, the State of Israel has, to date, not officially recognized the Igbo as one of the Lost Tribes.
Many Igbo practices pose striking similarities with Jewish customs mentioned in the Torah and even in the present day. Such customs include: circumcision 8 days after the birth of a male child, a ban on eating un-kosher animals, separating men from women during the female cycle of menstruation, donning of the Tallit and Kippah, and the celebration of holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. In recent times, the communities have adopted holidays such as Hannukah and Purim, holidays that only were beginning to be observed after many of the tribes of Israel had already dispersed. For example, the Ethiopian Jews and the Benei Menashe had no knowledge of such holidays.
Judaism in Nigeria Today
There are currently several Jewish communities across Nigeria and the structure is getting stronger. There are 26 synagogues across the country and the community is estimated as many as 40,000 individuals. Some of the larger and significant communities include the Gihon Institute in Abuja, as well as communities in the south such as Port Harcourt. Western rabbis and educators have visited the community at times and Jewish communities in the west support those in Nigeria by sending books, computers, religious articles and many more periodically. Western Jewish communities have been instrumental in establishing Jewish libraries in Nigeria and there is hope that some members of the Jewish community in Nigeria will be granted visas to go study Judaism in the United States, just as Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, leader of the Abayudaya in Uganda has done. By doing this, the leadership and knowledge of Judaism in Nigeria will continue to increase and the stability of the community with be strengthened as well. The Nigerian Jews are particularly interested in maintaining an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle and, as a result, western communities have refrained from sending ritual objects that have come from Reform congregations. However there is a dearth of religious books and many are photocopied or stapled together.
Similarly, as of yet, women have not taken an active, or have taken a minimal role in the leadership of the community, although this may change as has been the case amongst the Ugandan Jews. One of the individuals at the forefront of reclaiming the heritage of the Igbo people has been working on a second volume that details the Hebraic origins of the Igbo peoples and answers questions that may not have been answered in the first volume titled “The Igbo: Jews in Africa?”
Evidence of such communities includes the oral traditions of Hebraic lineage ranging from tribes in Sudan, all the way to Ghana, to the west. It is known that in the region of the Niger river, there is a group of people who, although they practice Islam today, are also believed to be of Jewish origin. These people are referred to as Iddao Ishaak. Some Igbo Jews claim they are descendants of the Temple priests and in accordance, wear similar garments of turbans and white robes, just as the priests of biblical times did. Although tests to determine the claims to Cohen priesthood have not been done, such as the tests that have been done amongst the Lemba in South Africa, there is strong evidence that such claims have validity and should be accepted as such. Perhaps additional convincing evidence that Jewish tribes arrived in Nigeria is the fact that there are a people amongst the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria referred to as “Strange People” or Bnei Ephraim who have retained certain portions of the Torah and Judaic practices. This evidence only confirms the Jewish origin of the Igbo Jews. Learned elders of the community serve as rabbis and western rabbis and other members of the worldwide Jewish community periodically visit Nigeria to teach and instruct the community in the ways of mainstream Judaism. However, the liturgy of the Igbo Jews has blended African music with Jewish prayers to produce a distinct Jewish-Nigerian melody during Shabbat services and other Jewish observances.
In addition to Jewish communities, Messianic Jewish communities have sprung up in Nigeria and although they believe in Jesus, they claim to be full Jews. This makes any census counting Jews residing in Nigeria more problematic. However, trends indicate such communities over time often abandon their belief in Jesus and accept mainstream Judaism. This has been the case with several communities and appears to be occurring to several more. Such trends also appear to be occurring in other communities around Africa including Rusape, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.
There are other communities in Nigeria that are not of the Igbo tribe that are practicing Judaism, such as those in Yorubaland. Thus, Jewish practice is not restricted to one ethnic group or location. The Igbo are Nigeria’s third largest ethnic group and many reside in many neighboring countries including Cameroon.
Over 60% of us African-americans are of Igbo descent. I have read that some Nigerian Igbo males have tested positive for the Cohen Modal Haplotype, which would confirm patrilinieal descent from Levite clans. Genetic testing can be used to verify haplotypes, and the CMH has found to have several variants, which would cover various clans of Levites and/or Cohanim. I am having my brothers DNA tested for this marker and I suspect that, if African-american and Afro-caribbean males tested for the CMH, there are most likely cluster populations found in various New World locations, including the Caribbean.
Jewish foundation to Bambara, Malinke, Sunufu, Dogon, Bobo Cultures of Mali
It's said that the Malinke are Jews & Arabs so they might mix in which blacks are mixed with Jews & Arabs so we can find Arab Malinke pockets & Jewish Malinke pockets. The Bafur Ephraimites were part of the Malinke once.
Partially Israelite tribes are the Hausa, the Dogon, Yoruba, Zulu... Contrary to to Igbos that are believed to be Israelites in origin, Yorubas are believed to have Arab origin, but among them there are some Israelite pockets or clans like the ones called "Strange People" or "Bnei Ephraim". Even the name "Yoruba" might come from the Israelite king Jeroboam
On a Sunday night in January 2002 during our return to Mali after 14 years absence that I discovered the Jewish base to many culture groups of Mali. This precious jewel of knowledge surfaced during a discussion with Pastor Matthew and a Nigerian brother of the IBO culture. They both declared that their cultures were based on the Old Testament, that they both had a Jewish heritage. The Ibo of Nigeria never lost the knowledge that they were Jewish and this past century all have become Christian. But the Jewish based cultures of Mali have lost the knowledge that they are practicing the Jewish faith. Though it is mixed with animism.
How can this conclusion be reached, that there was a Jewish influence??
From the Books of Moses in the OT, we read of the Exodus of the Jews with Moses, the 10 plagues which God worked on the Egyptians, and that Pharaoh drowned in the Red Sea as the Israelites were delivered from the slavery of Egypt. Just think, Egypt and its power were known across the world at that time. Each plague was used to destroy each of the 10 different false gods which formed the Egyptian religion.
The Old Testament also refers many times to the fact that many nations knew of God and Israel through the 10 plagues. The news would travel within a few months along trade routes, across Northern Africa, down to Nubia, then Ethiopia, then west to Mali. More than 5 major cultures in Mali received the teachings of the laws of Moses. These include the Bambara, Malinke, Dogon, Sunufou, Bobo.
Pastor Matthew grew up in this culture as a member of the clan of preists. Matthew became a Christian in 1980 and then trained to be a pastor going to bible School. There he deduced that the Bambara culture had a strong Jewish influence as he studied the Exodus, Leviticus and Deutoronomy in the Old Testament.
What evidence is there, you might rightly ask?
Among the practices which Pastor Matthew Fané and others have verfied to be in their culture are:
1- the passover sacrifice of Moses in which the blood is placed on the door lintel.
2- the litany of other sacrifices to cover the sins of the people
3- the scapegoat offering,
4- a preisthood consisting of the blacksmiths within the Bambara culture, serve as the Levitical & Aaronic preisthood.
But the most significant is the application of social values that were withing the Books of Moses. Among these are:
- to care for the orphan,
- to take care of the widow,
- to welcome the stranger or sojourner within your land,
- not to oppress your workers,
- to watch over the prosperity of your brother.
How are these social values seen within the Bambara Malian culture?
There are next to no orphanages within Mali.
Widows are cared for in Malian society, by family and neighbours. But most valued within Malian culture is the welcome of the stranger and sojourner in Mali. For Malian to learn how different their country, they have only to visit a neighbouring country. There they must fend for themselves but back in Mali, travellers, strangers are always offered food and lodging, even in the capital.
The Temne people are currently the largest ethnic group in Sierra Leone, at 35% of the total population The Temne are predominantly found in the Northern Province and the Western Area, including the national capital Freetown.
The Temne are rice farmers, fishermen, and traders. Temne culture revolves around the paramount chiefs, and the secret societies (this might come from the secrets kept by the priestly Israelites), especially the men's Poro society and the women's Bondo society. The most important Temne rituals focus on the coronation and funerals of paramount chiefs, and the initiation of new secret society members. During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, hundreds of thousands of Temne were captured and shipped to the Americas as slaves.
Today the Temne are mostly Muslim at about 85% of their population; they interweave Islamic beliefs with traditional African practices (syncretism). About 14% of Temne are followers of Christianity.
Before British domination, Temne were ruled by a king called the Bai or Obai. In 1898, the Temne fought against British rule, in what is known today as the Hut Tax War of 1898.
The English word cola (as in Coca-Cola, which originally contained extracts of the kola nut), is said to derive from the Temne word aŋ-kola, meaning kola nut. The Temne people speak Temne, a language in the Mel branch of the Niger–Congo languages. The Temne language, along with the creole Krio, serve as the major trading languages in northern Sierra Leone. As well as being spoken by the Temne people, Temne is spoken by other Sierra Leonean ethnic groups as a regional lingua franca, especially in Northern Sierra Leone; the language is spoken by around 40% of Sierra Leone's population.
Sierra Leone's national politics centers on the competition between the north, dominated by the Temne and their neighbour and political ally, the Limba; and the southeast, dominated by the Mende, who are a Mande people like the Mandinka, Bamana, and Malenke (of Guinea, Senegal, Mali, etc.). The current president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, is the first Sierra Leonean president from the Temne ethnic group; he receives most of his support from Temne-dominant areas in the north and western regions of Sierra Leone.
It is said by some Temne elders and chiefs that the Temne's ancestral home is Israel. You can find many traces of Hebraic customs whithin their culture. Most Temne acknowledge their ancestral home as Fouta Jallon, in the territory of present-day Guinea. Like other minority ethnic groups in Fouta, such as the Yalunka, the Susu, the Kurankoh, the Temne started to emigrate from the Fouta into what is now Sierra Leone to secure a settlement along the salt trade route from the coast to the north and north east. On their way, the Temne fought and forced the Limba to the northeast and the Bullom southwards to secure the new trade route. It reached from Bakeh towards the northern part of the Pamoronkoh River (today known as the Rokel River). They followed the Rokel River from its upper reaches to the Sierra Leone River, the giant estuary of the Rokel River and Port Loko Creek, which forms the largest natural harbor in the African continent. Historians believe the Temne were involved in the long-distance kola nut trade during the period of the Mali and Songai empires, when West African trade was directed north across the Sahara Desert. They used their commercial expertise gained during that earlier period when they embarked on the new coastal trade with European traders, beginning in the 15th century.
According to some oral traditions, the history of the Temne migration toward present-day Sierra Leone begins in ancient Israel. From Israel the Temne migrated to Ethiopia, from Ethiopia to the Mali Empire. After the Mali Empire, they migrated to Jalunkandu Empire in the 11th and 12th centuries, mainly due to the fall of the Jalunkandu Empire in what latter become Fouta Jallon, in the High Lands of present-day Republic of Guinea. It is said that the Temne are from the tribe of Judah.
There were Temne speakers along the coast in what is now Sierra Leone when the first Portuguese ships arrived, in the 14th century. Temne were indicated on subsequent Portuguese maps, and references to them and brief vocabularies appear in the texts. Trade began, albeit on a small scale, in the fifteenth century with the Portuguese and expanded in the late sixteenth century with the arrival of British traders, and later traders of other nations. Slaves, gold, ivory and local foodstuffs were exchanged for European trade goods—mostly cloth, firearms, and hardware.
Temne traders had relationships with representatives at the permanent European "factories" in the river mouths. Similarly, they established trading relationships with the settlement at Freetown after its founding in 1792. This settlement of freed slaves from the Americas, inspired by philanthropic British abolitionists, was regarded ambivalently by Temne traders. The freedmen developed a different culture, incorporating their traditions from lives in the American colonies and Caribbean; they became known as Creoles or Krios, after the language they developed. The Temne had long been involved in the profitable export of people for the slave trade, typically taken as captives in warfare or from competing groups. During the early years, they sometimes raided Freetown trying to take back slaves.
In the nineteenth century, following British abolition of the African slave trade, its crews often took liberated slaves from illegal ships to Freetown for resettlement, adding new African groups to the culture of the Creoles. Freetown became the primate trade entrepot on the coast. It attracted trade caravans from Temne and beyond. Creoles (Krios) from Freetown moved progressively up-county to trade in the second half of the nineteenth century. Their relations with the Temne and other indigenous ethnic groups in the country were not always amicable, as they had competing cultures.
In addition, the British colonial government at Freetown followed a policy of "stipendiary bribery," punctuated by threats to use armed force, in an attempt to prevent Temne and other chiefs from hindering trade from and with areas farther inland. When diplomacy failed, British expeditions invaded the Temne area of Yoni (anything to do with the Hebrew prophet Yonah) in 1889 and then at Tambi in 1891.
The British proclaimed the Protectorate of Sierra Leone in 1896, which annexed the interior territories. Colonel Frederic Cardew was appointed as military governor, but all his experience was in the armed forces. Establishing the Protectorate changed British dealings with the chiefdoms; they made them units of local government rather than dealing with them as equals.
Temne rebellion/Hut Tax War of 1898
In 1898 Colonel Cardew instituted a hut tax and requirement that chiefs put together work crews to maintain roads. This threatened the local subsistence culture.
Britain's imposition of a hut tax sparked off two rebellions in Sierra Leone in 1898, the most notable one led by Temne chief Bai Bureh. the military governor, Colonel Frederic Cardew, had decreed that the inhabitants of the new "protectorate" should be taxed on the size of their huts (this resembles the American rebellion against the British that was motivated because of the taxes the Brits imposed. In this case Americans are white Israelites). The owner of a four-roomed hut would pay ten shillings a year, those with smaller huts would pay five shillings. Colonel Cardew was not an administrator, but a professional soldier who had spent years in India and South Africa. First imposed on January 1, 1898, the hut tax aroused immediate and intense opposition.
Bai Bureh, a Temne war chief, and 23 other chiefs unsuccessfully petitioned the governor for relief from the tax, demonstrating its adverse effects on their societies. Bai Bureh had long been an ally of the British and made numerous peace overtures, which they ignored. The colonial authorities reacted to rumours and suspicions, firing the first shots at his followers in an attempt to arrest him. After that, Bai Bureh led the defense against the British colonialists. There was related resistance by the Mende in the southeast of the country.
The operations against Bai Bureh, from February to November, involved "some of the most stubborn fighting that has been seen in West Africa," according to a British commander. Several British troops were killed. .
When the British Governor to Sierra Leone Sir Frederic Cardew offered the sum of 100 pounds as a reward for his capture, Bai Bureh reciprocated by offering the sum of five hundred pounds for the capture of the Governor. Bai Bureh had the advantage over the vastly more powerful British for several months of the war. By 19 February, Bai Bureh's Temne warriors had completely severed the British line of communication between Freetown and Port Loko by blocking the road and the river from Freetown. Wrote Colonel Marshal, the British commander. "No such continuity of opposition had at any previous time been experienced on this part of the coast."
After 1898, the colonial government expanded its administration and increased penetration of the hinterland. Railway construction and, later, feeder roads were pushed in an effort to increase exports. Towns developed to meet the needs of government and increased trade. Expatriate firms, Sierra Leonean-Lebanese and Krio traders expanded their activities throughout Temne areas. Schools developed slowly under Christian missionaries.
The government established the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB) for exports, to increase revenues. Gold, most of it produced further inland than the Temne territory, had been traded from Sierra Leone since the 15th century. It reached its last peak in the 20th century in the 1930s. British groups discovered new resources; the Sierra Leone Development Company (SLDC/DELCO) exported iron for the first time in 1933, from the mine at Marampa.
Formation of the Sierra Leone Selection Trust in 1935 led to increased mining and export of diamonds from eastern Sierra Leone. The number of jobs attracted large numbers of Temne as wage laborers. Initially the business was illegal, conducted in Kenema District, a predominantly Mende land, and Kono District, an area largely inhabited by the Kono people.
Domestic slavery in Sierra Leone ended in 1926, but, before then, wealthier Temne used slave workers as well.
The chief of each chiefdom is said to "own" the land comprising it, given that he "bought it" and the people on it during that part of his installation ceremonies usually called Makane. The land or chiefdom was originally secured by the chiefly kin group by occupation of vacant land or by conquest. According to tradition, chiefs "gave" portions of land to people to farm. They reciprocated with a return gift to the grantor-chief as the seal on their agreement. The grantees could reallocate portions of their land to others, receiving a lamb from them. Such transfers were regarded as permanent. After 1900, as the best farmland became shorter in supply, temporary land-use rights were negotiated with the chief to seal the deal.
Most Temne are staunch Muslims, although like other West Africans, they combine their Islamic faith with a strong adherence to traditional African religious beliefs and practices (read Israelism or ancient Judaism).
Temne culture places great emphasis on individualism, hard work, and personal initiative. Sierra Leoneans sometimes refer to their Temne neighbors affectionately as "Germans" because of their reputation for aggressiveness.
Sierra Leone's national politics centers on the competition between the north, dominated by the Temne and their neighbors and allies, the Limba, Loko and Kuranko and the south-east dominated by the Mende and their political allies, the Sherbro, Kissi and Kono, etc.
Traditionally, Temne resided in villages that varied in size and plan. During the nineteenth century, the village of a Temne chief was larger and included people from several clans, which were patrilineal in terms of kinship. Often it was either palisaded or had a walled fortress/redoubt built nearby, where the population could reside in times of emergency. Other villages in a chiefdom were built by those given land-use rights by the chief. The initial grantee could give land-use rights to other patrikin groups as well.
If a household farmed land at some distance, people would build a hamlet near the land to reduce travel. the main paths connecting villages were often paralleled by secret paths used only by local people. During the colonial era, public paths were cleared and secret paths fell into disuse. Village palisades and mud walls were left to deteriorate. When the motor road system developed, villages cut paths to the roads, and some Temne villages, in whole or in part, relocated along them. The compact village plan gave way to a linear pattern along the roads, where larger garden areas separated houses.
The traditional Temne house was round, of varying diameter, with walls of mud plastered over a stick frame; the roof frame, of wooden poles connected by stringers, was conical and covered with bunches of grass thatching. Rectangular houses with a gabled roof became more commonplace during the colonial era. Houses became larger—and also fewer—after the "Hut Tax" was instituted. Chiefs and some subchiefs had rectangular, open-sided structures with thatch roofs, which they used for hearing court cases and for various ceremonies. Some associations had small buildings for regalia. Adobe-brick and cement-block structures were introduced during the colonial era, along with iron-pan and tile roofs.
Muslim contacts probably go back several centuries. The 15th-century Portuguese explorers and traders recorded contacts with Muslim peoples. Early traders, holy men, and warriors brought Islam into the Temne area. The Temne have combined Islam with their traditional religion in syncretic practice. Many of the Temne believe in witches, who can be either male or female. These witches are believed to derive pleasure from causing accidents and spreading sickness among the tribe. As a result, many people fear the witches and carry charms or medicines to ward off their evil acts.
Portuguese Christian missionary efforts began before the Protestant Reformation but had no lasting effects on the Temne. Protestant missionaries accompanied the founding of Freetown in the late eighteenth century, and most of the new settlers were Protestant Christians. Church Missionary Society representatives were active up the Rokel River and elsewhere in Temne country throughout the 19th century. In the 1890s the Soudna Mission was the first United States mission in the Temne area; American Wesleyans and the Evangelical United Brethren subsequently joined the field. Gradually, some Temne adopted Christianity. Today, 5 to 10% of Temne are followers of Christianity.
NAZARENES: These group of Salone Jews who some would label Messianic Jews, are a small minority in Sierra Leone, but are rapidly growing in numbers. "The Congregation of YAHUAH in Sierra Leone" was founded by a Temne descendant from the U.S.A., Yahshurun Obai Agyemang. When interviewing Temne elders, chiefs, and elders Yahshurun discovered that the Temnes and other tribes in Salone, were Jews that were in the diaspora who had lost there identity. This led him to write a book titled: "The Hebraic Origins of the Temne: According to Biblical and Oral History". Yahshurun, Samuel Turay, Abu Fofana, Gideon, Ugochukwu Timothy, Gideon, and others have established the Israelite culture back to the people of Salone.
The traditional Temne creator God is Kurumasaba (meaning God in English), who, in judging the Temne, is thought to be kind, generous, just, and infallible. Kurumasaba is never approached directly, only through patrilineal ancestors as intermediaries. These ancestors also judge their descendants. Sacrifices are offered to them to obtain help for the living. Various nonancestral spirits, some regarded as good and helpful, others as mischievous and even vicious, also receive sacrifices and make agreements to help or—at least not to harm—the living.
Traditional diviners used various methods and made protective charms for individuals to protect farms from thieves and to protect a house or farm from witches. These specialists paid for the necessary knowledge from established practitioners during an apprenticeship. Morimen, itinerant Muslims, provided the same range of services with different methods. Officials of the major associations (Poro, Ragbenle, Bundu, and so on) used techniques particular to their group. Confidence in particular practitioners and particular techniques varies over time.
Ceremonies are held for most life-stage transitions for both sexes. For women, circumcision, coming of age, initiation into the Bundu society, marriage, and giving birth are paramount. For men, circumcision, initiation into the Poro society, marriage, and fathering children are most important. The primary public ceremonies are those that mark the end of initiation of groups into Bundu and Poro, both for ordinary initiates and the rarer initiation of officials, and those that are part of the installation or burial of a chief. The principal Christian and Muslim holidays are also marked by ceremonies (e.g., Christmas and the end of Ramadan).
Relatives assemble after a death, and the corpse is washed, oiled, and dressed in good clothing. Burial usually occurs in or near the deceased's house. Mourning periods and the number and form of sacrifices vary with the status of the deceased. Divination of the cause of death was usual in the past.
Graphic and plastic arts are essentially limited to the adornment of utilitarian objects and the masks and other items used by the various societies. In the past, the Ragbenle masks, especially, were many and varied. The verbal arts are stressed, and Temne use riddles and proverbs in instruction, engage in storytelling that verges on dramatic performance, and employ vocal music and drumming on various occasions. Jewelry is becoming more popular.
Although the incidence of polygynous marriages has declined since the 1950s, especially in urban areas, nearly four of every ten married men still had two or more wives, and six of every ten married women were part of a polygynous family. A polygynously married man's first wife becomes the head wife. Co-wife tensions can lead to discord but usually do not. The man is responsible to provide for his whole family.
Since the 1950s, divorce rates have increased in urban areas; There are generally accepted grounds for a husband, and also for a wife, to secure a divorce in the urban areas and among the Temne Christians, but a wife usually do not have the power to divorce her husband in the rural areas, particularly among Temne Muslims.
The Temne were traditionally organized into fifty-odd chiefdoms, each lead a chief (called bai in the Temne language), whom the British would later call a paramount chief. Some of the larger chiefdoms were sectioned, but usually each large village or group of smaller villages had its own untitled subchief. Each village also had an elected headman. In the chief's village there usually resided four to six titled subchiefs, who served their chief as advisors and facilitators. One of these, usually titled kapr me se m, served as interim ruler after his chief's demise. A chief selected his subchiefs, and they were installed with him. Each subchief, titled or not, selected a sister's daughter as his helper (mankapr), and each chief selected one or more sister's daughters to help him. These "female subchiefs" had only ritual—not administrative—duties.
The intrachiefdom power game was primarily a struggle between the chief and those elders who supported him and those elders who opposed him. In some instances, the chief and his supporters ruled tyrannically; in others, the chief became a manipulated figurehead. Some chiefs were well liked and had a broad base of popular support; others were disliked, distrusted, and generally opposed.
With the proclamation of the Protectorate in 1896, the chiefdoms became units of local government, and the chiefs, on stipend, became low-level administrative bureaucrats. Some small chiefdoms were amalgamated to make fewer, economically more viable units. Each British district commissioner worked with and through the paramount chiefs of the chiefdoms comprising his district. As chiefly administrative responsibilities widened, nonliterate chiefs had to hire literate assistants, chiefdom clerks. After the Native Administration (N.A.) system was implemented, the chiefs' courts were more closely regulated, and, in the larger chiefdoms, N.A. messengers/police were hired. In 1951 a district council was created in each district, composed initially of the paramount chiefs and an equal number of elected members and chaired by the district commissioner. When political parties were first formed in the 1950s, they dealt with the chiefs and depended upon them as "ward healers" to turn out their voters for elections.
Among nineteenth-century Temne, the law did not have the preeminent place in the resolution of disagreements and conflicts in the way court systems do in twentieth-century democracies. There was no separate, largely independent judiciary; sociopolitical leaders tried certain cases as a prerogative of their positions. Rather than applying abstract ideals of justice, equity, and good conscience, these leaders made decisions in light of the particular political and social settings in each specific instance. Disagreements and conflicts between individuals and groups were adjudicated at, first, the kin-group and residence-group level; second, at the association level (especially the Poro and Bundu societies); and third, at the chiefdom and subchiefdom level (in a chief's court). The first level used primarily moot proceedings, the second usually inquisitory techniques, and the third, a kind of adversarial contest. In the colonial court system, only courts of those chiefs recognized as paramounts served as local courts. Somewhat modified, the system continues today.
Raiding and warfare among Temne and between Temne and people of other groups were long-standing. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries raids were carried out to steal foodstuffs and people, both disposed of in domestic and foreign trade. People on and near the coast tried to prevent inland traders from having direct contacts and thus preserve middleman profits for themselves. A period of "trade wars" occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century, and a body of professional warriors developed then. These were full-time, itinerant mercenaries, known for their cruelty and fearlessness, who inspired terror and specialized in quick, surprise raids. For defense, Temne surrounded larger villages with walls of tree trunks and mud and built separate fortresses, to which people from several smaller villages could retire in times of emergency. The establishment of the colonial overgovernment put an end to Temne raiding and warfare.
Kingdom of Loango
The Kingdom of Loango (different sources attest of the Jews of Loango, the Vili or Bavili ethnicity), also known as the Kingdom of Lwããgu, was a pre-colonial African state from approximately the 15th to the 19th century in what is now the Republic of the Congo. At its height in the seventeenth century the country stretched from Cape St Catherine in the north to almost the mouth of the Congo River.
Loango exported considerable copper to the European market, and was a major producer and exporter of cloth.
Historical evidence is uncertain, but it is widely believed that Njimbe was the founder and first ruler of the kingdom. With the death of King Buatu in 1787, the succession of leadership is uncertain. The kingdom came to end after the Conference of Berlin (1884–1885), when European powers divided most of Central Africa between them.
The inhabitants, who are a branch of the Bakongo, spoke a northern dialect of the Kikongo language also spoken in the Kingdom of Kongo. Missionaries who visited the Loango coast at the end of the nineteenth century often called the people of Loango Bafiote, and their language Fiote. Their ethnic name today is usually given as Vili or Bavili. This term is attested as early as the seventeenth century, where it was usually spelled "Mobili" (plural Mobilis). This term is from the singular form (Muvili today) pluralized according to the rules of Portuguese.
The origins of the kingdom are obscure. The most ancient complex society in the region was at Madingo Kayes, which was already a multi-site settlement in the first century CE. At present archaeological evidence is too scarce to say much more about developments until the late fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries.
Loango is not mentioned in early traveler's accounts of the region, nor is it mentioned in the titles of King Afonso I of Kongo in 1535, though Kakongo, Vungu, and Ngoyo, its southern neighbors. It is therefore unlikely that there was a major power on the coast of Central Africa north of the Congo River.
The earliest reference to Loango in a documentary source is a mention around 1561 by Sebastião de Souto, a priest in Kongo, that King Diogo I (1545–61) sent missionaries to convert Loango to Christianity. Duarte Lopes, ambassador from Kongo to the Holy See in Rome in 1585, related that "Loango is a friend of the King of Congo and it is said that he was a vassal in past times" which is consistent with Loango's origins from Kakongo, a vassal of Kongo.
Dutch visitors recorded the first traditional account of the kingdom's origin in the 1630s or 40s. In their account as reported by the geographer Olfert Dapper, the region where Loango would be constructed was populated by a number of small polities including Mayumba, Kilongo, Piri and Wansi, "each with their own leader" who "made war on each other." He recorded that the founder of Loango, who boasted hailing from the district in Nzari in the small coastal kingdom of Kakongo, itself a vassal of Kongo, triumphed over all his rivals through the skillful use of alliances to defeat those who opposed him, particularly Wansa, Kilongo and Piri, the latter two of which required two wars to subdue. Once this had been effected, however, a range of more northern regions, including Docke and Sette submitted voluntarily. Having succeeded in the conquest, the new king moved northward and after having founded settlements in a variety of places, eventually built his capital in Buali in the province of Piri (from which the ethnic name "Muvili" eventually derived).
The English traveller Andrew Battel, wrote that when he was there in about 1610, that the predecessor of the unnamed king ruling at that time was named "Gembe" or Gymbe (modernized as Njimbe), A Dutch description published in 1625 said that a ruler who had died sometime before that date had ruled for 60 years and thus had taken the throne around 1565. The documentary chronology thus makes it very likely that Njimbe was the founder and first ruler mentioned in the traditions, and this supposition is supported by traditions recorded around 1890 by R. E. Dennett which also named Njimbe as the first ruler.
On the basis of later traditions from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that linked the founding of Loango to that of Kongo, Phyllis Martin posited a much earlier foundation, the late fourteenth or early fifteenth centuries. She then argues that the absence of Loango from early titles of the king of Kongo is evidence that Loango was already independent at that time.
Njimbe had created a rule of succession which was in place around 1600, in which the king gave command over four provinces to members of his family, called the provinces of Kaye, Boke, Selage, and Kabango,and the king was to be chosen from a rotation between them. When the king died the ruler of Kaye took over, as he did indeed in the pre-1624 succession, and if the rule was followed then the ruler of Boke took his place; the other two provincial rulers advanced as well, and the king appointed a new ruler for Kabango.
In 1663, the king ruling then was baptized as Afonso by the Italian Capuchin priest Bernardo Ungaro, but there was considerable opposition to this from within the country, and indeed when he died, a non-Christian took over, but this one was himself overthrown by one of the Christian party in 1665. This civil war that was still on-going in the 1670s. In the aftermath of this civil war, a number of the Christian party fled to neighboring territories, one of whom, known to history as Miguel da Silva, was elected ruler of Ngoyo and was ruling there in 1682.
When Nicholas Uring, an English merchant came to Loango to trade in 1701,he reported that the king had died and the power of the administration was in the hands of the "Queen or Chief Governess of that Country," named "Mucundy" and with whom he had to deal as if with the ruler. This title, referred to a woman had a regular role in the administration as overseer of women's affairs.
Many years elapsed before we have another snapshot of Loango's government, during this time the rules of succession, whether formal or informal seem to have changed. When the French missionaries directed by Abbé Liévin-Bonaventure Proyart came to Loango in 1766, they noted that there was no clear succession to the throne, that anyone born of a person regarded as a princess (only female succession mattered) could aspire to the throne. Moreover, the death of a king was cause for a frequently long interregnum; the king ruling in 1766 had come to power only after an interregnum of seven years, during which time the affairs of the country were managed by a regent called Mani Boman. The Mani Boman was appointed by the king during his lifetime, usually two were appointed to cover the eventuality of the death of one of the two. They, in turn received the petitions of a number of eligible candidates for the throne.
Eventually, the electors of the kingdom, who were those who held offices appointed by the late king, met to decide on the next king. In theory, as the old constitution maintained, the king named his successor as well and placed him as ruler of Kaye, to succeeded him at his death, but as there was so much contention as to who should hold the position, the late king died without naming a Ma-Kaye.
Historian Phyllis Martin contends that the external trade of the country had enriched some members of the nobility ahead of others and had thus put pressure on older constitution as wealthier upstart princes pressed their case forward. She argues that important members of the council were people who had obtained their positions through contact with external trade, particularly the slave trade, and they had come to share power with the king. She posits that this alteration in relative power allowed the council to dominate the king by forcing longer and longer interregna. In fact, after the death of King Buatu in 1787, no king was elected for over 100 years. However, to some extent royal authority remained in the hands of a person entitled the Nganga Mvumbi (priest of the corpse) who oversaw the body of the dead king awaiting burial. Several of these Nganga Mvumbi succeeded each other in the late eighteenth and through the nineteenth centuries.
In theory the kings of Loango had absolute and even divine power. In the seventeenth century, the king appointed a number of provincial governors to office, choosing them from among his own family. Olifert Dapper's description of the government in about 1640 is the only comprehensive one in existence for the seventeenth century. The king ruled closely over a cluster of villages and small territories around the province of Loangogiri. Other districts lying further away were typically ruled by their own elite, and followed their own rules, but were overseen by officials from the court. Mayumba, Dingy and Chiloangatiamokango, for example were overseen by nobles appointed from the court, while Gobby was not under any royal supervision.
In the central district, each village or neighborhood was ruled by a noble appointed by the king, and in addition he had a substantial number of councilors, also appointed by him.
Reports on the government in the later eighteenth century show little change in the theory of Loango's government; royal despotism still had the feel of Divine Right, and his religious power was considerable. Free people within the country were obliged to pay taxes on their persons, the extent of land they cultivated, the number of slaves they possessed and the livestock they owned. Royally appointed officials governed at the provincial and village level, they collected taxes and carried out judicial tasks in the king's name. The sometimes overcharged the taxes, taking four goats for example, when they were only supposed to collect three . The royal council had a number of bureaucratic offices: Magovo and his associate Mapouto was in charge of foreign affairs, Makaka was the minister war and commander of the army, Mfouka was the minister of commerce, Makimba was the "grand master of waters and forests" as well as a number of others. Each minister in turn employed a number of slaves to carry out their tasks.
The king took a strong interest in the administration of justice, much of his time was spent in hearing cases and resolving disputes, though the Abbot Proyart, who recorded these institutions believed that royal officials, acting in the king's name, often abused his decisions and made too many demands, inflicting "trouble and desolation on an entire province."
Dutch visitors of the first half of the seventeenth century left a detailed description of Loango's religion, especially as reported by Olfert Dapper. They noted that the people of Loango believed in god, whom called "Sambian Ponge" (modern Kikongo: Nzambi a Mpungu) but he claimed they only knew his name and did not wish to know more about him.
Cosmology was not handed down from a centralized authority. For example, there were various opinions current in the seventeenth century concerning the fate of those who had died, some held they were reborn as in reincarnation, others that the soul simply ends, others still that it becomes a deified "hero."
According to Dapper, for whom all African divine beings were manifestations of the Devil, their principal worship was devoted to what he called "field and house devils (velt en huisduivelen) which they made "in various forms, and each had its own name." However, he also noted that an nkisi ("mokisie") was neither good nor bad, but a general term for all types of divinity. Although these deities had specific jurisdictions in the natural world, they were also localized to a particular place, though they might travel with people as well. New ones were made all the time, and they competed for authority, or people judged them effective or not according to their performance. Priests, ("devil hunters" to Dapper) called "Enganga Mokisie", (modern Kikongo e nganga nkisi), used an elaborate ceremony to achieve possession by a divinity, and thus created a continuous revelation to identify a protector for a household or community.
He also provided descriptions of many other regional shrines. Thiriko was in a village of the same name, it was a large shrine made of a house shaped like a man, which protected the general welfare of that country. nkisi had a square pouch of lion's skin filled with shells, stones, iron bells and other ingredients. It was portable, travelers and merchants carried such a pouch with them on their journeys. In the town of Kiko there was the nkisi called Lykikoo, which was a wooden statue in the shape of a man. He preserved the people of Kiko from death, and was able to make the dead do work for him. Malemba was in the form of a mat on which baskets full of various ingredients were hung, and which protected the health of the king. Other nkisi such as Makongo, Mimi, Kossie, Kitouba, Kymayi, Injami, Panza, Pongo, Moanze were all equally regional or town shrines, typically including carved staffs, baskets and other items filled with the same sort of ingredients, shells, horns, vegetable material and the like that were characteristic of such shrines.
Virtually from the beginning of its independent existence, Loango had an engagement with Christianity. Diogo I of Kongo sent missionaries to Loango during his reign (1545–61) which coincided with the Loango's expansion and independence. According to an account of a priest in Diogo's court, the king and "all of his people" converted, as did the king's brother "Manilembo" a priest of "pagan idols." In 1583, Carmelite missionaries on their way to Loango were told that the king had sent to be baptized and to ask for missionaries for his people, a request that was repeated to Jesuits in 1603. Yet another Jesuit report noted the conversion of the country to Christianity in 1628.
In 1663, the Hungarian Capuchin priest baptized the king as Afonso and also 6,000 of his subjects. Upon his death there was a civil war, and an alternation of kings, but the Christian party was defeated in 1665.
Loango was again seeking Christianity in 1773 when French missionaries came to the country.
In spite of all these attempts, there was never a permanent, state sponsored Christian church in Loango as there was in Kongo. There is little doubt that some of the population was Christian including those who lived near Portuguese merchants, traders who had worked in Kongo and been converted there, and so on.
Already in the seventeenth century, Vili merchants were traveling some distance from their homeland in search of commercial opportunities. Among the earliest noted were voyages to copper mines in Mindouli and the territory of "Bukkameale" (perhaps the Niari valley) where copper could be obtained. Early Dutch commercial records indicate that Loango exported considerable copper to the European market during this period. Loango was a major producer and exporter of cloth, both to the interior and to the Portuguese in Luanda, where thousands of meters of Loango cloth were imported in the early seventeenth century.
In the late seventeenth century and beyond, Vili merchants also engaged in the slave trade. Loango did not export many slaves in the earlier part of its contact with European merchants, but eventually the country did export slaves in considerable quantities. While some of these slaves were acquired locally, many more were acquired from various regions in the interior. An early slave trade led to the Kingdom of Kongo, where merchants there saw opportunities to export slaves to Dutch and English merchants and avoid taxes and regulations that hindered the market in Portuguese controlled Luanda. Communities of Vili were reported in São Salvador, Kongo's capital in 1656, where some converted to Christianity. By 1683, they were operating in the Mbundu-speaking regions of eastern Angola; a treaty with Queen Verónica I (1683–1722) of Ndongo-Matamba specified that she would promise not to continue trading with them.
However, efforts on the part of Portugal to prevent their commercial contacts failed,and Vili communities could be found all over Kongo and Ndongo-Matamba as well as neighboring regions between them. In addition to buying and selling slaves, the Vili became involved in local industry, specializing in smithing.
Vili trade also extended inland into the lands of the Teke Kingdom and territories beyond that on the Congo River. By the late eighteenth centuries slaves from the "Bobangi" area beyond the Teke area were a significant percentage of exports.
Although European shippers visited Loango regularly, they did not establish a permanent presence in the form of factories, as happened in some other parts of Africa. Rather, shippers anchored off shore and made arrangement with local officials, the mafouks, who managed trade in the royal interest and kept direct European influence at arms' length. Mafouks also benefited commercially from the arrangements,and were at times able to influence royal policy toward them and toward trade.
IGBO-ISRAEL: ORIGINS, HISTORY AND CULTURE.
This brief survey introduces the Igbo people, traces the origin of the Igbo people, and talks about why the Igbos must invest all their energy, strength and resources to know who they are, and reconnect to their source.
Presently the Igbos are a sub-Saharan African people numbering up to 40 millions that are autochthonous/indigenous in the territory that is currently called the South East of Nigeria. The term ‘South East’ is a political designation. The South East in Nigeria means the area called the ‘core’ Igbo states. These are Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo. These states are also regarded, and referred to as the Igbo heartland.
There are also Igbos that are autochthonous/ indigenous in Edo, Delta, and Rivers states of Nigeria.
The Igbos are Igbos today, but what were they before they became Igbos? The word ‘Igbo’ is helpful in the quest to answer the question.
The tribal/national name of the people in discussion ‘Ibo; or ‘Igbo’ is derived from Ibri. Interestingly a foreigner dropped the hint which helped me to unravel the puzzle, in my opinion.
According to the foreigner; one of the missionaries who worked in Igboland: ‘All my attempts to trace the origin of the name Ibo have been unsuccessful. My most reliable informants have been able to offer no other alternative than that it is most probably an abbreviation of a longer name connected with an ancestor long since forgotten.’
Abraham is the ancestor of Israel. And Abraham was specifically referred to as ‘Abram the Hebrew’ (Gen.14:13). Many Igbos have suggested that the word ‘Ibo’ which virtually all non Igbos use to address the Igbos is a corruption of ‘Hebrew.’ I know that they mean Ibri or Ivri which are the Hebrew language equivalents of Hebrew which itself is a Greek-Latin-English translation of Ibri or Ivri.
If as Genesis 14:13 posited, Abram is the Ibri. And his descendants from Isaac and Jacob went on to retain the name ha-Ibri (the Hebrews), we do not have to go far to know where the name/word ‘Igbo’ came from. The people known as the Jews today were known as the Israelites, and also as ha Ibri (the Hebrews), after their ancestors Israel and Abraham. All that we have seen in Igbo culture indicate that the Igbos emanated from the twelve tribes of Israel. Logic tells the rest of the story. It is a tradition for the Igbos to bear the names of their ancestors. All Igbos are from one clan or the other, and all the clans or most of them bear the names of their ancestors/founders, or at least names formed from those of the founding fathers or in a few cases mothers. One could ask; why won’t the Igbo people as a whole assume the name of their ancestor- ha Ibri? Listening to a modern Jew pronounce Ibri, you would conclude that he/she is saying Igbo. With all the aforesaid we can say that the Igbos simply retained the earliest name of/designation for the people of Israel, and the name that all the tribes would feel comfortable with. Perceptive modern Jews have observed that Igbos may feel more comfortable if identified as Hebrews rather than as Jews, because they didn’t all descend from the Jews (from the tribe of Judah). This deserves more talk though. The term ‘Jew’ is also used to represent the Israelites and the Hebrews presently, just as England stands for Great Britain, and the United Kingdom. And the U.S.A., and Russia respectively stand and stood for the American continent, and the defunct U.S.S.R.
So the above having been said and done with I repeat that the Igbos are of Hebraic descent. 99.9% of the Igbos know that the Igbos came from Israel. One would be right to wonder about why 0.1 % of the Igbos would not know about their origins. The explanations would be multifaceted. One could say that all the Igbos know that the Igbos were Hebrews a few years ago, because the knowledge of who the Igbos are was more in previous years, and in fact it recedes year by year. Knowledgeable Igbo elders who did not have the benefit of the European type education that became fashionable after the British conquest and colonization of the Igbos knew that the Igbo people are ha Ibri (Hebrews), because their fathers told them. I talked with some of them at Nri clan, and preserved their testimonies for posterity in the Igbo Israel Video Interview series. Today the knowledge is receding because Igbo history as a subject of instruction has been absent from the curricula of all the educational and religious institutions that have ‘catered’ to the ‘needs’ of the Igbos, since the Igbos were defeated and colonized. A close reading of the earlier works of Chinua Achebe, John Munonye, Chukwuemeka Ike, and Remy Chukwukaodinaka Ilona will reveal that the Igbo people began to develop feelings of inferiority, and self-hate, after the colonial authorities had intervened, and branded Igbo culture pagan.
The event or process that I described above led to severe losses. The same can be said about most of the mass media that have sold their products to the Igbo people. Save the National Times newspaper, no newspaper in Nigeria talks about Igbo history and culture. And Nollywood! The film industry which was built up with Igbo sweat and money but which the Igbo builders have virtually handed over to people from the competing peoples of Nigeria, because the Igbo film marketers/producers as they are called want to make money. Nollywood has excelled! It has excelled in distorting Igbo history, and ridiculing the Igbos! Even though Omenana has room for egalitarianism and republicanism only, Igbo film-makers specialize in making ’Igbo films’, which portray this Igbos as corrupt feudalists with still more corrupt monarchies. And interestingly as the film producers stray they get more destructive. Presently they use non Igbo film actors to play the roles of Igbo ‘kings’. So would anybody be surprised if a few Igbos do not know that the Igbos are Israelites. And a great majority of those that know that the Igbos are Israelites do not know that Omenana (Igbo culture) is Israelite culture, i.e, their knowledge of their origins is not really meaningful, because they do not know what Omenana is, and that the Hebrew Bible is extracted from Omenana. However there is a minority that retain the knowledge that the Igbos are Jews, as the modern Hebrew is more regularly addressed, in a meaningful way, i.e, they know that the Igbos are Jewish, and that that sets them apart as people of God, and gives them the responsibility to live differently from their neighbours; i.e, demands that they live according to the dictates of the Written and Oral Laws of God (the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the Mishna and the Gemarah). This minority is the Igbo-Israel.
This minority is working to heal the Igbo people, and rebuild Igbo intellectual, spiritual, and material heritage.
I have been privileged to work with this section of the Igbos. That the Igbo people are in trouble is the best kept secret in the world. In Nigeria the catch-phrases for the Igbos today is ‘Igbo problem’, and ‘marginalization’. Where the Igbos live in exile the story is not different. The situation is bad to the extent that it prompted an Igbo intellectual, one of the most productive minds of the Igbos; who lives in the United States to write the following missive:
“Anybody who sees the Igbo situation in simple linear perspective either is ignorant of the profound realities or dishonest. The Igbo has entered an emergency phase, and it requires good old political and social organizing to restore it. One of the most critical problems in Ala-Igbo today is the nature of its human and ecological environment:social instability - that is, difficulties in the prospects of settling has made it impossible for Igbo young men and women now to marry at the natural age - between 25-35. Young men now marry at the average age of 40 years. Many Igbo women are without prospects of marriage, having crossed certain thresholds. The implication is that 45% of Igbo people are not reproducing a new generation. Those who get married are suffering from curious stages of infertility as a result of environmental degradation and chemical pollution- through oil exploration activities and groundwater toxification. An epidemiological survey carried out in the whole of Igbo land today will reveal a most deadly truth: a huge number of the Igbo are dying from AIDS, new forms of Cancer, and Diabetes - from poor nutrition.These are issues that we must address holistically because they flow from the nature of the relationship between the PEOPLE and their government. The Igbo themselves have not sat down to confront their elected representatives with an action plan, and with suggestions of the means to carry it out, and a timeline and oversight. The problem of insecurity occasioned by new waves of kidnapping only complicatesthis: but to put this simply, our greatest problem is not the problem of this new wave of selective and directed terrorism. It is that the Igbo as a people have learnt to be DEPENDENT on some external factor orfigure whom they expect to solve their problems. I have said this before, WE ARE ALL GUILTY - either by silence, inaction, or directcomplicity. All those who wish to participate in the restoration and rebuilding of Igbo land must begin to re-think our relationships with that land.Anaghi ano uti agba ntele ukwu. We must get active”.
The situation is as bad, or even worse than as portrayed in the missive above, but only some elements among the Igbo-Israel have really seen the handwriting on the wall. That there is danger! That there is no time to waste! The generality of the Igbos feel helpless, because they are helpless. Disarmed by ignorance, and illiteracy in Igbo studies, Igbos with even post-graduate degrees do not know what to say or do to stem the decline of the Igbo nation. Fortunately Igbo-Israel is growing!
In recognition of the above problems, and inspired by the action plan and road map laid out in books: The Igbos: Jews In Africa-With Solutions To The Most Critical Igbo Problems and Introduction To The Chronicles Of Igbo Israel-And The Connections Between The Afro Americans and the Jews, a group of Igbo scholars, professionals, businessmen, artistes, and bureaucrats have come together as The Igbo Origin and Culture Research Society to contribute to the positive growth and development of the Igbo people, and Igboland. The Society will very likely present its programmes to the Igbo people in the month of October, in 2010. It will use the opportunity to present some of the afore-mentioned books and premiere the Igbo-Israel Video Interview to the Igbo, Jewish and general public. It is also organizing an Igbo summit where solutions would be found to many of the ills that plague ndi Igbo today; such as brother kidnapping of brother which is alien to Igbo culture. In addition it will also appraise ndi Igbo about some programmes that it is working on; such as the preservation of the Igbo migration story in film. And the Igbo-Israel International Music Festival, an initiative of Moore Black Chi Mmadike, an Igbo reggae artiste, and Vice President (International) Igbo-Israel Union (Society), who is based in Australia.