Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Culture Series: IJAW

Culture is the total way of life of a people. Arts, music, literature, beliefs, values, customs, intellectual activities, considered collectively. Why do we wear what we wear, why do we behave the way we do, why do we think or act the way we do? It is our culture; we have evolved over time so has our way of life. Culture series is aimed at portraying African cultures, buttressing more on fashion and "dress sense."
As always, feel free to contact me if there are any errors while describing your culture or if you want your culture to be talked about.

I am going to start with the Ijaws, obviously because I am a proud Ijaw man. Welcome aboard as we explore the Ijaw culture.

The Ijaw people, also known as Izon or Ijo are the major inhabitants of Southern Nigeria. From Bayelsa, to Delta, Rivers, and some parts of Akwa-Ibom, Ondo, and Edo States in Nigeria. They reside close to rivers and oceans and at such are known to be very good swimmers and fishermen.
It is believed that when a child is born in Ijaw land, the child is taken to the riverside and dropped in the river. If the child survives then the child is meant to live. If not, it is not the will of the gods for the child to live.

As far back as the 15th century, the Ijaws were well connected to other areas by trade routes. They have survived mainly by fishing supplemented by farming of rice, plantain, coco yam, amongst others. They are also experts in refining of palm oil. I remember visiting the home several times and going to the farm, eating onunu *winks*. And of course their smoked fishes are way off the hook.

On religion and culture, 90 to 95% of Ijaws profess to be Christians. Traditionally, the Ijaw people respect water spirits and there have been cases of people communicating with the dead. Some parts worship the snake while others consider it as meat. For some, eating of snail is an abomination. Example is the Isoko people of Delta State.

As a kid we made fun of the Egbesu which is believed to be the god of war meant to uphold justice and abhor evil. We were made to believe that Egbesu only protects those that abstain from sex and all evil vices.
Generally, each tribe is influenced by what they have around them.

On dressing and fashion, women braid their hair with no particular style for men. Both male and female wears huge necklaces made of beads.
For ceremonies and special occasions, men wear long-sleeved shirts (sometimes etibo or don as it is fondly called) over a piece of wrapper.
Interestingly, different tribes of the Ijaw men tie their wrapper differently. For some it is tied to the right for others to the left.
Women tie a wrapper over a blouse, usually two. Women of royal blood may tie two wrappers without a blouse.

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