In November of 1929, thousands of Igbo women congregated at the Native Administration centers in Calabar and Owerri as well as smaller towns to protest both the warrant chiefs and the taxes on the market women. Using the traditional practice of censoring men through all night song and dance ridicule (often called “sitting on a man”), the women chanted and danced, and in some locations forced warrant chiefs to resign their positions. The women also attacked European owned stores and Barclays Bank and broke into prisons and released prisoners. They also attacked Native Courts run by colonial officials, burning many of them to the ground. Colonial Police and troops were called in. They fired into the crowds that had gathered at Calabar and Owerri, killing more than 50 women and wounding over 50 others. During the two month “war” at least 25,000 Igbo women were involved in protests against British officials.
The Aba Women’s war prompted colonial authorities to drop their plans to impose a tax on the market women, and to curb the power of the warrant chiefs. The women’s uprising is seen as the first major challenge to British authority in Nigeria and West Africa during the colonial period.
‘Red Bone’, referring to an ethnic group in Louisiana and a black American term for people with fair skin, has strong ties to peoples in what is now eastern Nigeria. Originating from 18th century chattel slavery in the West Indies, the term ‘red bone’ takes from the creole term ‘red Ibo’ referring to fairer skinned black people. The term derived from observations of fair skin among some members of the Igbo ethnic group (and some other peoples lumped in from eastern Nigeria) whose numbers in slavery ratcheted up in the 18th century due to internal conflict in Igboland. European slavers and plantation owners often made observations and generalisations about various ethnic groups since different Africans were targeted for their knowledge, education and skills; a hefty amount of stereotyping and dehumanising was subsequently placed on various ethnic groups found in large numbers in slavery. One recurrent observation was the relatively higher prevalence of fair skinned people from the Igbo area, known then in the Atlantic as the ‘Eboe Country’. The fairer skin was demonised by planters as ‘sickly’ and the Igbo were characterised as weak because of this. This also meant their ‘price’ dropped and poorer planters in places like Virginia took many Igbo leading to a saturation of Igbo people there. The disdain, however, may have been fuelled somewhat by the fact that enslaved Igbo people weren’t unknown for their defiance of slavery, immortalised in the folktale of Ebo landing; they were also involved in a number of slave revolts all over the Caribbean, including in Haiti.
Ultimately, this characteristic was taken in as a negative one and the term ‘red’ was combined with ‘Ibo’ (Igbo) as a pejorative used by black people in the British West Indies for people who were black but with fair skin as opposed to mixed people who were just ‘red’ or ‘brown’ thus suggesting a hierarchy of phenotypes and hair types. Some creole linguists trace the term to Louisiana where it was heard as ‘reddy bone’, leading to the understanding of the term as ‘red bone’ with a less negative connotation as it is still used in AAVE today.
The term red bone is interesting as it seems to be a word that’s linked to a particular experience of an ethnic group in slavery. The word itself carries a lot of historical weight in terms of what it meant for one group of Africans in that era. (Kniffen, Gregory and Stokes 1987; Don C. Marler 1997, 2000; Winer (2009). Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago. pg. 754.; [Louisiana, Where Music is King, PBS.])
Magen David - surrounded by 12 lengths of chain and with 12 stones on top, symbolizing the unity of the Jewish People - in the compound of Sar Habakkuk Nwafor, in Kubwa, near the capital; Abuja, Nigeria.
Studying Parashat HaShavua in Owerri in Imo State.
Sar Habakkuk Nwafor demonstrating to these students how to wear tefilin.
Learn about the Nigerian-Igbo Jewish community here.
Also, watch this trailer for the documentary ‘Reemerging: Jews of Nigeria’ here.
I recently came across a post on tumblr with an African woman wearing henna. Underneath the post, another user commented that this was cultural appropriation because henna is not apart of the African culture but rather something exclusive to near East and South Asia. A few reblogs later, an East African woman explained that henna is used in her culture, followed by a North African woman also explaining the history of henna in Egypt. Now, while I was glad to see these women checking this user, I wondered to myself “what about West Africa?” As a child living in Liberia, I remember the women using henna to color their nails, but I had never explored the historical importance of henna in West African countries.
After hours of research and having to filter through all the articles on North and East Africa, I entered a chat room where a Nigerian woman mentioned something called “Uli.”
In Igboland, Uli, was a feminine art form and a form of graphic communication. Uli, uri, and urie are dialect variations in the Igbo language that describe either body or wall/mural painting in a local village setting. However, in Igboland the art of applying uli to the body is not referred to as painting, since brushes are not used. Instead the phrase ide uli (to write uli) or ise uli (to draw uli) is more appropriate (Smith, 24). For the purpose of this article and consistency, I will refer to the art form as simply “Uli” or “Uli painting”.
Some common words still used in Caribbean English[es] that come directly from the Igbo language or are influenced by it.
‘You [plural]’, the same in Igbo, únù, wunna may be used, in Nigerian pidgin English una is used.
‘Only’, ‘single’, in Igbo orthography it’s sọsọ [saw-saw] meaning the same. [Not to be confused with English so-so, meaning average or mediocre]
‘Is’, ‘presently’ / ‘positioned in’, in Igbo orthography dị [dih], also in Nigerian pidgin as de.
‘say’, ‘said’, also from English, Igbo sị.
‘chewing stick’, Igbo atụ [atuh]
‘White person’, in Igbo orthography bèké, meaning white person but also generally western or European, used in the French Antilles including Dominica [Roseau].
‘greedy’, ‘envious’, a calque of Igbo ányá úkwú [lit. ‘eye big’] meaning the same.
‘mud’, ‘muddy’, Igbo mkpọtọ mkpọtọ, meaning the same.
Igbo ọkrọ [aw-kraw] or ọkwụru, plant known to some as ‘lady fingers’.
‘shamanism’, ‘witchcraft’, in Igbo orthography ọbia [aw-bia] meaning ‘oracle’ or ‘doctoring’, practitioners in Igbo are known as dibia [di ọbia].
An exclamation, in Igbo it’s ewo and usually used in the same context. Ex: Ihe ị dere ebe a hikwara nne, ewo! [This list is quite long, ewo!]
[particle] ‘is’, ‘will’, in Igbo orthography á [alternating tone], gá in Igbo is ‘go’ in the example: ‘to go’, CE: ah go; Igbo: a ga. / ‘is he going?’, Caribbean English (CE): him ah go? Igbo: ọ na à ga?.
‘will not’, in Igbo nà is ‘is’, à at the end makes it negative, together it’s na with a long ‘a’, same meaning. Example: ‘I’m not going’ CE: Me nah go; Igbo: A na’m a ga.
‘going to’, ‘will’, Igbo ‘ga’, Example: ‘he will come’ CE: him ah go come; Igbo: ọ ga a bia [which is word for word if you switch around the ‘ah’ and ‘go’].
Source: Holloway, Joseph E. (2005). Africanisms in American culture; Cassidy, Frederic Gomes; Page, Robert Brock Le (2002). A Dictionary of Jamaican English; McWhorter, John H. (2000). The Missing Spanish Creoles: Recovering the Birth of Plantation Contact Languages; Menz, Jessica (2008). London Jamaican-Jamaican Creole in London.
“My name is Odera, and my country of origin is Nigeria. My ethnicity is Igbo (it’s even part of my family name). My preferred gender pronoun is they, but I truly call and respond to many gender IDs: He, They, She, Odera, Sailor Senshi, Goddess, Gw0rl. Recently I have been embracing the Q of the LGBTQ. Queerness allows and builds beautiful transformative magical energy that transcends labels and boundaries. So I definitely embrace ~*Queer*~”
About Limit(less): Limit(less) is a photography project by Mikael Owunna (@owning-my-truth) documenting the visual aesthetics and expression of LGBTQ African Immigrants (1st and 2nd generation) in diaspora. As LGBTQ Africans, we are constantly told that being LGBTQ is somehow “un-African,” and this rhetoric is a regular part of homophobic and transphobic discourse in African communities. This line of thinking, however, is patently false and exists an artifact of colonization of the African continent. Identities which would now be categorized as “LGBTQ” have always existed, and being LGBTQ does not make us “less” African.
Limit(less) explores how LGBTQ African immigrants navigate their identities and find ways to overcome the supposed “tension” between their LGBTQ and African identities through their visual aesthetics and expression. The project seeks to visually deconstruct the colonial binary that has been set up between LGBTQ and African identities, which erases the lives and experiences of LGBTQ Africans. #LimitlessAfricans