A masquerader who impersonates one of the ancestral spirits in the village

Categories: ProverbsSpirit

Umuofia Kwenu

Words spoken before an orator begins to address the Umuofian clan so as to gain their attention.

Orators silenced the members of the clan and made their speeches after this phrase. Its response – “yaaa” symbolized Umuofian unity and strength.


An old woman

A sign of respect. They never fought a war of blame.


Elders of the Umuofian clan.

The elders were respected and were the messengers of the Ibo oral literature (Proverbs, songs and riddles). Their proverbs and myths give meaning and reason to events in the book.


A woman or a man who hasn’t earned a title during his life spent with the clan.

Su h a man had was not respected in society. Brings out the notion of meritocracy in the book.


The large living quarters of the members of a family.

The obi is where the patriarch ate his meals, where the family came together to converse, where visitors and marriage proposals would be entertained.

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Showing off

Obiageli was bragging about her pot.


The village playground.

Central hub of all activities like ceremonies and wrestling matches. IT was as old as the village itself – it marked the village’s age and existence.


A musical instrument – a drum made out of wood.

Used as a medium of communication and expression. It was used to inform clansmen about important events and meetings and was also played to grieve an elder’s death.


A child who repeatedly dies and returns to its mother to be re-born.

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Enzinma was an Ogbanje – her character’s and her mother Ekwefi’s personal history revolves around this term. Brings out Ibo myth and blind belief.


The stone which when found and destroyed, releases the curse upon an ogbanje and the mother.

A symbol of Enzinma’s miraculous recovery. Superstition and blind belief is questioned through this term as Enzinma falls sick in spite of her Iyi-uwa being destroyed.


A fever.

A common ailment which Enzinma is misconstrued to have. Leads to the tale of her Iyi-uwa.


A chain of waist-beads.

Worn by women of a marriageable age to enhance their aesthetic appeal.



Used in context with doctors, priests and other important occupations. This elitist group was referred to as “medicine-men”.


A worthless man.

Brings out notion of meritocracy.


Murderer or man-slaughterer.

In regard of Ikemefuna’s slaughterer. It was an important occupation in the Ibo culture.


Mother is Supreme

Asserts the importance of women in Umuofian society


Outcast. Having been dedicated to God, an osu is regarded as a taboo to the society.

Once again, an osu is an example of Umuofian irrationality, unsound discrimination and blind belief. The White man exploits this fallacy and gains several converts, making the colonizing mission a success.


A wide gathering of kinsmen

Used in reference to Kinsmen in Mbanta, Okonkwo’s motherland. If represents unity of the kinsmen.


Court messenger.

Used in mockery of the white man. Derogatory songs were sung for the white-man as he was said to have ashy buttocks.



The consumption of Palm-kernels, kola nuts, palm wine and alligator peppers.

All of these were signs of hospitality in the Ibo culture. Their consumption would precede every important occasion, ritual, meeting between two friends, marriage proposals, and feasts.

Male Dominance

The Ibo society was patriarchal and male dominant. Males performed important tasks, took titles and all children belonged, quite literally, to the father. The lords of the clans were males and women were undermined. Even the crops grown by men and woman were different. Yam, the king of all crops was a “man’s crop”. Any male who wasn’t strong and did not fend for himself and did not take titles was looked down upon and eventually ousted from society. It was a polygamous society and the males were allowed to have several wives and children.


Titles assumed great significance in the Igbo culture. A man’s worth was determined by the titles taken by him. The amount of titles taken by members determined their position in the clan. Taking of four titles meant being the clan lord and taking no titles meant being a worthless member of the clan. ‘Ozo’ and ‘Idemili’ were the names of titles or ranks.

Personal Gods or ‘chi’

‘Chi’ was each clansman’s personal god. It was the determinant of the destiny of a clansman. All actions were executed in response to a clansman’s ‘chi’. However, sometimes the clansman’s strong will power could control his ‘chi’ and influence it. If a strong-willed man said yes, so did his chi’.

Rituals and sacrifices

Rituals and sacrifices were exceedingly important in the Ibo tribal culture. Rituals and sacrifices of animals like cocks were regularly made by clansmen to cleanse themselves of the sins they had committed.

For example: Okonkwo had to make the sacrifice of one she-goat, one hen, a length of cloth and a hundred cowries when he indulged in violence during the Week of Peace. Elaborate Rituals took place during the Feast of the New Yam and with respect to Gods and Goddesses.

Musical Instruments such as the ogene and Ekwe

Musical instruments, especially the drums were very import as a concept in the Ibo culture. Playing drums was used as a medium of communication throughout the nine villages that housed the Umuofian Clan. Drums were played to announce meetings, deaths and other important events.

The art of superfluous language

The art of rich conversation was prevalent among the elders of the village. The use of proverbs, songs and riddles as means of expression was an import part of the Ibo culture. Proverbs originated from myths which were orally passed on from generation to generation within the Ibo tribes. They were also used to explain situations and justify decisions.


Clansmen took great joy in the celebration of local festivities such the Week of Peace and the Feast of the New Yam. Through festivals they bestowed honour upon and showed respect to the gods and goddesses of the Ibo tribe. These included Ani the Earth Goddess, Amadiora, The Oracle of the Hills and the Caves and so on.

Superstition and Punishment

The Ibo society was highly superstitious. Diseases and deaths during the Week of Peace, bearing twins, Ogbanje, committing suicide, killing the royal python and unmasking an egwugwu in public were considered abominations. There was no rationality behind these concepts, it was mere superstition. Society was also superstitious about the “Evil Forest”- believed to house evil spirits and offenders were left to die here.

Other concepts

1) In the Ibo culture, time intervals were measured in terms of moons and market weeks.

2) The Ibo tribes were war-like. There were several inter-tribal and inter-clan wars.

3) A bride-price was an important criterion for marriages within the community.





The sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them.

Pg 7-8

This proverb is used in relevance with the debts of Unoka, Okonkwo’s father. It means that major events should be prioritized, as in, Unoka would cover his major debts before he could fulfil the minor ones.

If a child washed his hands, he could eat with the kings.

Pg. 8

Its relevance lies in bringing out the importance of achievement among the Ibo clansmen. It was important to begin achieving fame and power from a very young age according to Umuofian belief.

When the moon is shining, the cripple becomes hungry for a walk.

Pg. 10

Brings out the joy that prevailed during the nights when the moon was out. Families, especially children enjoyed themselves in moonlit nights as opposed to the fearful and eerie nights when the moon did not shine.

Let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too. If one says no to the other, let his wing break.

Pg. 19

Highlights a common sense of unity and goodwill among the Ibo clansmen.

A man, who pays respect to the great, paves the way for his own greatness.

Pg. 19

Instrumental in Okonkwo’s rise to fame. His respect for Nwakibie earned him his first set of yams and laid the foundation for his success and power in Umuofia.

The lizard that jumped from the high iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no-one else did.

Pg. 21

Brings out Okonkwo’s sense of dignity and self-righteousness when he promises Nwakibie fruitful use of his yams.

You can tell a ripe corn by its look.

Pg. 22

Emphasizes Okonkwo’s promising nature, will power and Nwakibie’s belief in him.

A chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches.

Pg. 66

Used in relevance with Nwoye’s character. Okonkwo knew from the very beginning that Nwoye was effeminate, like his mother and grandfather. He uses this proverb when his first wife defends Nwoye under the pretext of him being very young to do hardy masculine tasks.

A child’s fingers are not scalded by a piece of hot yam which its mother puts into its palm.

Pg. 67

Okonkwo uses this proverb to defend his action of murdering Ikemefuna. He only obeyed instructions of the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves.

When mother cow is chewing grass its young ones watch its mouth.

Pg. 71

Highlights the influence of Obierika on his son, Maduka.

If I fall down for you and you fall down for me, it is play.

Pg. 73

Dictates a fair bargain from both sides when the decision of Akuke’s bride-price was to be made.

A baby on its mother’s back does not know that the way is long.

Pg. 101

Chielo, the priestess, uses this proverb to comfort Ezinma when she took her in the middle of night to the Oracle.

If one finger brought oil, it soiled the others.

Pg. 125

The relevance of this proverb lies in the fact that no exceptions should be made to punishments for crimes – whether the crime was intentional or not, whether the offender was guilty or not. If the requisite punishment was not granted, the Earth Goddess would loosen her wrath on the whole land.

Living fire begets cold, impotent ash.

Pg. 153

Instrumental in highlighting Nwoye’s weakness and effeminacy. Okonkwo was the roaring flame of Umuofia – r, passionate and powerful. Just like hot fire leaves being cold ash, Okonkwo’s offspring was a weakling, like Unoka.

A child cannot pay for its mother’s milk.

Pg. 166

Expression of gratitude towards kinsmen by Okonkwo.

Whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then know that something is after its life.

Pg. 203

Brings out a general atmosphere of trouble and restlessness among the clansmen when colonization is at its brink.


Quarrel between the earth and the sky.

Pg. 53

An example of a feminine myth – Shades Nwoye’s effeminacy.

Legend of the locusts

Pg. 54

Eventually becomes the symbol of the colonization process – the harbingers and then the entire invasion.

Story of the mosquito and the Ear

Pg. 75

In context to Okonkwo’s irritation on hearing the buzzing of a mosquito as it passed by his ears while he was asleep.

Myth of the Tortoise

Pg. 96-99

It is one of the fables that Ekwefi told Enzinma on the nights they used to tell each other stories. Representative of the tight bond they shared and also of story-telling as a hobby and a source of re-creation among the Ibo tribals.

Myth of the great Medicine of Umuike

Pg. 113

The rise of the Umuike Market to glory. In context when Obierika sends one of his relative all the way to Umuike to buy the goat that would be sacrificed during his daughter’s marriage.

Myth of Mother kite and the duckling

Pg. 140

Uchendu narrates this story to highlight the foolery of the people of Abame of having killed the white man without knowing what he had to say.


“The rain…eating”

Pg. 35

Brings out the light-heartedness that spreads once the heavy rain-storms subside and the harvesting season is imminent.

“Who will wrestle for our village…..fight for us.”

Pg. 51

Song sung in praise of Okafo, in relevance to his victory against Ikezue in the wrestling match during the Feast of the New Yam. It brings out the Umuofian spirit and the concept of hero-worship. Only the powerful were respected in Umuofia.

“Eze elina, elina!….Sala”

Pg. 60

Sung by Ikemefuna to discern whether his mother would be alive or not. While it emphasises the importance of songs in the Ibo culture, it also brings out the superstition that prevailed in society.

“If I hold her hand…she pretends not to know.”

Pg. 118-119

Brings out a sense of joy and festivity during the Marriage of Obierika’s daughter. Songs and dances formed an important part of Ibo celebrations. Its lyrics bring out a touch of light-hearted humour.

“For whom is it well…well.”

Pg. 135

Throws light on the importance of the Mother figure who is often neglected in the Ibo society. NO good ever comes out of a woman’s death because a mother symbolises softness, gentleness and comfort.

Its purpose is to make Okonkwo appreciative and proud to be in his motherland.

“Kotma of the ash buttocks… slave.”

Pg. 175

Sung in mockery of the Whiteman. It is a symbol of the post-colonial concept of resistance. The Whiteman was despised early on when he entered Umuofia. He was disregarded and mocked


“Agbalaa do-o-o”

Throughout Ch. 11

Highlights state of consciousness when the priestess of a goddess is possessed – the insanity, the loudness and absolute lack of control.


Pg. 120

Beats of the ekwe or drum signalling Ezeudu’s death.

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A masquerader who impersonates one of the ancestral spirits in the village. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/masquerader-impersonates-one-ancestral-spirits-village-new-essay

A masquerader who impersonates one of the ancestral spirits in the village

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