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Ancient Igbo-Ukwu town begins renaissance of ‘Igbu Ichi’ to preserve Igbo tradition.

Igbo-Ukwu artifact

The people of Igbo-Ukwu community in Anambra have said plans are on to revive the traditional ‘Igbu Ichi’ rites, as a way of keeping and preserving the cultural heritage of the people reputed to be the cradle of Igbo civilisation.

The community said that they were disturbed by the loss of interest in cultural activities by the present generation, describing it as a development that has threatened the learning of indigenous languages of the Igbo race.

The historical town has slated today, April 7 to mark the disappearing age long ‘Igbu Ichi’ culture, with the centenary birthday celebration of Nze George Umennadi, the last surviving ichi-titled Nze n’ Ozo member, in Igbo-Ukwu, who recently clocked 100 years.

Chief Bart Nwibe, Chairman of the Organising Committee disclosed this in a statement issued to newsmen on Monday in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital.

It said that the Igbo-Ukwu community had resolved to preserve the cultural values it inherited, which formed part of the Igbo history as well as keep the cultural values from going into extinction.

According to the statement, Gov Willie Obiano of Anambra and the Director General of National Museums and Monuments, Prof Abba Isah Tijani will lead other personalities to Igbo-Ukwu for the festivities.

Nwibe in the statement explained that Umennadi will be the object of the special celebration as the community renews interest and focus on ‘igbu ichi’ amongst other cultural practices that have been associated with the historical community for more than 1,000 years.

The celebration would be held at the Shaw Institute for Cultural Art (SICA), Anambra State Museum, along Nnobi Ekwuluobia Road, Igbo-Ukwu.

Other programmes lined up as part of the Centenary Celebration include a lecture on “State of Igbo History” and a centenary marathon, organized by Run for Life Campaign, and sponsored by Andrew Chiugo Okonkwo Memorial Foundation (ACOMEF) for Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

Nwibe stated that the celebration is unique and symbolic because the celebrator was initiated into the Nze n’Ozo Institution, over 90 years ago, and he recently clocked 100 years in a country where life expectancy hovers around 55 years.

“He is also the only person with Ichi Mark in Igbo-Ukwu and arguably the last surviving person with it in the whole of South East.

“Our town is celebrating that aspect of our culture which he represents. Our people had their way of life before the white men came in and changed a lot of this.

“If you look at some of the archaeological artifacts that were excavated in Igbo-Ukwu, you will notice the ichi marks, which is a sign of nobility in those days, which shows that “ Igbu ichi” is culture that has being with our people until Christianity came to challenge the practice, and changed it.

“So it is important to preserve that aspect of our culture so generations unborn will know that we had a culture like that. That is why we need to document it and show the world that this practice is real and indigenous to Ndi Igbo-Ukwu,” the statement read in part.

The statement also quoted one of the conveners, Mr. Humphrey Obikwelu as explaining that “the lecture  component is intended to get the people aware of Igbo-Ukwu history and to sensitize them about the forthcoming workshop in August this year.”

The first executive governor of Anambra State, Chief Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Okwadike Igbo-Ukwu will serve as the Chief Host of the centenary birthday celebration, while Chief Christopher Okonkwo will function as the chairman of the occasion.

Chief Mike Nduka, the Regent of Igbo-Ukwu and Arc. Christian Ike, the President General of Igbo-Ukwu Development Union, will be the the Royal father of the day and father of the day respectively.

According to the statement, Ichi was facial ritual with designs on the face worn by mainly men of the Igbo tribe which indicated that the wearer had passed through initial initiation into the aristocratic Nze na Ozo society.

The ‘Ichi’ mark, certifies the wearer as nobility with this tradition and associated festivities leading to the ‘Ichie’ title, which denotes a member of a class of titled chieftains among the Igbo.

The Igbo-Ukwu people assured that the festival is poised to give insight into the history and culture of this town in Anambra State.

“Due to its broad social, political, and economic signification, ichi was the most common of these markings. In the case of families of high social and economic status, ichi marks could be obtained for their children at a relatively early age.

“In adulthood one can also do it as an expression of one’s wealth and prestige.
Ichi is seen as a sign of class stratification, not only by virtue of receiving the marks, but by the Nwa Ichi’s ability to ‘hire’ the costly implements used to make the marks.

“In the mid-twentieth century, the ichi marking tradition was disrupted by the expansion of Christianity, which held that it was a fetishistic practice. Ichi is celebrated as an important part of Igbo cultural heritage,” the community stated.

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