Cultural heritage describes the ways of living of different communities around the world that are passed from one generation to another. The information conveyed encompasses the community cultural practices, values, artistic expressions, places, objects, and customs. Every generation maintains and upholds the legacy they receive for the benefit of the descendants that is referred to as culture conservancy or preservation. Cultural heritage is designated as either tangible or intangible. The first one includes relics, sceneries, and buildings while the second one is comprised of expressions, philosophies, customs, oral history, etc. Furthermore, in the contemporary world, cultural heritage also entails fashions, different forms of shelter, the art performances, religious rites, cookery, and traditional skills and technologies.
Just like any other nation in the world, the Nigerian ways of living are formed by diverse cultural heritage types belonging to various ethnic assemblages. The Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, and Igbo are the major tribes in Nigeria. The most famous sites of the Nigerian heritage include the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, Niger Delta Mangroves, Oban Hills, Korup, and the Kwiambana. Based on everything mentioned above, the purpose of this paper is to describe the major aspects of life and cultural heritage of the Igbo people as well as their traditions, values, and norms. A comparison between the Igbo cultural heritage and the Yoruba and Hausa ones will be also provided.
The Igbo Cultural Heritage
I come from Nigeria, from the Igbo community which is divided by the Lower River Niger into two unequal sectors, i.e. the eastern (bigger section) and the western. The Igbo people, also known as the Ibo, are found in the south-eastern part of Nigeria which is the original motherland of the discussed community. One can say that it is a traditional ethnic group as it still observes customary tenets.
Personally, I am a family of five, and my immediate family and the extended one live in one compound. We all live in unity, and whenever any dispute arises, the elderly family members are there to solve them and give us guidelines on how we should behave around the village elders and other people to avoid trouble. My parents are strong Christians although they still follow some community traditions such as respecting the community priests chosen by gods, and naming a child after the dead.
My parents have instilled in us values such as love, fairness, justice, respect, being trustworthy and reliable. Moreover, my family regards education for both male and female children important and ensures that they do not miss lessons as they pay our school fees thru farming revenues and their salaries of teachers. Naturally, my brothers and I help our parents with farm-work over the holidays, and my sisters sell the surplus harvest we get and, thus, generate pocket money and resources for family needs.
There are many cultural aspects in my community that are worth considering. The information about them is presented below.
Political and Social Organization
Both groups of the Igbo people have stable political systems. The inhabitants of the eastern part believe in a democracy when the people choose the best leader that they want. The western territory is characterized by a monarchy constitution where leadership is hereditary in the family.
Socially, the Igbo people from different villages have been brought together thru intermarriages, trade, war, cultural exchange, migration, etc. The villages bear the names of their ancestral founders such as Nri, Umuleri, Ogidi, Ngwa, Ezza, Ohaffia, Nnobi, and Orlu. The Igbo people have close social relations as their homesteads contain many huts belonging to different households that are dispersed alongside clear pathways that lead to a central gathering point. This meeting center is comprised of sanctuaries and shrines where the community god is present to listen to and solve the issues of the people and also discipline the evildoers.
The Igbo people carry out the agricultural and commercial activities to support their economy. To start from, they practice subsistence farming where they produce main products such as yams, taro, and cassava. Apart from the food crops, the Igbo people also cultivate cash crops which they export, such as the palm products, i.e. palm oil and palm kernels. Further, they have always engaged in trading activities where they sell yams. This is mostly done by women in the market. The females also make mats, weave clothes, and do pottery which they sell in the marketplaces so as to raise money to purchase other essential household stuff. The Igbo economy is also supported by the Akwa blacksmiths, recognized ironsmiths and wood carvers. The industrial arts also sold hence providing profits for the community.
Marriage and Family
In the Igbo community, marriage is a sensitive matter where the bride and groom's parents are involved. The marriage arrangements are conducted by the family members of the prospective married couple. Once the corresponding ceremonies are completed and children are born, the kids belong to the lineage of a man, but when a woman gives birth out of wedlock, her children are a part of her biological family.
In the past, the men constructed rectangular or round mud huts that were covered with palm leaves or grass, and the females decorated the dwelling. Males lived there with their children, wives and at times with their cousins after marriage. The girls helped their mothers with household chores while boys followed their fathers to the farms and to the forests to hunt. The same customs exist nowadays as well. The elderly family members assist in educating the children and taking care of little babies. Formerly, in the Igbo community, women were homemakers while the men were the providers for the family, but in the modern times, females go to school and have become prominent figures in the society apart from being just wives and mothers.
In the Igbo family, in case of death of a man, the eldest son inherits the family property and becomes responsible for his younger siblings, and if the son is still young, his paternal uncle could take over the possessions and take care of his brother’s family and inherit his late brother’s wife.
In the present times, the Igbo people are Christians though in the past, they followed their traditional religious practices. In particular, the Igbo community worshiped a god who they believed was the provider of everything, and occasionally, they offered him human and animal sacrifices. The community also had religious practitioners of two diverse kinds: the heritable ancestry vicars and the vicars who were selected by the community gods. The members of the first group had an ofo that was a symbol of authority, justice, and truth. They spoke with the spirits and communicated their wishes to the people. They also blessed the community and severely punished the offenders.
The Comparison of the Igbo Culture and the Yoruba One
The Yoruba people live in the southwestern part of Nigeria, and they are split into the following clusters: the Awori, Yagba, Ijesha, Igbomina, Oyo, Ondo, Efe, Ekiti, Egba, Egbado, Ketu, and Ijebu. The community has a population of about 22 million people.
Just like the Igbo, they practice farming and grow maize, yams, plantain and other crops for their daily consumption and sell the surplus. The women are the ones who go to the market to sell their produce. Moreover, similarly to the Igbo, they practice carving, and they produce the best patterns that they sell. Speaking about religion, in the past, the Yoruba people also practiced the traditional rites and worshiped a supreme god called Oluron, but there were two other gods. They called upon the god by pouring water on the ground using kola nuts or directly conducting prayers in his name. As for the marriage and family, both communities respect marriage, and they believe that for one to be a fully-fledged member of the society, they have to get married and bear children and have a full family.
Contrary to the Igbo people who are known for their expertise in blacksmithing, the Yoruba are renowned for their inexhaustible sculptors and their superb terracotta works. Another difference between the two communities is that the Igbo people had priests and diviners who talked to the gods and passed their wishes, while the Yoruba had three gods: Oluron, the supreme god, Eshu, the divine god who performed sacrifices for Oluron, and Isha, who interpreted Oluron’s wishes to the people. At present, the Yoruba are Christians, Muslims, and some still follow traditional religious practices, while the Igbo are Christians. Considering the political life, the political system of the Yoruba is traditional where each subgroup has a leader referred to as Oba who gets help from a council of elders in making decisions while the Igbo has a strong democratic political standing.
The Comparison of the Igbo Culture and the Hausa Culture
The Hausa people whose number is around 25 million are located in the northern part of Nigeria. They speak the Hausa language which is related to Arabic, and Hebrew.
The two communities under consideration have some similarities in their cultures. Firstly, both practice subsistence and commercial farming. They both produce rice, maize, millet, and corn. Women sell the farm products to support the economy of their communities. Men are blacksmiths, and they also weave and carve wood and sell their art to generate revenue for supporting their families. Moreover, both the communities regard marriage and polygamy as acceptable.
Nevertheless, the two communities are different, for instance, the Igbo export palm oil and palm kernels while the Hausa export cotton and peanuts. As for religion, the Hausa are Muslims while the Igbo are Christians. There are also dissimilarities regarding the inheritance. In the Igbo community, the eldest son inherits family property in case the man dies but in the Hausa one, the man's wives and their children are entitled to their his possessions. The females and their children could share a quarter of the man’s property if there are no agnatic heirs and one-eighth of the man’s property if there are some. Finally, speaking about the political organization, the Hausa still follow traditional governing systems where they are ruled by kings, and the kingship is hereditary, while the Igbo have a democratic political organization.
To sum up, cultural heritage is the conservation of a community’s culture and its transfer to the next generations. The Igbo community in Nigeria is one of the largest in the country among other ones such as the Yoruba, Fulani, Hausa, etc. It is located in the southern part of Nigeria. Although most of the African heritage has been largely affected by the western cultures, the Igbo culture has always stood for its traditional lifestyle, and it has safely kept various traditional aspects in monuments. As discussed above, the Igbo people have a distinct cultural heritage regarding their political organization, traditional practices, religion, economy and other aspects. The immediate neighbors of the Igbo people share some of the cultural practices of their community and differ entirely on some issues such as religion, political organization, etc.