North America

Nigeria: Igbo Village in the United States — With their political, intellectual and cultural leadership cadre running around in an uncertain cycle, the Igbo of Nigeria were handed something to cheer about in the far away State of Virginia, United States of America.

There, in late September, during a sadly little-publicized ceremony, the authorities of the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia which curates the affairs of early settlers in America had formally commissioned the Igbo Farm Village to the appreciation of historians of Igbo life and sympathizers world-wide.

Constructed in the typical Igbo architectural format, with mud fences, mud buildings including the obi with thatched roof, the ‘village’, reportedly hosts a variety of wandering domestic animals as would be found in any traditional Igbo village today in the homeland.

And why were the Igbo so honoured by the culture museum authorities in Virginia?

The reason, according to the executive director of the museum, Mr. John Avoli, is to immortalize the early settlers in Virginia, one of the southern states of America that was built by white settlers with slave labour.

He said that, having honoured the English, Irish, German and other European tribes, it was necessary to also honour the slaves that dominated the place in the beginning.

Indeed, this honour is very fitting, as Virginia was dominated by Igbo slaves taken there during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Indeed, a cursory look at the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade shows that though they were considered rebellious and ‘suicidal’ by plantation owners, preferring to die rather than be enslaved wherever they found themselves during the slavery period, the Igbo quickly bonded and usually attempted to free themselves from the slavers’ shackles.

It is a fact of history that the slaves who fought off the Spanish and French slavers to found present-day Haiti had been mostly Igbo slaves who hijacked the vessels trans-shipping them from America to Latin America and headed for Barbados.

The ex-slave writer Olaudah Equiano, was among the slaves that were later trans-shipped to Virginia from Barbados. About 44 per cent of the 90,000 Africans in Barbados were from the Bight of Biafra from where the Igbo were shipped.

There is even a story that could be apocryphal about the mass-suicide of a shipload of Igbo slaves on landing at an American jetty in November 28, 1858. Rather than disembark in their chains, the slaves were said to have jumped into the ocean instead. This event led to this particular jetty being referred to as the ‘Ebolanding’.

About 1.4 million Igbo were transported by European ships across the Atlantic between the 16th and late 19th Centuries that slavery lasted.

Descendants of Igbo slaves are today dispersed in Jamaica, Cuba, Barbados, United States, Belize, and Trinidad and Tobago. Elements of Igbo culture can still be found in these places today. In the US, particularly, the Igbo were found in numbers in Maryland and Virginia. In fact, historians have since denominated Virginia as Igbo land.

That such a momentous event in Virginia was largely ignored by present Igbo leadership is very curious indeed.

Except for Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, who was represented by his Commissioner for Information and Culture, Chief Emeka Maja Umeh, nary a sound or word was heard from the so-called Igbo leaders that have been prancing all over the place and hugging the public space to proclaim the loss of relevance and their determination to bring back the Igbo into the main stream of national and global reckoning.

We commend the Anambra State governor and his organic Igbo-centricity, first by being the only Igbo political leader to empathize with the people and government of Haiti, an Igbo country, and second by sending a delegation to the US to witness the commissioning of the Igbo Village there.

That Americans would find something about the Igbo worth celebrating should be a challenge to Igbo cultural and intellectual elite who helplessly wring their hands and bemoan the so-called marginalization of the race without pro-actively doing anything to advance the cultural relevance of the tribe.

Institutions like Ohanaeze, Aka Ikenga and the motley of Igbo socio-cultural and political organizations that purport to speak for the Igbo should have been fully represented at the commissioning of this Igbo village in Virginia, USA.

This is because it is foolhardy for the Igbo to dream of political leadership of Nigeria without first of all achieving the sort of cultural hegemony that the Hausa-Fulani or Yoruba nations have achieved. That is the relevance of the Virginia commissioning of the Igbo Village.

Comments for Igbo Village in the United States

Wonderful article worthy of diseminating to the younger generation thanks amillion. May I interject that we currently have no credible Igbo leaders in Nigeria they they have sold their souls to money very cheaply. The spirit of our Igbo fathers is haunting them as they keep selling out Igbos.

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