Commenter Phil wrote another guest post for us, this time on the different ethnic groups among the Igbo tribe of Nigeria and how they are different in temperament, industriousness and wealth.
Touching upon my original topic posted a while back, I will return to my studies on the Igbo. This particular group has had a particularly long reputation for an industrious lifestyle and even on occasion having a better temperament than most Blacks in Native Africa as well as being the bulk of the successful Nigerian immigrants along with the Edo group. However, these stereotypes do not represent the full picture of the Igbo. Here I will look at multiple Igbo populations and point out ways in which they differed.
While doing research, I’ve noted that there are two Igbo populations that were described as typical savages – the Kingdom of Eboe and the tribe of cannibals known as the Mokoes.
Eboe or “Aboh”, was a trading Kingdom that had a population that was repeatedly described as a savage despite having a King that was described at least by the Lander Brothers as behaving in a civilized manner. Quaws or Mokoes were well known as a wild and violent class of slaves that were likely the part of the Igbo that later led slave rebellions on slave ships or New World plantations during the slave trade. These frequent rebellions led to the Igbos being seen by slavers were seen as an undesirable tribe for the slave market.
Other Igbos were seen by slavers as much more desirable. The group of yellowish-skinned Igbos were recorded, despite being at times just as violent as the Mokoes, as not typically docile and fearful, which led many to commit suicide. However, with intervention, they were known to be good house servants yet were too frail and idle for field work due to being in poor physical condition when they left Africa.
As a prominent trading center, the inhabitants of Opodo were described as industrious people. They were also noted to be cannibals but only in a ceremonial sense rather than as a staple diet like other tribes. This group may be identical to the Igbos who went to Liberia, who were described as wild in character and appearance yet industrious at the same time.
Another Igbo group was the Awka. They were the dominant blacksmiths of the area and would travel distances to sell their goods to other villages. Thomas Northcote, probably the greatest recorder of Ibo customs, described them as particularly wealthy and in good health compared to the other tribes. He based this view on the number of wives they had, the comments of local medicine men and his own observations of them.
The Asaba were a similar group. Northcote noted that their market was well organized, and a missionary report described them as wealthy. I will discuss the Asaba more in later posts.
Finally we have the “Breches”. These Igbos occupied a high class in the Igbo ranking order and were described by Hugh Crow as dark in pigment and good in temper. A group in America called the Egba-Breches were probably people from the same group who were taken as slaves. It is speculated that Olaudah Equiano was from this group. But he was probably not born into the group as he lacked the group’s traditional scars. Instead he was probably taken into the Breches from another group as a child.
In future posts, I will continue to explore some of my ideas about why these different Igbo groups differed so sharply in temperament.