“Niger Delta Beaters,” by Phil

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.

 

25 Comments

Filed under Africa, African, Anthropology, Blacks, Cultural, Guest Posts, History, Nigeria, Nigerians, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, West Africa

25 responses to ““Niger Delta Beaters,” by Phil

  1. “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.”

    This is actually an error. What I meant was that the Breches were identified via certain scar patterns, though Olaudah lack these thus it led me to speculate that, if he were, he lacked likely because he was put into slavery at a young age, thus never really going through the rites in which he gained the scars of his caste.

    • Good post. What do you think is the cause for temperament differences? From my reading, the darker the skin, the more impulsive they would be. But it seems like with the Ibo, the opposite is true. Care to give me a preview?

      I only know a small amount about the Ibo, mostly from Peter Frost and Chanda’s articles.

      • ]

        “Good post. What do you think is the cause for temperament differences? From my reading, the darker the skin, the more impulsive they would be. But it seems like with the Ibo, the opposite is true. Care to give me a preview?

        I only know a small amount about the Ibo, mostly from Peter Frost and Chanda’s articles.”

        I have two theories.
        1. Admixture it Edo speaking people, another well to do group in relative terms. In my readings, some group were said to have mixed with migrants from Edo branched kingdoms, however the correlation with folkore origins and economic success I haven’t looked upon.

        More likely, an east-west cline, at least roughly, on part of fertility. What I began to notic was that most of the ones described positively were most eastern bound such as Opodo and the Awka. In George Basden’s “Among the Ibo” when living in Onitsha, he described physiological differences between populations East and West and placed them due to differences in soil fertility, though based on where he was Eastern bound Ibos still had some wild vegetation that would suit them thus not showing much change in demeanor, but perhaps if larger samples were to be tested then we could see better results.

        The Awka were described to have lived on unfertile land, as well as the Bechuana, a savage but somewhat stable bantu group of the Kalahari with both sexes being described as more industrious than other Bantu group despite being less intelligent.

        In other words, they may’ve not been left to the same fortunate resource lifestyle other Black Africans were left too.

        I would’ve attribute this the admixture, say, to Northern populations to the Light skin being reported in the past but the problem with that was despite that, they were described to have rather pronounced archaic features of typical black Africans and were defined as having finer features such as the Fulani or Hausa based on ethnographic material of the past.

      • There should be a “2” in front of more likely.

      • As far as Skin tone and Light Skin, it was a mixed bag.

        On one hand you had the Breches, on the other you had Mokos. On one hand you have Eboe (it was described as the typical light skin), on the other you had Hugh Crow’s Iboes.

        I haven’t looked up the appearances of an Awka civilian, but based on Northcote pictures they were likely fairly dark though the Photograpghs were in black and white.

        I have a theory that explains it in part, but it’s not perfect.

      • I also made another mistake, it’s “Opobo” not Opodo.

  2. EPGAH

    Good research! Keep up the good work!

  3. Something about the Asaba region is that they actually have a indigenous system of rites for getting rid of old customs.

    Northcote mentioned in his second Ibo volume in that he’d witnessed one for the killing of twins for a village area.

    I thought this contrasted from how, in the missionary report, how the nobles of the region (said to be 400) were described to have obtain there status via executing men however a beast would’ve substituted according to Northcote, so that doesn’t really contradict things.

  4. Jm8

    The Awka were also Brass/bronze smiths

  5. “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”

    Again, another typo. I meant “not uncommonly” docile, meaning that a desponding trend was noted, though quite the opposite from the usual.

  6. Jason Y

    Could it be some tribes are different in temperment simply due to culture and not highly related to genetics? Though I agree genetics plays a role, I think race realists exxagerate it, trying to put it into everything they study.

    • Jason Y

      Meant to say “Though I agree genetics plays a role, I think race realists exxagerate it, trying to put it into everything they study as a major factor.

      It would be similar to Communists trying to put class warfare into everything they read.

      • “Meant to say “Though I agree genetics plays a role, I think race realists exxagerate it, trying to put it into everything they study as a major factor.

        It would be similar to Communists trying to put class warfare into everything they read.”

        The problem there is that culture would only control customs, not behavior.

        • Jason Y

          How do you know culture wouldn’t control behavior? That’s a ridiculous argument. Of course culture controls behavior. For instance, if something is cool, say shaving your head, then more people do it. Also, for instance, take the beard trend going on now.

        • “How do you know culture wouldn’t control behavior? That’s a ridiculous argument. Of course culture controls behavior. For instance, if something is cool, say shaving your head, then more people do it. Also, for instance, take the beard trend going on now.”

          What you describing again, is customs, but I believe what you’re trying to ARGUE is culture’s form of discipline.

          Discipline, while it exact contribution I’m unaware of, DOESN”T alters someone’s innate reaction in adversity.

          For example, while many Igboes killed themselves due to shock, suicide was AGAINST there culture, the only exception being when they are forced to execute themselves due to committing a crime. Do you see my point?

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