Africa Guide
Africa travel since 1996

Ibos People


Location: Nigeria, Africa, is composed of basically three different ethnic groups: the Yorubas, the Hausas, and the Ibos. The Ibos live in Iboland. It comes as no surprise that the stifling heat of central Africa would dictate the type of clothing worn by any native peoples. The Ibos wear little or nothing until they reach puberty. At this time, the men usually wear loose-fitting cotton shirts and a loincloth, while the women wrap different pieces of cloth around themselves and also wrap some cloth around their head. The men often carry machetes, useful for clearing overgrown paths and offering protection for wild animals.

Language: The language of the Ibos is very interesting. It is derived from a group of languages commonly found in West Africa, the Kwa languages. It is based a lot on pitch, vocal inflections, and context when defining the meaning of a word. A single word can have numerous meanings depending on these factors. Idioms and proverbs play an important role in the Ibo language. Someone who does not use them in speech is considered a novice at speaking the language.

Daily Life: Village life for the Ibo people is like many other villages in Africa, but still unique in an Ibo way. Ibos live in villages that have anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand people comprised of numerous extended families. A very interesting thing about these villages is that there is no single ruler or king that controls the population. Decisions are made by including almost everyone in the village. There are established institutions such as a council of elders (a groups based on age), a council of chiefs, womens associations, and secret societies. The Ibos simultaneously emphasize individual actions and community living.

The Ibos are profoundly religious. These polytheistic people worship many gods. They believe that there are three levels of divine beings: the highest level is the supreme god, or “Chukwu.” Underneath Chukwu are lesser gods, called “Umuagbara”, and under these are the “Ndi Ichie,” the spirits of dead people. The Ibos also believe in reincarnation. They see death as a transient phase between life and the spirit world. When someone dies, he or she starts a new life in the spirit world. After a time in the spirit world, a dead person would be reborn as a new person and the cycle would continue on. Each village has priests and priestesses who help in all spiritual matters, conducting ceremonies and rituals. And since the Ibos believe that everything in life is controlled by higher powers, there are also diviners in a village that attempt to predict the future.

There is a negative side to the Ibo culture, however. Since the British invaded and settled Iboland in the beginning of the 16th century, things have changed drastically, mostly to the disadvantage of women. Today, women are considered second-class citizens, and subservient to men, and sometimes treated as slaves. Women are also forced to study certain “womanly” subjects in school.

Information kindly provided by: Andrew Froiland

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