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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The heroic age of the Ohafia Igbo: its evolution and socio-cultural consequences
Author:Azuonye, ChukwumaISNI
Periodical:Genève-Afrique: acta africana
Geographic term:Nigeria
ritual murder
epics (form)
Abstract:Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and the early 20th century, the Cross River Igbo of southeastern Nigeria harried communities not only in their immediate neighbourhood but throughout Igboland and beyond. Until recently, these Igbo warriors were depicted in the literature either as bloodthirsty savages or as mercenaries controlled by the Aro, a Cross River Igbo group noted for its slaving and colonizing activities. This paper presents a different picture, based on a detailed study of the evolution and sociocultural consequences of headhunting among one of the leading Cross River Igbo groups, the Ohafia. The stages of this development are analysed as they are reflected in Igbo heroic poems. The warlike and headhunting activities of the Ohafia emerge from the analysis as an expression of a heroic ethos, born of the need for communal survival in an era when the Ohafia's security was incessantly under threat. Features of the Ohafia social structure which served to sustain the heroic mode of life include the double-descent system, the arrangement of wards within villages in the form of military garrisons, and the age-grade system. The heroic ideal also became the basis of a religious and philosophical tradition. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. also in French and German.