Category Archives: Igbo

Uli on my mind.

I have always regretted that drawing uli patterns fell out of fashion.  It annoys me when I consider the rather flimsy reason they did, the same as a lot of traditional Igbo stuff; because the church disapproved and thought it fetishistic.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Igbo women often wore uli painting on everyday occasions as well as during important festivals. At the same time missionary schools were discouraging women from painting uli on their bodies and instead taught them to embroider the designs on textiles. Uli artists were asked by missionaries to record their designs on paper. These were then used to make templates for the embroideries.

From here.

Now a lot of scholars suggest that uli was not really a mode of communication, not in the way nsibidi was. It’s supposed to be more linear and abstract, a way to beautify spaces as opposed to nsibidi’s ideographic/logographic  - i.e. used to transmit concepts or ideas – form. But maybe in the process of getting ridding of the more-feared nsibidi (which was used in its sacred forms by the literate secret societies), it might also have come under attack.

Note, I use secret societies to mean titled and Leopard societies not Living in Bondage type scenarios. 

Recently I have become interested in finding as many designs as I can and in creating a few of my own. I toyed with the idea of getting the one from my grandfather’s mud walls made into a tattoo for my back.  I also briefly considered getting patterns tattooed on the soles of my feet but I do not fancy the thought of spending great amounts of money for something that would fade pretty quickly due to friction (walking around, wearing shoes, etc).

Sole tatPlus according to sources, it hurts like crazy.

As for putting it on my back or anywhere hidden like my bum, I am worried about it fading and/or the ink bleeding and how it will look on my skin when I am old and my bottom droops to the backs of my knees.

I think one of the things that is so beautiful about uli is the impermanence of it all. The dye fades after a few days so that you can draw an entirely fresh design on; one suited to the occasion or event, or even just one that takes your fancy. Tattoos do not afford me the same option.

Uli seems the way to go. Nsibisi is enjoying a resurgence so hopefully uli too will come off the better for it.  Thanks to people like the Nsukka Group and many other interested bodies and individuals, a lot of the designs are not lost. I reckon I will try out a few designs with henna and see how that works out. I’ll also try to find some camwood dye (African sandalwood) in some villages back East when I get to Nigeria and try out its reddish colour as well.

The front wall of my grandfather's compound, Ezelle, Oba. Use with permission.
The front wall of my grandfather’s compound with what looks like uli patterns; Ezelle, Oba. © Chikodili Emelumadu.
'Ugo n'acho nma' carved figure; ukpuru.tumblr.com.
‘Ugo n’acho nma’ carved figure; ukpuru.tumblr.com.

 

So I am into Phyno now.

I am always the last to know anything, living in my own head for a majority of the time and all. But last year, I discovered Phyno with ‘Man of the Year’ and I have been asking myself how I did not feel the earthquake that must have happened when he came on the scene.

Phyno: Image from bellanaija.com

 

Anyway, I know now and I am about to give him the same obsessive treatment as I give anything I like. Expect a few weeks of this. I am not sorry!

First of all, I have absolutely no desire to see Phyno without his shirt – and not because I suspect he might look a bit reptilian (he reminds me a bit of all those crested lizards. I wouldn’t want to mess with him). But because I heard him before I saw what he looked like and I do not wish to objectify him, at all at all. You all know I am a bit irreverent but this boy has TALENT in spades. You can tell he is extra serious about his art. Respect.

I have never heard anyone make such mincemeat of Igbo in rap before. He shreds it. He just plays with the language; tossing it out, deftly applying puns, flipping the language on its head like a pancake before he devours it.

Nwanne look into my eyes/ Ego di m n’obu/ Money on my mind/All you need is owe me/Egbutego m the money/Now your chic wish she knew me/A dighi m agbo ncha/But my nigger I do me/ …If you go against me/Ntuo gi down ka alusi. (‘Man of the Year’.)

Brother look into my eyes/There’s money on my mind/All you need is owe me/I’ve eked out the money/Now your chic wish she knew me/I don’t lather soap/But my nigger I do me/…If you go against me/I’ll throw you down like an idol.

Looks simple enough, right? Wrong. Igbo can be difficult to rap in and rhyme which probably explains why not a lot of people are doing it. Those bits in bold are one of the ways you can tell someone who learnt Igbo from speakers because you won’t really find those in books – at least not the first one, which is a reference to male masturbation (frothing, ejaculating). The second is a nod to the Igbo way of showing displeasure in personal gods. In the old days, personal gods who disappointed or did not perform as expected could be disposed of or burnt aka ‘thrown down’.

There’s a lot of English in this verse and in the whole track in general and I for one wish Phyno would never speak English again, but it serves as a modifier for the Igbo, in a way a lot of us would speak it casually. He even calls it by its popular name: Engili-Igbo.

I am not a music critic by any stretch of the imagination. I can’t tell you anything about the beat or the arrangement or anything like that. But I know what I like: poets in any language, people who make language fresh to the ears. In this, Phyno gets my vote.

Igbophilia or ‘How to be Igbo in the 21st Century’.

Today is the last day for early bird (read discounted tickets) for the 3rd annual Igbo Conference taking place at SOAS, University of London,  2-3 May 2014.

I feel like an idiot because I was supposed to let you guys know since Thursday but I went on a mini-break and there was no service where I was so, I am telling you now. BUY YOUR TICKETS TODAY. DO NOT DELAY. (Yes, I rhyme too.)

Why? Well, the Igbo Conference is a great place to exchange ideas, stories, tips and even learn the language and culture. This year’s theme is on ‘Heritage’ and I am quite excited about the list of activities. But don’t take my word for it. Have a look.

Programme of activities.

You can buy your tickets here.

For the eagle-eyed amongst you, well spotted. I am part of the panel on the 3rd of May.  I will probably be wearing my villain shoes so if in doubt, look for that. I might even bring the Tot. It’ll be great to see you guys there.

Tot’s new ichaka.

image

A friend came from Nigeria today and brought along an ichaka for the Tot. It’s a musical instrument, like some kind of inside-out maraca. This one is made with beads but the ones I grew up with are different.Usually the seeds taken from the gourd plant are interlinked with thread into this unique net pattern and attached over the now hollow gourd.

image

The music produced sounds a bit like a maraca when its made from the seeds of the  gourd. These plastic beads are a lot louder.

This is what it sounds like: