Author Archives: ogbuli

“Nwata adi ebu orika”-Onitsha Proverb

Context: This is a proverb that is native to my dad’s village and he learned it as a child growing up in Onitsha. Proverbs like this were a prominent means of giving advice and life lessons especially to the children of the tight-knit community. 

  • “Nwata adi ebu orika”
    • Transliterated Proverb
      • Nwata: child
      • Adi: does not or should not
      • Ebu: carry
      • Orika: heavy
    • Full Translation: A child should not carry the responsibility of the entire house or the responsibility of taking care of themself, meaning that parents have a responsibility to make sure that their children do not carry a burden that they cannot yet carry.
      • Explanation: My dad grew up in Nigeria and learned this proverb from his father[my grandfather]as a child. He remembers it well because it’s an important aspect of the community when he was growing up. He talked about the fact that “It takes a village”, meaning that it was important for adults in the community to support and help a child develop and grow. This is why it was stressed heavily that children must not be burdened by responsibilities that cannot carry.

Thoughts: I found this proverb to be quite compelling and that it really speaks truth to how I was raised. I am Nigerian American so I grew up hearing proverbs like this from my parents. This proverb is one that I have heard often, and I understood its meaning to be that as a child I should not try to overload myself or overextend myself. After talking with my dad about this, the meaning became more clear. While I should not overburden myself as a child, it also puts the responsibility on my parents to make sure that they handle their responsibilities and give me what I can manage. Indirectly this proverb has influenced a lot of my decisions because I always consult with my parents when I plan on taking on a new responsibility. Every decision becomes a dialogue and I always make sure that I understand now, that some things I cannot do by myself and I am grateful that my parents are around to alleviate and take on some of my burdens. 

Bride-price~Nigerian (Igbo) Marriage Traditions

Context: This is the second step that a man must take in order to get married. My mom learned these from her father and my dad learned the process from his own father. They value this tradition heavily and my dad underwent this process when he married my mom.

  • Bride-price
    • The bride price is a token for raising a wonderful young lady and paid by the parents of the prospective groom. Once the bride price is presented the money is divided to the father and his kingsmen[uncles, cousins…etc], the mother[sisters, cousins..etc], the uncle, and the auntie partake in the money. 
      • Thoughts: I found this step to be very interesting to me. When I was listening to my parents explain this my initial thoughts were that it appeared that I was going to be sold off and married when I was old enough, however, my perceptions changed when they told me why this payment was so significant. A bride-price is not a means for which a man pays to marry a person, instead, it is a symbolic gesture paid by the prospective groom to give thanks to the family of the woman he intends to marry. The bride price is an offering of thanks for raising such a well brought up a young woman who the man now wants to marry. It was really interesting learning about this marriage custom, and I hope to witness this process one day or possibly the day that I or a female member of my family will be approached by someone who wants to marry us.

Inyo uno-Nigerian (Igbo) Marriage Tradition

Context: This is the first step that a man must take in order to get married. My mom learned these from her father and my dad learned the process from his own father. They value this tradition heavily and my dad underwent this process when he married my mom.

  • Inyo uno
    • If a man wants to marry a maiden, he must go to the home of the maiden’s father accompanied by his kingsmen[family members]. With them, the man must bring hot drink [alcohol] and kola nuts[object of prayer and goodwill] to tell the parents of the maiden that he wants to marry their daughter. He must break the kola nut with the girl’s family and give them the kola nut and hot drink that he brought for the girl’s parents to keep. The parents of the girl then think over the marriage request and look into the man’s past and his family’s past to check for illness, health issues, and bad qualities like lying or theft. Once the parents are satisfied and they determine the man is good, they will call their family members and will break the kola and drink the hot drink brought by the man in question. Once this has been done, they will call the man’s family and start making arrangements.
      • Thoughts: I found this step interesting because of the process of asking for someone’s hand in marriage. The dialogue between the prospective groom and the parents of the family is very structured and there are specific steps that have to be followed[i.e. bringing your kingsman and bringing kola and hot drink as an offering]. In addition, the prospective groom really has no means of telling whether he has done enough to appease the parents. The man engages in this grand gesture, bringing kola nut and hot drink [symbols of his marriage request] and presenting them to the women’s parents as a sacred offering. What further intrigued me was the full background check undertaken by the parents of the prospective bride, in that they would extensively move through the family history of the man in question and make sure that he presented no bad traits that would make him unfit for marriage. If the prospective groom is found to be unfit for marriage, traditionally the parents will not support the union and their daughter will not be getting married. This a very interesting marriage custom and appears to be the most crucial before any real steps towards a union can take place.

Shaving a Path to the Future- Congolese Funeral Tradition

Context: This is a tradition that takes place when a Congolese woman’s husband passes away. My informant [OD] learned of this tradition from her dad and witnessed it occur when her uncle passed away.

  • What occurs?
    • When her uncle died, her cousin[his daughter] and aunt[his wife] shaved their heads as a means of honoring him and paying their respects. 
  • What was her opinion?
    • OD thought the tradition was very symbolic and powerful. By shaving their heads, her aunt and cousin marked a new phase in the life of their family. In addition, OD believed that it was valuable to maintain these traditions as Congolese Americans. Given the fact that they were in another country, maintaining these traditions was very important to her and those within her community.
  • Thoughts: After listening to OD’s explanation of this Congolese tradition, I agreed with the aspects of maintaining tradition as I am Nigerian American myself. Shaving one’s head to honor the life of a loved one may be viewed as very extreme from an outside lens, but because I have witnessed similar acts it was not that odd or strange to me. When my grandfather passed away, my parents flew back to Nigeria to attend his funeral. From my mom’s accounts, because of my grandfather’s status within his community, it was a tradition that all of the members of his family[wife, children, inlaws] dressed like him to both honor and emulate his spirit. This was a really powerful and symbolic gesture similar to OD’s tradition, it marked a new phase in my family’s life. While my grandfather had passed on, his spirit and legacy would live on in the members of his family. While it’s difficult to maintain traditions away from home[Nigeria or the Congo], in both cases, it is important to preserve them because they have such important value and continue to teach those who practice them more about themselves and where they come from. Traditions are important to me and I am inspired by the powerful meanings behind simple acts as shaving one’s head and even dressing like a deceased loved one. These traditions take on new subjective meanings to the families and communities that practice them and continue to preserve the connections between them and their respective cultures.

Udala~ Folk Object/Legend

Context: Udala Tree is a folk object/legend native to my dad’s village of Onitsha. He knows about this legend because he is a titled man just like his father before him, hence why knowledge was passed down to him.

C: Udala tree is a sacred tree in Onitsha that can only be used by titled men[Ozo title and members of Abalenza] who are the spiritual and cultural leaders within the village. The Udala tree is a powerful tree that is kept as a means of communing with one’s ancestors. Titled men receive what is called an Osisi, which is made from parts of the Udala tree. The Osisi is a staff that has immense power as it too is a means of communing with one’s ancestors and is connected to the Udala tree. No portion of the tree can never be given as a gift because it holds immense power that could possibly be used for evil doing and should not be given to those without the proper understanding of its potential.

Thoughts: I think this is really interesting and is something that I never really understood until now. Growing up my dad was always telling my brother and I stories revolving around his childhood and in particular my late grandfather who was a titled man who was widely respected in his village. Similar to my grandfather, my dad is also a titled man and is designated as a spiritual and cultural leader within his village and in our family as well. The description of the Udala tree is eye-opening because it represents a sacred folk object for men like my dad. Tapping into my memory, one instance stood out to me that became more clear because of the description of the power held by titled men. I remember that my dad would refuse to pray when he was angry. I never really understood why, but in seeing the power he held it makes sense[i.e. It would not be wise to pray angry because you could unintentionally wish harm or do harm to someone out of anger during prayer].  I am unsure in my dad’s description, however, as to whether this tree is real or only a legend passed down by titled men. I know there are some things that my dad refuses to tell me because I am not yet ready to learn or even understand the things that he does, but I hope to eventually verify whether or not this sacred tree is in fact real.

Idu uno-Nigerian (Igbo) Marriage Traditions

Context: This is the last step that a man must take in order to get married. My mom learned these from her father and my dad learned the process from his own father. They value this tradition heavily and my dad underwent this process when he married my mom.

  • Idu uno
    • This process is where the father of the bride and his kingsman buy everything that the bride needs in her new household. They will buy her a fridge, stove, furniture, and anything else she will need in her new life as a wife. The father of the bride could also give them land to cultivate or provide them with a home and car to start their lives with. The mother of the bride and her fellow women will also give the bride things for her new life by buying all the things she will need for her kitchen.
    • Young men of the community will then play music and accompany the bride to the husband’s parent’s house. All of the items for the bride will be brought to her new inlaws home. The young men of the community will request compensation from their elders. The parents of the groom must present a specific amount of kola and tobacco before the young men move the items inside their home. The leader of the young men will then break kola for the new bride and will see her into her new home along with other young women of the community.
      • Thoughts: In this final step, family and community are especially highlighted in more elaborate gestures of care. It was really cool listening to this process because it’s not something I have witnessed in American weddings. While in American weddings the bride and groom do receive gifts, it’s not to the extent that a procession is undertaken to not only give the bride everything she needs but also help her move in. When I was in Nigeria last winter, I actually got to see this step of the marriage rights take place. The bride was ushered into the home of her husband’s parents and the men of the community would one by one carry gifts into the house. Gifts ranged from bags of rice to whole fridges and stoves, and even whole plots of land. This was amazing to hear because it highlights how united the family and community are in rallying behind the newlyweds. The community as a whole wants to make sure that the new union is prosperous and wants nothing but the best. I appreciate this gesture because I got to see how happy and warm the newlyweds were. Knowing that the community around them is all in support of them, it is a perfect way to kick off a happy union. 

Ojinnaka-Folk Title/Name

Context: This name was given to my dad by my grandfather or his father. This name is a title given to sons who have surpassed the expectations of their father. 

  • The name Ojinnaka means that he is greater than his age-mates because of his father. Meaning that the greatness of his father is passed down to his son.
    • Thoughts: This was something that I never knew about so learning about the significance of my dad’s given name was really eye-opening. Like I stated before with my mom, names in my culture are very significant because they are given on the basis of a wide variety of things. Names can be given based on traits and characteristics displayed during the time spent in your mother’s womb, you could be named based on the day you were born, the environment you were born in, or as a thank you to God for bringing you into the world. Every name has a meaning and is something that is very important when it’s given. My dad’s name was given to him by his father because he made my grandfather proud and wanted to mark this by bestowing the name Ojinnaka to him. I enjoyed learning about this because it really opened my eyes and made me value my name even more. Names are really cool because they carry so much weight in a variety of contexts and cultures. I believe all names have meaning and value, and learning about this reassured that belief.

Undie Run-UCLA Folk Tradition

Context: This is a folk tradition that occurs at UCLA during finals week as a means of blowing off steam, my brother learned this tradition as a freshman and gave his opinions on the tradition and its value.

K: So ya….uh. Undie Run is basically a quarterly tradition at UCLA in which the Wednesday of finals week, where….uh at…I wanna say starting at midnight….ya right at midnight. 

Basically, everybody that’s capable….comes to…um…under the bridge…across from UCLA. 

It’s a certain start point at UCLA that everybody gets to in their underwear and then we run from there up until the top of Janss Steps which is at UCLA and basically…uh.. its kind of a..its a way in which you commemorate finals. 

It’s just a tradition…uh… I don’t know how long we’ve been doing it for.

K: It’s important to us because it’s like…it’s just tradition. 

It’s the student experience. I know that like I remember like..um..some of my older friends like they would have their sashes.

Like you would see seniors with their graduation sashes doing it….you know…its..its just a college experience…a college thing…fundamentally it’s a UCLA college thing.

K: Um..why underwear…you know that’s…actually….you know  I don’t ….

Some people can wear like their pajamas….you know..but typically you wear your boxers, wear like….uh..wear like leggings…you know what I’m sayin…if you’re a dude.

You know people are wearing…you know…they..they determine their spectrum as to what constitutes as underwear. 

Thoughts: After interviewing my older brother about UCLA’s Undie Run tradition, it honestly made me laugh at first because I thought it was ridiculous for students to run while practically naked and not get in trouble. When I was in high school they banned having any kind of senior prank or event because of a previous year so I never had the chance to do anything to commemorate my high school graduation. Hearing my brother describe the Undie Run gave me the nostalgia that he must have felt coming in as a freshman and being introduced to this folk tradition. The Undie Run is a unique tradition because its meaning is subjective to each individual person and its something that continues to live on with both the students and the school. As a freshman, my brother’s experience was less sentimental because he had just arrived at UCLA and was getting used to his environment and its many traditions. However, for the senior friends that he described the meaning was different. The Undie Run for them meant that they were not only commemorating their finals being over but were also celebrating four or so years of hard work as they were about to leave UCLA and this run would be there last. I would never have imagined a large group of people collectively running in their underwear, it sounds so strange, but that seems to be the beauty of folklore in this case. A tradition like the Undie Run is something that I view as strange because, as a student at USC, I’m not apart of the culture. As a sophomore at USC, I understand how events like these can be an important feature of the college experience like my brother emphasized. Now that he is a senior, he was finally able to participate in his last Undie Run as a UCLA Bruin and was able to fully appreciate its importance and commemorate all his hard work.

For another version see: Vassar, Ethan, and Ethan Vassar. “Seriously: Undie Run Cancellation Threatens CSU Admission Rates, Sponsors.” The Rocky Mountain Collegian, 7 May 2019, collegian.com/2019/05/category-opinion-seriously-undie-run-cancelation-threatens-csu-admission-rates-sponsors/.

“Iru di nma adiro nma itu mbo”-Onitsha Proverb

Context: This is a proverb that is native to my dad’s village and he learned it as a child growing up in Onitsha. Proverbs like this were a prominent means of giving advice and life lessons especially to the children of the tight-knit community.

  • “Iru di nma adiro nma itu mbo”
    • Transliterated Proverb
      • Iru: face
      • Di nma: is nice, beautiful
      • Adiro: is not
      • Nma: nice
      • Itu: to throw
      • Mbo: nail
    • Full Translation: A beautiful face is not good to be scratched, meaning do not ruin a good relationship or look for trouble where there is none.
      • Explanation: This proverb is especially important to my dad because it represents a warning against telling lies or spreading unsupported allegations about someone. My dad learned this from his own father. This expression presents a metaphorical scenario where an individual scratches[falsely accuses] a beautiful[innocent]person. It means that a person in power should not accuse someone without any valid evidence and that in doing so you are not only telling a lie about that person, but you are also ruining a possible relationship and starting unnecessary trouble.  

Thoughts: I have to agree with the premise of this proverb because I grew up in a household that always emphasized the importance of never telling lies and not starting trouble. The saying is indicative of many of the life experiences that my parents have amassed living here in the United States. My dad, in particular, suffered a lot of hardships from individuals that would take his kindness and trust for granted and would try to discredit his character. However, this proverb speaks to a profound belief that my dad possesses. He believes in the law of karma, or the idea that if you lead a good life and stand by truth as opposed to lies that your good nature will be rewarded. I grew up with the heavy rhetoric of telling the truth and I honestly believe that it is one of the reasons why I am not a good liar. This proverb really speaks a lot of truth into who I am as a person, and who my dad still is. While I still tell the occasional white lie here and there, I do my best, to tell the truth, and I hope to pass that on to everyone I interact with.

“Onitsha ji azu awu”-Onitsha Proverb

Context: This is a proverb that is native to my dad’s village and he learned it as a child growing up in Onitsha. Proverbs like this were a prominent means of giving advice and life lessons especially to the children of the tight-knit community.

  • “Onitsha ji azu awu”
    • Transliterated Proverb
      • Onitsha: Onitsha
      • Ji: uses
      • Azu: the back
      • Awu: urine
    • Full Translation: Instead of confronting troublesome people, you avoid conflict by making an excuse to leave[i.e. use the restroom] and leave that environment through the back door.
      • Explanation: According to my dad, this is a pinnacle saying among men in the village of Onitsha, where he grew up. This saying serves to represent the ability of an Onitsha man to assess a situation and leave when it is appropriate for him to do so, avoiding conflict and maintaining his dignity and pride as a man. My dad learned the village elders of Onitsha and it stands as a saying to exercise heightened awareness in regards to the safety of your environment and or surroundings.

Thoughts: While this appears to be a proverb directed towards men within my dad’s village, I believe that this proverb can be taken as a message for both men and women.  Growing up my parents would always tell me and my brother to always be aware of our surroundings and be observant so as to prevent walking into danger. When I left for college, the premise of the saying became very real for me because I heard a lot of tragic events and or stories in regard to people finding themselves in situations that they did not understand how to escape. Now as a young adult, I exercise the message of this proverb almost every time I leave the safety of my apartment or dorm room. There have been situations where I have had disagreements or conflict with people that I know and a lot of times I always ended up leaving the situation and returning later when things have cooled down. While I agree that some situations can prompt one to leave and never return, I do believe that this caution can still be exercised by staying in a risky but manageable situation. There is always a level of conflict associated with working with others, so I think it’s important to exercise caution but also do it in a way that is solution-oriented and non-escalating. In this context I wouldn’t just leave an instance of conflict unresolved, instead, I would try to deescalate the situation and find a solution but if the situation gets out of hand then I will figure out a way to leave.