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Monday, January 18, 2021

Top six significant behaviors of the Igbos

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Igbo Chiefs traditional handshake


Top six significant behaviors of the Igbos


There are behaviors you find very common with an Igbo person in their day to day activity, they are so common that you wouldn't notice it or feel its significance except you're non-Igbo.

 

Here are the top six:

 


Salutations to address the public Wherever Ndigbo are gathered, you most likely will hear periodically "Kwenuo! Kwenuo!! Kwezuonu o!!!”


This is very common with meetings of the same age group or same societal class. The call is usually from an intending speaker and it is followed with a response from the audience. It is standard to call out at least three times, but one can make the call more than thrice depending on the mood of the audience or the level of attention the speaker wants from them.

 


Individual Salutation This is perhaps the best way Igbos distinguish age, class, title and gender.

It is very common to see young men in deep discussions and meetings with the older ones in Igbo land without any adherence to formalities inspired by age difference; this is because a typical Igbo community believes in the Igbo proverb when translated says "when a child has washed his hand, he can eat with elders". They also believe that "nwoke tochaa, ọ chere ịbe ya" which figuratively means " a man cannot lord over others that are still growing just because he is older".



However, it is in this personal greeting that one will be able to differentiate the hierarchy of men present in a gathering or a meeting. Usually among mates, it is a triple tap with the back of the hands (i.e the two men gently strike the back of their right palm/hand three times) then hands are shook properly on the fourth contact. For men in varying age groups or class, one is only allowed two back hand taps before the proper handshake. The man of a lower class, age or title is always the receiver in the handshake, in a case where they are both titled men or of same standing, one of the men (usually the younger in age or title) would be the one making word salutations and title praise simultaneously with the hand shake.



There is no clear procedure for a female to female greet. In a case where one of them is titled, the other lowers her back to get a gentle tap on the back. This is the same procedure when a female meets with a male of the same class or higher.

 

 

Breaking of kola(ịwa ọji)  This is a very complicated exercise for the younger generation hence, you see it being skipped more often than not with the rather sad mask of general prayers on the food.


The kola is a token of goodwill between a guest and his host, it is never rejected except in grave matters and it is also believed that where a kola is not offered, the visitor is not welcomed. In a case where kola cannot be offered for some reason that is very considerate to the visitor, the host must then say "biko, akokwana'm ọnụ Ọji" means "Please, do not mock me because of the absence of a kola". 



Kola is principally kolanut, but snacks and drinks are in recent times a good substitute for it. However, it is imperative to state that women culturally at not given kolanut or allowed to eat them when mistakenly offered.

 

 

Usage of proverbs ( ịtụ ịlu) Chinua Achebe wrote "proverb is the oil with which you eat words", 'words' there; represent yam.

The usage of proverbs is a very unique behavior of onye Igbo, one will usually hear them say "our people say ..." Or "it is said that...".


Perhaps the most ironic thing about proverbs is that there is a proverb that says "one who a proverb is explained to, because he was told and did not understand; that the bride price of his mother is a waste". This particular proverb has caused a lot of information to be lost in transmission; the listener will always grunt or nod in agreement whenever a proverb is used even though he or she might not have understood what was said. Verily, no one will want you to think that the bride price of their mother is a waste.

 


Flipping fingers or snapping fingers (ịgba aka) This is mostly done in reaction to an unpleasant surprise, a shocking revelation, or at receipt of an incredulous information. It is mostly accompanied by "Tufiakwa" which is regarded as but doesn't mean "God forbid".

 


For emphasis, depending on the weight of the incident or maybe just the dramatic tendency of the person, one can swirl their hand severally in a circular motion around their head and end with a loud snap of the finger. This is probably to let God know, that he or she is not joking about being protected from particular happenstance.


 

Igo ọfọ/ ịgọ ndu (prayers or blessings)  Mostly regarded now as prayers and thanks. Before now, during salutations or greetings as we have on the number two (2) of this countdown, when the hand shake receiver is hailing and saluting, the response from the other person mostly comes as blessings ( ịgọ ọfọ).

 


It is also commonly heard when an Igbo person is lamenting about a wicked act meted against them by another person. One may say this is the way they vent anger and frustration especially when it has to do with injustice or unfair treatment.


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