After an extended delay I am back to write on select topics regarding women and society in pre-colonial and colonial Igbo land. This series of posts are based on reading Nwando Achebe’s The Female King of Colonial Nigeria: Ahebi Ugbabe.
When I really started delving into Nigerian history, I started close to home, that is I read and researched on Yoruba history. I thought (and still think!) Yoruba history is awesome, in particular the Yoruba philosophy, cosmology and worldview. However, I could not help but notice how there was little information out of the stereotypical on women in Yoruba history. For example, it remains hard to come across information on sex and Yoruba women, any Yoruba history book paints a picture that all women were virgins before marriage because pre-marital sex was a big disgrace. There is next to no mention of sex work. Even looking at the rituals surrounding female initiation ceremonies, which was usually an open place where sex could be discussed among other African ethnic groups, the Yoruba remain silent. Now I understand there are some information that is not meant to be shared but I will not lie, part of me genuinely wonders about historical accuracy and if “factual” statements to the historical attitudes of Yoruba towards sex are/were in any way influenced by colonialist puritanical Victorian values.
I have recently being introduced to Igbo history partly due to reading Nwando Achebe’s academic works and also due to Sugabelly‘s influence and help. I am genuinely pleased to say that from my introduction to Igbo pre-colonial history, women have been mentioned again and again. I wonder if this difference is part due to Nwando Achebe being my starting point. She writes candidly about sex work, woman-to-woman marriage, and Goddess marriage in Igboland. Other “standard” versions of Igbo history, the ones that are easy to come across online or in any Nigerian history book, those ones hardly ever mention women or female institutions outside of the Aba women’s riot of 1929.
My initial plan was to write three posts centred on women, sex and power in pre-colonial and colonial Igboland based on what I’d read from Nwando Achebe. The first post was going to deal with sex work, woman-to-woman marriage, and woman-to-Goddess marriage, the second would look specifically at Ahebi Ugbabe the “female king” of colonial Nigeria, while the last would form the conclusion and round up my impressions of women and power as discussed earlier here, matriarchy and patriarchy. However, in writing I found that three posts would not be enough. Woman-to-woman marriage is a hot topic that deserves an entire post on its own, so there will be four posts all together. Five really, including this introduction.
I believe this post is long enough for an introduction. I shall put up these posts weekly, the first one on sex work and marriage to Goddesses in pre-colonial and colonial Igboland should be up by Wednesday.