Ukara cloth

Ukara cloth
Ukara cloth detail, Etara community, Cross River State, Nigeria

Friday, 15 June 2018

Cross River Monoliths: Living Heritage Stones

Monolith custodian evokes ancestors through the capped stone, Òwòm community. I. Miller photo, 2016

Research on the carved “Akwanshi” monoliths of Cross River State, Nigeria, has led to the question: “How do contemporary inhabitants of the region relate to these centuries-old stones?” Thanks to concerned community members, we found some answers in a rural village at the bank of the upper Cross River.
In Calabar, Prophetess Justina Odey, whose spiritual name is Hebzibah, told me about her calling as a herbalist and healer. She is president of Shiloh Deliverance Ministry, which she describes as a Pentecostal church with over fifty members, but others may describe as a “healing center.” In an interview with Dr. Abu Edet of the University of Calabar and me, she reported being inspired by her great-aunt, a healer in the Bakor region famous for its “Akwanshi” carved monoliths, these days a five hour drive north from Calabar along the tortuous federal Calabar-Ikom highway.
Prophetess Justina Odey during interview, Calabar, 2016. I. Miller photo
Prophetess Odey's father Vincent Tawo told us his daughter received the spirit that guides her from his mother’s sister. His aunt was a healer, initiated through a 14 day solo retreat in the local forest, who ever after used her powers to protect villagers. A career police officer, Mr. Tawo felt his aunt’s powers protected him from the dangers of his job:
“My aunt said I will work and be retired but no harm will come to me. In fact, the group that joined the police force with me have all died, but I am still alive.“
Mr. Vincent Tawo during interview, Calabar, 2016. I. Miller photo
Mr. Tawo also told me about the living power of a monolith in the village:
“There in our village the stone was brought by our forefathers; the stone is respected and they believed the power of the street is controlled by the stone. The stone inside the village and the one outside is almost the same; that is why it is respected and the stone is carved with a face, hands, and so on. The stone is in the village square, and anything done in the village is being done by the stone.”
Tawo described a relationship between the monolith in the village, another carved one nearby, and the belief system of his community. In his pioneering report, Allison documented “A recently carved stone near the village” of Òwòm, indicating a relationship between earlier carved monoliths and more recent ones (Allison 1968: 41). Mr. Tawo also reported attempts to traffic the monolith for sale:
“There was a time when some people came to the village and met a chief to sell the stone to them; I was annoyed and told them the stone was our ancestors, that he doesn’t have any right to sell the stone.”
In 2016, these intriguing narratives led me to visit the village, called Òwòm, guided by Prophetess Hebzibah Odey, as she likes to be known. Upon arrival, the Clan Head, the custodian of the monolith, and several other key figures in the village were extraordinarily helpful. First the Clan Head poured libations with palm wine, alerting all that guests had arrived, requesting a peaceful visit.
HRH Ogaba Joseph Okojan, Clan Head, Iyala-Nkum, pours palm wine libation. I. Miller photo, 2016
The Clan Head presented a small monolith held inside a sculpted wooden vessel, with an iron spear and an iron symbol of royalty (known as íkà in Efik), that served as a community shrine.
Long round stone inside a carved wooden figure, with iron symbol. I. Miller photo, 2016
The Clan Head explained:
“The stone I showed to you is ancient and from my forefather Odioga; they use it to sacrifice to the ancestors of Òwòm village. They will call the ancestors to come and eat in the village; both men and women will be there and we cook pounded yam properly with palm wine. They will throw it on the ground and sacrifice it straight to the ancestors and throw blood with feathers so that good luck will follow the young ones and the unborn children; we pray for safe delivery, good luck, good job opportunities, no fights or troubles, etc. That is our tradition as inherited from our great grandfathers.
Orecho Eku means the stone used for sacrifice and to pray to the ancestors; wine and food is poured so that the ancestors will listen to both men and women, and it was done according to the way the ancient people did it.
We pray almost like singing; when pouring libation I call my grandfather and other paramount chiefs, then I move to the other villages along Iyala, we are five villages, and call all the chiefs and pour libation for my visitors so that all will return home safely.”
Tje Clan Head, Iyala-Nkum, stands with inherited symbols of authority. I. Miller photo, 2016
The monolith custodian then brought us to the monolith, a large basalt stone, with smaller stones around it: one was a carved miniature with a manila bar in front of it to represent prosperity. Many smaller round stones surrounded the monolith. 
The monolith shrine with surrounding stones, plants, and slit gong. The Egwi shrine is up the hill, left. I. Miller photo, 2016
In the early twentieth century, Talbot described such rounded stones as representing eggs and therefore the fecundity of locals in the Ekoi region (an umbrella term where the majority language is Éjághám).
“According to Ekoi superstition, all egg-shaped substances, such as oval stones, etc., exert a favourable influence on generation” (Talbot 1912: 122).
“All stones rounded by water action into oval form are sacred to Nimm. . . . The object of all is to promote fertility. They are looked upon as the ‘Eggs of Nimm’.” (Talbot 1912: 96).
Nimm, meaning ‘spirit’, is the Éjághám equivalent of Ndèm ‘spirit’ as known in Efik and Ibibio-speaking communities. Talbot described, Nimm as “above all, the object of the women’s devotion . . . Her priestesses have more power then those of any other cult, and the society which bears her name is strong enough to hold its own against the dreaded ‘Egbo [Ékpè] Club’.” (Talbot 1912: 2). Talbot further described how an Éjághám speaking community was founded through the interaction of representative stones of both Ékpè and Nimm initiation clubs, but that’s another story. 
The custodian placed a chief’s cap on the monolith and evoked the ancestors in the presence of village leaders. 
Monolith custodian beats the slit gong to announce our activity. I. Miller photo, 2016
Monolith custodian evokes community ancestors in the presence of the Clan Head. I. Miller photo, 2016
The custodian then led us a shrine up the hill used to protect locals against spiritual attacks. In front of the shrine was a circle of stones, known as Okwa in many Éjághám-speaking villages, where chiefs sat to make important decisions
Circle of stones on patio of Egwi shrine for chiefs to sit. I. Miller photo, 2016
The  custodian beats iron gongs at the Egwi shrine to announce our visit. I. Miller photo, 2016
Richard Ogagbo, born in 1949 in Òwòm, told me:
“I am a son to Mama Anejo Eyo the herbalist woman who died in 1993. She was a native doctor and everybody in Iyala knew her. There was a time when she started seeing all those things, she disappeared from the village and stayed in the bush for fourteen days before returning. She came out with fairies, who communicated with her and told her when anybody entered her room in her absence. There was a time she went to the farm and we were gossiping her but when she returned those fairies reported to her what was said. Such a person is called Onya brija meaning ‘fairy white’. The spirit is a bush spirit, not a mermaid, that is why it is called abrija.
She healed many people from disease; if you came to her she would heal you freely, she didn’t take money, that was the work she did. She would sleep and dream and tell you what will happen to you and it would happen. She helped many people around our area, so many people used to come here.
She would cast out witchcraft and make them confess, and after that they would be free. There is nobody like her again to reveal a witch. But healing of the bone, personally I know the medicine because she taught me as the son.”
The shrine custodian during interview, with Profetess Odey. I. Miller photo, 2016
 Another elder, Daniel Obono Agbo Òwòm, born 1925, told us about the shrine:
“This juju [shrine] is called Egwi. When evil is coming to the community, either witchcraft or water society, the juju kills it. Anybody disturbed by witchcraft or mermaids is brought here and we gather all the foods eaten by the juju, like fowl, and kill it. The juju will then stand with the person and help to heal them. The juju helps in all type of sickness.
The founder of this Egwi was Mr. Ojong Obaje; he started when he was young; while sleeping he dreamt all the medicines of the juju and when he rose saw what he dreamt. Many communities came here to buy this Egwi and when they got to their communities they changed the name, they don’t call it exactly as the founding name.”
 
Egwi shrine interior with stone base. I. Miller photo, 2016
James Onawu, a retired army man, returned to the village and was elected as the second in command to the chief of the shrine. He reported:
“The juju helps us everybody, both small and big. But when the church came, some people ran to the church and didn’t believe in it because of evildoers. Just few people are remaining to look after the juju and I am the spokesman to the juju.
The power the juju has is when somebody plans to kill another, the victim runs down to us and we do the spiritual things so that the juju will take care of that person. The juju drives wizards from the community and some of them have run to the church. Even there was a time I tried to do bad and the juju held me and I confessed before it left me.
Those that have gone to church the juju doesn’t fight them until when they want to do bad, that is when it can kill you. The juju is not a bad thing, it is close to God and protects the community and keeps everything in order. Even if there is war coming the juju doesn’t allow it to come down.”

This narrative suggests that the juju is a focal point for public commentary, a forum where individuals can accede to collective needs and requirements. But those who may be unjustly exploiting their neighbors can dodge the collective will by running to the church, with a veneer of respectability paid for in tithes.

This short but productive visit made it clear that the monolith heritage of the region is still very strong in some communities, despite many contrary forces embodied in persisting colonial legacies of the patriarchal church, government and rudimentary education that tend to dismiss such heritage practices as “primitive” and “demonic.” In response, some local churches use biblical names and phrases as a public shield while in fact the main focus of their ministries are healing through herbal remedies and prayers as practiced in inherited traditions. 

Signboard for Prophetess Justina Odey “Hebzibah" Ministry, Calabar. I. Miller photo, 2016
In Calabar, Profetess Odey remembered her conversion experience of five years ago as “the light of God came upon me burning so severely and talking to me.” She told me:
“Six months after I had started, God started showing me herbs and their different purposes and cures. I go to the bush and pluck them myself, I process them and give to patients, and they take it home free of charge. He [god] asked me to write this information down, and warned me that I should not collect one naira from anybody, that he is giving me this privilege on a platter of gold. He showed me all those who had died for lack of medicine, and he now said that he is showing me how to help as many people as may come to me. And that is what I have been doing, by the grace of God. Up to today God has not allowed anyone to die in my hands and He will never do. These five years have past as if it were one, with no rest.”
Signboard for Prophetess Justina Odey “Hebzibah" Ministry, Calabar. I. Miller photo, 2016

Sources
Literature:
Allison, P. 1968. Cross River Monoliths. Lagos: Nigerian Federal Department of Antiquities.
Talbot, Percy Amaury. 1912. In the Shadow of the Bush. London: William Heinemann.

Interviews:
—Prophetess Justina Odey 'Hebzibah', president of Shiloh Deliverance Ministry, 47C Atamuno Street, Calabar South. Interview  with Ivor Miller and Abu Edet April 9, 2016, Calabar. Revised by Prophetess Odey on May 12, 2016.
—Richard Ogagbo. Born in Òwòm village, 1949. Interview May 12, 2016, Òwòm village.
HRH Ogaba Joseph Okojan, Clan Head, Iyala-Nkum, Ikom Local Government Area, Cross River State, Nigeria. Born 10 April, 1945. Interview May 12, 2016.
James Onawu. Interview May 12, 2016, Òwòm village.
—Daniel Obono Agbo Òwòm, born 1925.
—Vincent Tawo, father of Justina Odey Hephzibah. Interview 29 April, 2016.

























Saturday, 2 June 2018

Tata Ikpi (1959-2018): "Each person sees his own Ékpè"


Chief 'Tata' Ikpi with Miller, holding a copy of Voice of the Leopard, Ugep, 2015.
Chief Eteng ‘Tata’ Ikpi, the Iyamba Ékpè of Lebolkom village in Bikobiko Ward of Ugep, generously introduced me to the Ékpè culture of his community, and throughout the entire Middle Cross River region. Tata's concern for the living heritage of his people made him an ally in my research to understand the West African sources of Cuban Abakuá practice. After meeting in Calabar through mutual friends in 2010, Tata read my book Voice of the Leopard, becoming an enthusiastic supporter of the project. First, he wrote a letter in support of the book, which helped lead to the publication of a Nigerian edition by The Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC) in Lagos, 2011.

Secondly, Tata guided me to meet leading custodians of Ékpè in the Yakurr L.G.A. area, to understand its functions, history and protocols. This was important, because leaders of Calabar communities were not generally aware that Ékpè exists in the Yakurr region. Research began by presenting me to the Obol Lopon (Village Head) of Ugep to announce my research plan. In reference to a statue in front of his palace of "Mma Esekpa, the Great Mother of Ugep Eburutu," the Obol Lopon explained that a vital feature of Ugep is the spiritual presence Mma Esekpa, a founder of the Ugep community centuries ago: "Mma Esekpa is our fertility deity, and the protector of this great community; in times of trouble, in times of invasion, she is always around the Ugep people, and she sends messages to the Obol Lopon through people who see dreams, who go into trances."

Cement sculpture of "Mma Esekpa, the Great Mother of Ugep Eburutu." Palace of the Obol Lopon, Ugep. I. Miller photo, 2010.
After informing the Obol Lopon, Tata gave me a tour of nearby communities with Ékpè, including Agoi-Ibami, Ekori and Idomi in Yakurr L.G.A., Ediba in Abi L.G.A, and Orra community in Afikpo, Ebonyi State. The presence of Ékpè in many communities is signaled by the memorial statues of past heroes wearing the blue and white ùkárá cloth used exclusively by members. The following photographs show some of the highlights:

Tata Ikpi, front, with Ékpè chiefs of Ugep and Miller, at Obol Etim Ubi Square, Ugep, 2010.

Tata was helpful to other scholars working in the Ugep area, like Dr. Gitti Salami, who wrote many articles about Yakurr culture, some of them about artists who created cement statues, as seen in many monuments pictured here.

Ute Röschenthaler's extraordinary book about the diffusion of initiation clubs in the Cross River region acknowledges "Chief Tataw (Obong Ekpe of Bikobiko-Lebokum quarter)" of Ugep for help during research (Röschenthaler 2011: 553).

Cement statue of former Idomi community leader wearing ùkárá Ékpè cloth, Idomi, Yakurr L.G.A., I. Miller photo, 2010.

 “Obol Igbo, the Unchallenged Ruler and Founder of Épèntì Village, Ekori Obubra, L.G.A.” Ekori, Yakurr L.G.A. I. Miller photo, January 2010.

Ovai Martin Okpewuru (1932-2003), Ediba community, Abi L.G.A. I. Miller photo, 2010.

“Ovai Ina Eyo (1863-1956).” Enugwehuma village, Abi L.G.A. I. Miller photo, 2010.

Tata taught me that in Ugep, membership in Ékpè is not inherited, an idea expressed in this Ékpè song:

Ònèn-ònèn íkáá yá nwé
person-person sees his own (word by word translation)
‘Each person sees his own Ékpè’ (poetic meaning)

Even though a father is an Ékpè member, the son may not be eligible. One doesn’t just decide to be initiated into Ékpè: one's father, uncle, brother, or a close relative who is an Ékpè member must die, and then the Ékpè members will ask that family to produce a member. They will screen that selected person rigorously, because in Ugep, only the worthy may enter, because the function of Ékpè there is primarily judicial.
Palm wine terracotta vessel for Ékpè members, archives of 'Tata' Ikpi. I. Miller photo, 2010.
On one occasion Tata and I transversed the Cross River to join an Ékpè celebration in Afikpo, to honor Máàzí Otu, a son of Afikpo who had lived in Ugep for 28 years as a pharmacist, was married to an Ugep woman, and became an Ékpè initiate in Ugep.

Tata Ikpi, Ezeogo Brendan Otu, Ivor Miller and Máàzí Otu, Orra, Afikpo, 2010.

One day Tata phoned me in Calabar, instructing me to "drop whatever you are doing and come straight to Ugep, there's an Ékpè event in a nearby village." It turned out to be the penultimate day in a seven year ritual cycle of Agoi-Ibami, when Ékpè 'escapes into the bush', and for three months, the entire community searches for the 'spiritual leopard', which can only be captured with the aide of the women leaders of the community.
Tata Ikpi standing on the Ékpè stones of Agoi-Ibami to chant his status. I. Miller photo, 2010.
Agoi-Ibami had an unusually rich Ékpè culture, including complex nsìbìdì signs, and the participation of young, old, men and women in its seven year cycle, so I later returned many times to work with community leaders to document their practices.
Ikpi, the local Iyamba, Miller, and Andong, in the Agoi-Ibami Ékpè hall, 2010.

Funerary rites schedule for the Obol Lopon, Ugep, 2015. I. Miller photo.
When the Obol Lopon passed away after many decades of leadership, Tata invited me to the funerary rites, which included the Ékpè initiation of the new Obol Lopon, where he presented Voice of the Leopard to the incoming paramount leader.

Tata presents Voice of the Leopard to the Obol Lopon during his Ékpè initiation rites. I. Miller photo, 2015.
Miller discusses Cross River region heritage with the Obol Lopon, Ikpi and other chiefs, Ugep, 2015.

Sadly, Tata passed away in March, 2018. In his funerary program was written:

“Replacing his father in the Ékpè Society, he cherished it so much and learned its doctrines fast. It therefore did not take him much time to become the Obong Ékpè of Lebolkom, Bikobiko – Ugep. As Obong Ékpè, he doubled as the Youth leader or better still, Chief of the youths for a long time. During his reign as many here present can testify, indiscipline generally among youths in Lebolkom was reduced to the barest minimum. You dare not involve yourself in any misconduct or indiscipline. If you do and you are brought before Obong Ékpè and his Youth Council, and your crime is proven true, the devil that sent you will be the same devil to come and rescue you.

            His reign brought about peaceful co-existence among his people and community, just as he also championed a clean, healthy and hygienic environment for sustainable growth and development.

            In recognition of his deep concern and untiring efforts towards community growth and development, the Bikobiko Council of Chiefs in 2006 awarded him the chieftaincy title of Obol Okowen 1 of ACC, Bikobiko – Ugep, a position he held until death. Tata was [a] socialite indeed, a fine and eloquent speaker with a disarming dimple smile, who positively touched the lives of friends and other people too numerous to mention here.”

Tata and Miller during an Ékpè rite, Ugep, 2014.

Sám kání (thanks very much) Tata!, you changed the lives of many in positive ways; you acted responsibly as a leader and role model. Your example will help those privileged to know you to carry on and emulate your example!

Sources

Miller, Ivor. 2009. Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba. U P of Mississippi. (2011, Nigerian edition by the Center for Black and African Arts and Civilization [CBAAC], a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture).

Röschenthaler, Ute M. 2011. Purchasing Culture: The Dissemination of Associations in the Cross River Region of Cameroon and Nigeria. Trenton, NJ: African World Press.

Salami, Gitti. 2013. “Concrete Aspirations: Modern Art at the Roundabout in Ugep.” A companion to Modern African Art. Eds., G. Salami & M. Blackman Visona. John Wkey & Sons.

Interview with Obol Lopon, His Royal Highness Obol Ubi Ujong Inah (born 1930), the Obol Lopon of Ugep and Paramount Ruler of Yakurr, September 12, 2014. Revised by Chief Paulinus Eteng 1 (born 1935), the Secretary to the Obol Lopon.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Ẹ́bị́rị́bá, an Ìgbò-speaking community with links to Cuban Abakuá

Cuban Abakuá mask, 1870s (left); Ẹ́bị́rị́bá funerary mask, 2015 (right)
Ùmọ́ọ̀n Ékpè mask, Cross River State, Nigeria. I. Miller photo, 2010

Ékpè masks in Ẹ́bị́rị́bá community.  I. Miller photos, 2016

Ẹ́bị́rị́bá (colonial spelling ‘Ábíríbá’) is an Ìgbò-speaking community in Abia State, southeastern Nigeria, known by locals as “small London.” The nickname derives from Ẹ́bị́rị́bá’s centuries-old tradition of traders, who brought wealth home to build elaborate homes when possible, and who value western education, as well as their indigenous traditions. The Ẹ́bị́rị́bá traders who worked along the Cross River and into Cameroon created a guild called “Ábíríbá Umong.” This guild owns Ékpè in Ẹ́bị́rị́bá, and they are represented by an Ékpè canoe.
“Ábíríbá Umong” Ékpè canoe in performance, Calabar. I. Miller photo, 2015

Ẹ́bị́rị́bá migration narratives claim that Ùmọ́ọ̀n community on the Cross River was their residence in the distant past. But from the 1700s, those Ẹ́bị́rị́bá who worked along the Cross River referred to the entire region as "Umong", since Ùmọ́ọ̀n island on the river was a direct link to the Calabar port. Ẹ́bị́rị́bá historian Ijekpa Kalu Ijekpa wrote:

"With Umon as a beachhead, Abiriba smithery and enterprise gained entry into Efik land. It was extended as well to all the important commercial centers in Ibibio, Annang, Eket as well as the inland port of the Ekois and other sub tribes of the Upper Cross River. Because of this, the Abiriba traders in this region became known as Abiriba Umon or the Abiribas of Umon region or better still, as the Abiriba of the River towns (Abiriba Mba mini)." (Kalu Ijekpa 2007: 120).

As Kalu Ijekpa indicates, Ùmọ́ọ̀n culture has become important in Ẹ́bị́rị́bá, as shown by the name of the canoe mask illustrated above. Independently, Ùmọ́ọ̀n influence also reached Cuba where in Havana, an Abakuá lodge is called “Apapa Umon” (Cabrera 1988: 63).
            The artistic heritage of Ùmọ́ọ̀n Ékpè masks is clearly reflected in an 1800s Cuban Abakua performance, on the one hand, and in that of Ẹ́bị́rị́bá on the other, in contrast to other Ékpè masks elsewhere in the Cross River region. The visual similarity is also accompanied by a ritual one: the Ùmọ́ọ̀n, Ẹ́bị́rị́bá, and Cuban Ékpè masks (as in the images above) may touch their knees to the ground, while in Calabar, an Ékpè mask that did this would be fined.
            To understand these historic links, Miller traveled to Ẹ́bị́rị́bá several times at the invitation of community members, who have family ties with Calabar, Ugep and Arochukwu, where their ancestors were blacksmiths and traders, participating in the infamous commerce with European merchants of slaves and other commodities.
Beaded chewing-stick bag created by leaders of Ishie Town, an historic Ìgbò section of Calabar, for Chief Kalu Ndukwe of Ábíríbá, 1992. A sign of historic links between both communities. I. Miller photo

Ítù Éyè Annual Ceremony

Ẹ́bị́rị́bá community leaders are admirable for their love of heritage, commerce and education. Every July, Ẹ́bị́rị́bá community holds a ceremony called Ítù Éyè, meaning “to pronounce the laws” (Ítù ‘to pronounce’; éyè ‘taboo’). This rite is performed by the Enachioken, the Eze or ruler of Ẹ́bị́rị́bá, with the assistance of the Chief of Ihungwu (a village in Ameke) and the Chief of Amaogudu, representatives of Ẹ́bị́rị́bá’s three major quarters: Ameke, Agboji and Amaogudu.
Sign for the Ítù Éyè gazebo used annually to pronounce community laws. I. Miller photo, 2016
This gazebo was created by an age-grade, an example of the system that organizes youth into lifetime comradeship, encouraging each other to excel through healthy competition. This sign reads:
“1964. Obu Itu Eye at Amuku Ábíríbá. Erected by Akanu Age Grade (Uke Ji Agbala Ndikon Na Ndinvom) Ábíríbá, in commemoration of their celebration of Uche Festival in 1964 at the age of 54 years during the reign of the Paramount Chief Ikpe Mba 1, Eze Otisi of Ábíríbá, Chief Ibe Agu of Aboji, Ngdieke of Amogudu.”
The Ítù Éyè gazebo in Ameke square, next to the Enachioken’s palace. I. Miller photo, 2016
Before Ítù Éyè is done publicly, the Chief of Agboji, the Chief of Amogudu and the Enachioken meet to decide what laws are to be made, what laws are to be abolished, in addition to the bylaws regarding public health and works, agricultural production and holidays made by the seventeen village heads of Ẹ́bị́rị́bá. Each of the seventeen villages of Ẹ́bị́rị́bá have an Ékpè hall, often decorated with representative sculptures.
The entrance to an Ẹ́bị́rị́bá Ékpè hall, with sculptures of Ékpè masks and leaders at left, and a ‘totem pole’ in the center, with a bell to call members to order above. I. Miller photo, 2016
Ékpè hall sculpture exhibit the blue and white Ùkárá cloth of Ékpè culture. I. Miller photo, 2016

Ékpè hall totem pole. I. Miller photo, 2016

During the public Ítù Éyè, the entire community gathers.
The Enachioken and council face the Ẹ́bị́rị́bá community, waiting for the arrival of representatives of the community founders. I. Miller photo, 2016
As new laws are announced, the two other people with the Enachioken are Eze Amogudu and Eze Amugu; they represent the younger brothers of the original founder of Ẹ́bị́rị́bá, who moved away from Ndi Okogo (Ameke), where the Enachioken palace is. The first one, whose name was Chukwu, founded Umu-e-chukwu at Amaogudu; then the second child of the Enachioken, named Ngwu, founded Ihu-ngwu where it is today at Ẹ́bị́rị́bá. These people assemble when new laws are being made, and they are always present during the Ítù Éyè. 
The Enachioken, dressed in white for purity, and cabinet await the arrival of Eze Amogudu and Eze Amugu.
I. Miller photo, 2016
When the Umu-e-chukwu Eze is coming out, he waits at a point for the Eze of Ihu-ngwu to join him, and then the two of them move up to the podium to join the Enachioken.
One of two representatives of younger brothers of the Ébíríbá founder arrives to Ameke square, holding a staff of office. I. Miller photo, 2016
A second representative of the younger brother of the Ẹ́bị́rị́bá founder arrives to Ameke square in procession.
This Eze carries a broom with many strands, each one representing a family in the community.
I. Miller photo, 2016

The procession includes sacred objects of Ẹ́bị́rị́bá community, including an elephant’s tusk. I. Miller photo, 2016
The sacred objects are placed on the platform before the laws are announced. I. Miller photo, 2016
As each new law is proclaimed, the Enachioken receives a fresh palm frond from an elder. I. Miller photo, 2016
The Enachioken then throws the frond outwards to the leader of the presiding age grade. I. Miller photo, 2016
They may say for example, “From next year if a girl becomes pregnant, the man who laid with her must marry her; this law will govern us.” Then the Enachioken will throw the fresh palm frond outwards, and the leader of the age grade overseeing the implementation of the law of the land will pick it immediately, indicating that the law is accepted and will be implemented. As another pronouncement is made, another palm frond will be thrown out, and picked up by the age-grade leader, until all the laws to govern the community are pronounced. The leader of the governing age grade (an age grade normally governs for four years), will pick the frond, representing an instruction for the implementation of a new law; that is Ítù Éyè.
The leader of the age-grade awaits the palm fronds from the Enachioken; they will be placed inside the basket.
I. Miller photo, 2016
The age grade that receives the palm fronds holds them as sacred: if two persons are quarreling or disputing about a piece of land and the palm frond is presented, it is a halt order. Those who claim it must not enter that piece of land or building until the matter is settled, and the frond is removed. In the past when Ẹ́bị́rị́bá was going for war, they carried the palm fronds and it was a taboo to harm the person carrying the palm frond; he would go to declare war, then put the palm fronds in his mouth to return safely. When a corpse is being brought home, and the palm frond is displayed, all know that someone special is being brought home. It is a greatly revered symbol of peace.
After the pronouncement of the king and the laws are pronounced, in the evening there is dancing and wrestling. First at Amuku square and secondly at Udanta square, Amogudu, people dance and celebrate. During these events the slit gongs are played for excitement.
The wooden gong beaten during the wrestling match is called Ufi. I. Miller photo, 2016

A new monument called "Íkòrò Ábíríbá" was unveiled in the July 2016 Ítù Éyè event. I. Miller photo, 2016
Ufi is also very important during New Yam Festival. Then the larger gong called Íkòrò is beaten when a great thing is happening or about to happen, and also when an important person is entering the community.
 "Íkòrò Ábíríbá" monument. I. Miller photo, 2016
If there is war or an attack by an enemy, the Íkòrò will be played to alert the whole community. Those on their farms will rush home to find out what the Íkòrò has said; if it is war then they prepare to fight. Many people have their own Ufi, a smaller one in their home, to beat it for the celebration of New Yam Festival.
Wooden door with sculpted image of war dance. I. Miller photo, 2016
The Ikpirikpe war dance is common to Ẹ́bị́rị́bá, Ohafia, and Abam communities. The war dance song will tell listeners that in such a place such a hero did this and that. In the past they carried human skulls, but today they mainly carry carvings while dancing. In a war dance there is normally a singer, and people who beat two sticks together and drummers; the dancers are in front surrounded by two assistants to the left and the right. 

Thanks to the following for granting interviews to Dr. Ivor Miller:
His Majesty Eze Kalu Kalu Ogbu IV, the Enachoken of Ẹ́bị́rị́bá kingdom, the Paramount Ruler of Ébíríbá people.
Prince Ijekpa Urum Ijekpa ‘JJ’, from Ndi Onuegbe compound, Ihebu Ameke Ẹ́bị́rị́bá, Ohafia L.G.A. Abia State,
Mr. Ijekpa Kalu Ijekpa, son of the late Eze Ábíríbá Umon, Chief Kalu Ikejpa, and the author of Ábíríbá Civilization.
Mr. Ijekpa Kalu Ijekpa, author of Ábíríbá Civilization.
I. Miller photo, 2016

Published sources
Cabrera, Lydia. 1988. La Lengua Sagrada de los Ñañigos. Miami: Colección del Chicherekú en el exilio.
Kalu Ijekpa, Ijekpa. 2007. The Ábíríbá Civilization: Early days to the 20th Century A.D. Aba, Abia State: Heritage House Pubs. ISBN 978-978-084-525-4.