Let the Igbo people return to Odinani

Kingdom Nri - King Cuo of Zhongshan

Oba of the Benin Empire (this is controversial, however, as the word "obi" literally means "heart" in most Igbo dialects and possibly more a metaphorical reference to royalty than a loan word from or Edo) The Igbo of Nri developed against it a state system supported by ritual power.

Kingdom Nri was a religious community, a kind of theocratic state, that developed in the central heartland of the Igbo region. The Nri had a taboo symbolic code with six types. This included human (like twins), animal, object, time, behavior, language and place taboos. The rules regarding these taboos were used to educate and govern Nri's subjects. This meant that although certain Igbo may have lived under a different formal administration, all followers of the Igbo religion had to obey the rules of belief and obey their representative on earth.

An important symbol among the Nri religions was the omu, a delicate palm frond that was used to sacralize and hold back. It was used as protection for traveling delegations or to protect certain objects. A person or object with an omu branch was considered protected. The influence of these symbols and institutions went well beyond Nri, and this unique Igbo socio-political system proved capable of controlling areas wider than villages or towns.

For many centuries the people in the areas related to Nri were committed to peace. This religious pacifism was rooted in the belief that violence is an abomination that pollutes the earth. Instead, the Eze Nri could explain a form of excommunication by the Odinani Nri against those who violate certain taboos. Members of the Ikénga were able to isolate entire communities through this form of ritual siege.

Eze Nri

The Eze Nri was the title of the ruler of Nri with ritual and mystical (but not military) power. He was more of a ritual figure than a king in the traditional sense. The Eze Nri was elected after an interregnum period while voters waited for supernatural powers to manifest in the new Eze Nri. It was installed on the Anambra River after a symbolic trip to Aguleri. The authorities must be notified prior to this trip in order to obtain the ududu-eze, the royal scepter. There the process of paying homage to all the necessary shrines / deities in Aguleri through the new Eze Nri, the visit to Menri's tomb in Ama-Okpu, the collection of Ofo, the purification of the virgin boy in order to receive the tone from the chosen diver in Umuezeora Aguleri, who sits on the throne of Eri in Obu-Gad in Enugwu Aguleri of the new Eze-Nri, before returning to Nri on the seventh day for a symbolic burial and exhumation, and finally being anointed with white clay Symbol of purity. After his death he was buried in a wood-lined chamber. The Eze Nri was a divine ruler in every way.


While the Eze Nri lived relatively secluded from his followers, he employed a group of officials called ndi Nri. These were ritual specialists, easily recognized by scarifications on the face or ichi, who traveled with ritual peace wands to cleanse the earth of human crimes. The ndi Nri exercised authority over large areas of Igboland and had the power to install the next Eze Nri.

Areas under the influence of Nri, called Odinani Nri, were open to Ndi Nri, who traveled in them to perform rituals and provide abundance of harvest or restoration of harmony in local affairs. Local men within the Odinani Nri could represent the Eze Nri and share his moral authority by buying a number of ranked titles called Ozo and Nze. Men with these titles were known as mbùríchi and became an extension of the Nri religious-political system. They controlled the means for agriculture and found guilt or innocence in disputes.

Both the Ndi Nri priests and the nobility of mbùríchi nobility belonged to the Ikénga, the right hand. The Ìkénga god was one devoted to achievement and power, both associated with the right hand.


Nri retained its far-reaching authority well into the 16th century. The peace prescribed by the Nri religion and enforced by the presence of the Mbùríchi allowed trade to flourish. In Nris bronze objects such as horses, which did not survive in tsetse fly-infested Nri, and mussels, which would have to be transported far from the coast due to the distance of Nri from the coast, are depicted. A Nri dignitary was unearthed in ivory, which also indicates that there was a trade wealth among the Nri. Another source of income would have been the income that mbùríchi brought back through travel.

Unlike many African economies of the time, Nri practiced neither slave ownership nor trade. Certain parts of the Nri domain did not recognize slavery and served as a place of refuge. After the selection of the tenth Eze Nri, any slave who stepped on Nri ground was considered free.

Nri had a network of domestic and foreign trade on which its economy rested in part. Other aspects of Nri's economy were hunting and agriculture. Eri, the heavenly being, was the first to "count" the days by their names, eke, oye, nkwo and nkwo, which were the names of their four ruling spirits. Eri revealed the opportunity of time to the Igbo, who would use the days for the exchange of goods and knowledge.



Igbo-Ukwu, part of the kingdom about 18 kilometers south of Nri itself, practiced bronze casting techniques using elephant head motifs. The Igbo-Ukwu bronzes are often compared to those of Ife and Benin, but they come from a different tradition and are associated with the Eze Nri by descendants of Eri. In fact, the earliest body of Nigerian bronzes was discovered in the Igbo area east of the Niger at a site dating back to the 9th century, making it older than Ife.

It appears that Nri had both an artistic and a religious influence on lower Niger. The sculptures found there are bronze like those in Igbo-Ukwu. The great sculptures of the Benin Empire, in contrast, were almost always brass with more and more zinc added over time.

Igbo-Ukwu's bronzes pay special attention to details depicting birds, snails, chameleons and other natural aspects of the world like a hatching bird. Other pieces are pumpkins and vessels, which were often provided with handles. The pieces are so fine that tiny insects were contained on the surfaces of some while others are decorated with bronze wires. None of these additional details were done separately; The bronzes were all made of one piece. Igbo-Ukwu gave evidence of an early bronze casting tradition in Nri.


Religious beliefs were central to Kingdom Nri. Oral tradition Nri says that the Eze Nri could be given a bonus of yams and cocoyams while blessings were given in return. It was believed that Nri's influence and the copious amount of food were a reward for the ruler's blessings. Most of all, Nri was a holy land for the Igbo who obeyed his edicts. It served as a place where sins and taboos could be removed by simply entering. Even Igbo, who lived far from the center of power, sent abnormal children to Nri for ritual cleansing rather than having them killed, as was sometimes the case with dwarfs or children who cut their upper teeth in front of their lower teeth.

Nri People believed that the sun was the abode of Anyanwu (light) and (fertility). Agbala was the collective spirit of all holy beings (human and non-human). Agbala was the perfect agent of Chukwu or Chineke (the creator god) and chose his human and non-human agents only on the basis of their merit; it knew no politics. It transcended religion, culture and gender and worked with the humble and the truthful. They believed that Anyanwu, the light, was the symbol of human perfection that everyone must seek, and Agbala was commissioned to lead man there.


The Nri tradition was based on the concept of peace. Truth and harmony. It spread this ideology through the ritual ozo traders who maintained Nri influence by traveling and spreading Nri practices like the "Ikenga" to other communities. These men were identified by the ritual facial scarifications they had undergone. Nri believed in the purification and purification of the earth (a supernatural power for Nri named Ana and Ajana) from human atrocities and crimes.

Year counting ceremony

The Igu Aro Festival (Count of the Year) was a royal festival with which the Eze Nri maintained his influence over the communities under his authority. Each of these communities sent representatives to pay tribute during the ceremony to demonstrate their loyalty. In the end, the Eze Nri would give the representatives a yam medicine and a fertility blessing for their communities. The festival was viewed as a day of peace and certain activities were forbidden, such as planting plants before the day of the ceremony, splitting wood, and making unnecessary noise. Igu Aro was a regular event where the Eze could speak directly to all the communities below him.

Nri scarification

An Igbo man with aristocratic points of view known as Ichi

The ritual scarification in Nri was known as Ichi, of which there are two styles. the Nri style and the Agbaja style. In the Nri style, the carved line went from the center of the forehead to the chin. A second line ran across the face, from the right cheek to the left. This was repeated to create a pattern that should mimic the rays of the sun.In the agbaja style, circles and semicircular patterns are added to the initial incisions to represent the moon. These scarifications were given to the representatives of Eze Nri; the mbùríchi. Scarification was Nri's way of honoring the sun they worshiped and was a form of ritual cleansing.

Scarification had its origins in Nri mythology. Nri, the son of Eri, who founded the city Nri, is said to have asked Chukwu (the great god) because of hunger. Chukwu then ordered him to cut off the heads of his first son and daughter and to plant them, creating a "blood bond" between the Igbo and the earth deity Ana. Previously, Nri was ordered to mark Ichi on both of their foreheads. Coco yam, a female crop, sprang from his daughter's head, and yam, the staple food of the Igbo peoples, sprang from his son's head; Chukwu had taught domestication of Nri plants. Because of this, Eze Nri's first son and daughter had to undergo scarification seven days after birth, with Eze Nri's daughter being the only woman to receive Ichi. Nri, the son of Eri, also learned about yam medicine (ogwu ji). People from other Igbo communities made pilgrimages to Nri to receive this knowledge in exchange for annual honors.

See also


  • Anunobi, Chikodi (2006). Nri warriors of peace. Zenith Publisher's Trade Paperback Original. ISBN 0-9767303-0-8.
  • Basden, George Thomas (1966). Under the Ibos of Nigeria 1912. Routledge. ISBN 0-7146-1633-8.
  • Basden, George Thomas (1921). Among the Ibos of Nigeria: A Account of the Curious and Interesting Habits, Customs, and Beliefs of a Little-Known African People from One who has lived among them for many years in close and intimate conditions Seeley, service. p. 184
  • Chambers, Douglas (2005). Murder in Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia. Mississippi University Press. ISBN 1-57806-706-5.
  • Ehret, Christopher (2002). The civilizations of Africa: a history up to 1800. James Currey Publishing House. ISBN 0-85255-475-3.
  • Fasi, Muhammad; Hrbek, Ivan (1988). Africa from the seventh to the eleventh centuries. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-435-94809-1.
  • Garlake, Peter S. (2002). Early art and architecture of Africa. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-284261-7.
  • Griswold, Wendy (2000). Bearing Witness: Readers, Writers, and the Novel in Nigeria. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-05829-6.
  • Isichei, Elizabeth Allo (1997). A history of African societies up to 1870. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-45599-5.
  • Lovejoy, Paul (2000). Identity in the shadow of slavery. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8264-4725-2.
  • Ogot, Bethwell A. (1992). Africa from the 16th to the 18th centuries. University of California Press. ISBN 0-435-94811-3.
  • Onwuejeogwu, M. Angulu (1981). An Igbo Civilization: Nri Kingdom & Hegemony. Ethnographica. ISBN 978-123-105-X.
  • Onwuejeogwu, M. Angulu (1975). The Social Anthropology of Africa: An Introduction. Heinemann. ISBN 0-435-89701-2.
  • Uzukwu, E. Elochukwu (1997). Worship as Body Language: Introduction to Christian Worship: An African Orientation. Liturgical press. ISBN 0-8146-6151-3.

Coordinates: 6 ° 9.4′N 7 ° 1.6′E / 6.1567 ° N 7.0267 ° E / 6.1567 ;; 7.0267