(Identifying Igbo Variants During the Era of the Slave Trade)
Ishaq D. Al-Sulaimani
Vernon (Alufiel) Grier, Ed.D
It is universally recognized that Igbo is the correct spelling of the tribe that currently comprises the majority of the inhabitants of south-eastern Nigeria and of whom are readily associated with the Biafran revolution, however during the time of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade the”Igbo Nation “ was divided into a number of sub-tribe variant
identities which were most commonly expressed in the Egbo,Egba Ebo and Ibo forms.
The purpose of this writing is to promote the understanding that the majority of the captives taken from Africa for enslavement in the Americas were of Igbo origins by identifying the role of the sub-tribe variants during the slave trade and their recognized status as being part of a once greater and more inclusive Igbo identity.
The majority of Igbo intellectuals continue to teach that the Igbo
variants such as the Ibo,Ebo,and Egbo are European corruptions of
the exclusively indigenous and proper Igbo.
In defense of their claim they often site the words of James Africanus Beale Horton who states that the Igbo spelling is the original of the nation,while avoiding his more detailed description concerning the indigenous usages of Ibo,Ebo and Egbo as it relates to the inhabitants of various towns and regions.
“ Egbo, Igbo, Ebo and Ibo are the various spellings met within books
describing the race that inhabits part of the coast. Amongst the soft Isuama and Elugu the soft Ibo or Ebo is used but amongst the inhabitants of the coast such as Bonny and Okrika the harsher name Egbo is prevalent. In the interior north of the territory the nations are called Igbo which appears more the original name of the inhabitants.” (HORTON 1969:154)
The altering of the name Igbo was initially implemented with the intent
of establishing independence from the “Greater Igbo entity”,while at the same time maintaining the natural ancestral link with the main and originating body.
The often hostile reaction and rejection on the part of the Igbo towards the seceding Egbo, Ebo and Ibo gradually weakened the bonds of brotherhood ultimately resulting in the emergence of such “non-Igbo” tribes as the Efik, Ibibio and Oron of Calabar,the Egba and Igbo-Mina of Yorubaland and the Ewe and Ga of Ghana and the Fongbe of Dahomey.
The altering of the letters in a name to create an independent identity
such as that of Egbo,Ebo,and Ibo which at some “ ancient “ point derived out of the original Igbo continued after the Biafran War in regards to the Iwerre people as pointed out by Professor Ben O. Nwabueze.
“ It is well to note that of the Igbo border communities in Benue State
as well as those in and around Port Hacourt now strenuously disclaim
their Igbo identity. This disclaimer is manifest in practical terms by the
latter changing their names of their villages by prefixing them with a “ R “ so that Umuokoro becomes Rumuokoro, Umuigbo becomes Rumuigbo, Umumasi becomes Rumumasi,Umukorusha becomes Rumukorosha and so on. The intention is to make them not look or sound like Igbo names.”
Throughout this presentation I will be using Igbo as an umbrella term
describing the tribe in a general sense and as a specific reference for the majority of the tribe presently inhabiting Southeastern Nigeria and of whom are readily associated with the Biafran revolution. Egbo will primarily refer to the Efik and Ibibio also known as the Cross River or Ekpe Tribes.
The term Ebo will refer to the Igbo descended Mina Tribes of Ghana and Benin(Dahomey) which include the Ewe, Fon(Fongbe) and the Ga-Adangbe. The Ebo classification will also include the Igbo descended captives of Angola, while Ibo will be applied historically to the “ Western Igbo “ and those of Mozambique.
Egba will be used to describe the largest Igbo descended tribe living in
Yorubaland (Southwest Nigeria) inhabiting the Osugun State,while Igbo-Mina will address another Igbo descended tribe living in the Kwara State of Yorubaland.
THE EGBO ARE IGBO –
The majority of the captives taken to the Americas were from the coastal Egbo tribes and were referred to as Calabaris.
Presently in Igboland they are known as the Efik,Ibibio,Oron and Ekoi etc. and are well associated with a secret society known as the Egbo Society.
Although the present day Efik and Ibibio living in Nigeria generally deny
ancestral relations with the Igbo, this was not always the case as described by A.E. Afigbo, Professor of History at the University of Nsukka.
“ Until three or four decades ago there were many Efik and Ibibio
communities which proudly laid claims to Igbo origins but today would
treat such suggestions as an affront. Here we find the classic example of the trick which time and political consciousness play on historical writings.”
The explorer William Balfour Baike writes in 1854 that the Efik mark
was formerly the same as that used by some Igbos but more recently they have adopted another.
Egbo captives meaning those such as the Igbo descended Efik and Ibibio were targeted throughout the entire period of the slave trade beginning with the Spanish and Portuguese traders of the 16th century and continuing to arrive in the Americas throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
The Aro slave trading network of Arochukwu first established itself in
1620 with the intent of enslaving the Egbo tribes. In regards to this task they settled in the most southeastern corner of Igboland,lands belonging to the semi-autonomous Egbo nation called Egbo-Shari.
Once settled, the Aro began to emulate and infiltrate the Egbo leaders in an attempt to deceitfully manipulate and redirect their governing institutions into a slave trading operative.
The coastal Egbo who were generally known to the slave traders as
Calabaris provided the majority of “ Igbo descended “ captives and were often referred to as KWA IBO. The general tendency to associate the Calabaris with “ Igbo “ is a result of the understanding that the Egbo tribes were related to the “ Greater Igbo Nation “ and therefore Herskovits refers to Calabari as a generic name for “ Ibos “ in the United States.
In Cuba it is understood that those known as Calabaris descend from
the Egbo tribes such as the Efik and Ibibio. During the time of the slave
trade the most powerful and numerous of the Egbo tribes were those
known as THE KWA. In generalizing the Egbo Nation with the dominant
Kwa tribe, all of the Egbo tribes were collectively known as Kwa Ibo.
Through the dominance of the Kwa tribe,the Egbo Society was also
known as the AbaKwa Society meaning of the Kwa people.To this day
the Egbo Society continues to actively function in Cuba.
The Egbo Society communicates by using a secret Igbo writing system
known as that of Nsibidi. Nsibidi symbols were recently discovered to be engraved on a number of African-American tombstones in Virginia. This most accurately attests to the Egbo ancestry of the deceased as these writings were sacredly maintained by the Egbo Society and were associated as Igbo through the undestanding that the Egbo tribes were of Igbo origins.
The word “Mbakara” which African captives used to describe the”white man” in the United States is of Egbo origins as it can be traced directly back to the Efik and Ibibio.
Egbo captives were so numerous and dominant in Virginia that some
historians of the Colonial Era actually referred to Virginia as “Igboland”.
By the 1700’s Virginia plantation owners gathered to discuss the “Igbo
problem “ as the hardworking but resistant Egbo are acknowledged to
have dominated the Virginia trade. This further lends credence to the
alleged Willie Lynch speech of 1712 which advocated the implementation of harsh measures of containment designed to eradicate Egbo culture and in turn slave resistance on all levels. The speech of proposals was delivered by Willie Lynch on the Bank of the James River in Virginia, in 1712. 120 years later Nat Turner led a revolt in Virginia that killed approximately 60 whites. In accordance with his Igbo(Egbo) origins, Turner bestowed upon himself the honors of Odogo,a ceremonial ritual in which an Igbo warrior places feathers in his cap to signify the killing of a person of rank in war. After killing Hark Travis,the head of the Travis farm,Turner placed feathers in his cap and a red sash around his waist.
Douglas Chambers recently published a book which discusses the alleged role of the Igbo in the murder of President James Madison’s grandfather who was killed in Virginia. Igbo (Egbo) revolts were so frequent and intense throughout Virginia that it was understood that this revolutionary mentality on the part of the Egbo captives was an obvious reflection of Igbo culture as the Igbo proverb states;
“ What saves also kills and what kills also saves.”
It is of interest to note that James Africanus Beale Horton who clearly
understood the proper application and usage of the term Igbo and its sub-tribe variants such as the Egbo,Ibo and Ebo chose to dominantly use the Egbo variant when speaking of the tribe in general,while remaining in clear avoidance of using the Igbo spelling. This is obviously a reflection of his descendancy from coastal Egbo captives who were resettled in Sierra Leonne.
“ The Egboes are considered the most imitative and emulative
people in the whole of Western Africa,place them where you will or introduce them to any manners of customs and you will find they easily adapt to them.”
“ The population of Egbo is unknown.” (HORTON 1969:157)
THE EBO ARE IGBO-
In accordance with his origins in the Essaka village of Benin kingdom, Olaudah Equiano referred to his people as being that of Ebo and never Igbo.
“ The West Indies planters prefer the slaves of Benin or Eboe.”
“ Deformity is indeed unknown amongst us.I mean that of shape. Numbers of natives of Eboe in London might be brought in support of this assertion for in regard to complexion ideas of beauty are wholly relative.” (GatesJr.1987:17)
The Ebo connection to Benin is further supported by Onyebuechi Amene who states the following;
“ Ebo is a Benin name. It was the Binis that went to Igala and
formed the Igala Royal families that took the name to Igala.”
“ The Ebo family of Isiskre still retain their ancestral Bini
Those captives who came to the Americas from Ghana and Benin
(Dahomey) were those known as Ebo or the Mina tribes. In fact a Mina tribe remains in the Kwara State of Yorubaland and refer to themselves as Igbo-Mina using the original Igbo spelling of the name.
It was the Portuguese Jewish slave traders who began selling Ebo captives from Benin to Ghana where they were used to work the Gold Mines. These traders coined the Ebo as “ Mina tribes “ meaning those destined for El-Mina, a Portuguese word meaning “ The Mines “. El-Mina became central to the slave trade in Ghana.
The most powerful amongst the Ebo(Mina) to arrive in Ghana were those called Ewe.
The word Ewe derives from the Igbo name Eke. Eke in the Igbo culture
refers to the feminine, motherly or birth giving attributes of the Supreme Deity Chineke. Through the interchangeable nature of the letters v and w Ewe is also pronounced with the v sound of Eve(Yeveh). It is from the life giving Eke,Ewe or Eve that a female lamb is called a Ewe and the mother of all humanity Eve.
Some reports estimate that over 3 million Ewe were brought to the
American South alone. Amongst the followers of African religions in Cuba, Ewe refers to the life giving herbs,while in Haiti,the Ewe deity Nanan Boclou is remembered as the god of life giving herbs and medicine..
The Ewe are closely related to the Mina tribe known as the Fon(Fongbe). In fact the word voodoo often associated with Haitian religious practice is a Fongbe word. The last Fon ruler of Dahomey was named Agbo.
Agbo was exiled to Guinea where he remained until his death.
In 1967, Haiti became the only country outside of Africa to recognize
the independent Igbo Republic of Biafra in seccession from Nigeria
The vote of confidence in favor of Biafra on the part of this tiny Carribean nation was due to the Haitian’s memory of their own “ Igbo “ revolutionary past. The numerous and successful slave revolts in Haiti are clearly documented as “Igbo” uprisings but yet we find the strongest presence of the ancestral deity Legba (Eshu) amongst the Haitians.
In Haiti Legba is described as the most powerful of all the Loa. He is the guardian of the sun and his color is black The guardian of the sun is most likely a code for the “ Land of the Rising Sun “ which is an ancient Igbo reference for the Land of Biafra. The Igbo revolutionaries and devoutees of Legba (Eshu) in Haiti were in actuality the Igbo descended Mina tribes such as the Ewe and Fon(Fongbe) who are well associated with the worship and reverence for Legba.
The other major non-Akan Igbo descended tribe to be sold from Ghana
are those known as the Ga. The Ga like the Ewe are known to have earlier “ Nigerian “ origins which more specifically equate with that of the Igbo.
A section of Belize City is known as Ebo Town. Most of the African captives arriving in Belize were imported from Jamaica and in turn it is acknowledged that the African captives of Jamaica primarily came from Ghana.
The Jamaican Festival Jonkonnu evolved out of the Ga Festival of Homowo and thus the African descended population of Jamaica can trace their Igbo origins through the Ga and the Ebo-Mina tribes as they became known.
Captives arriving in the Americas from Angola were also known as Ebo.
The city Ebo still exists in Angola. The Gullah whose name derives from Angola are an African-American community who live on the Sea Isles off of the coast of Georgia and South Carolina areas which record a majority of Angolan captives.
The Gullah are currently engaged in a strenuous battle to secure a memorial at a site called Ebo Landing. Ebo Landing was named in memory of the countless Ebo who drowned themselves in protest of their enslavement.
Mr. Utsey is a Gullah meaning a descendant of Angolan-Ebo captives.
He recently wrote to the Igbo Studies Association in quest of information concerning his lost Ebo identity. He stated that he was raised in an area which was approximately 45minutes from Ebo Landing. D.N.A. testing has confirmed his Igbo (Ebo) origins.
The presence of Angolan captives in Virginia is reflected in such names as Angola Creek,and the Angolan Quarter. What is of interest is the fact that there were many Angolans acknowledged to have been living in Virginia alongside of the Igbo (Egbo), however there is no evidence or documentation that indicates that the Angolans were any different in regards to submitting to enslavement in contrast to the Igbo(Egbo). In accordance with their Ebo culture the Angolan captives were known as runaways. In 1744,a runaway by the name of Angola Tom was captured in Orange County. This being similar to Jamaica where an
advertisement for wanted slaves lists the two largest groups of runaways as being those of Igbo and Angola. Igbos and Angolans are acknowledged to have dominantly co-existed in Delaware without any distinguishing differences in temperment and behaviors particularly in response to enslavement.
With the abolition of the slave trade Igboland experienced the largest
population increase in all of Africa. Since Igboland was the area most
affected by the slave trade once left unmolested the population that supplied the most captives would naturally respond with the largest population increase.
Angola on the other hand is noted as the area which experienced the largest population decrease after the slave trade ended. Being that Angola provided many captives for enslavement to the New World,a population increase similar to that which was experienced in Igboland would be expected unless of course the captives taken from Angola were not from the native population but were imported Ebos as advocated in this writing. It is also interesting that in the case of the Angolan and Mozambique captives they are generally identified in the classification of country as opposed to any specific tribe.
Angola’s role as a Portuguese slave colony was confronted by Queen Nzinga who in 1624 declared all territory in Angola as free country, meaning that all captives reaching Angola would be declared free upon arrival.
Queen Nzinga’s efforts only temporarily hindered the mission of the slave traders who continued to import and export Ebo throughout the course of the slave trade.
THE IBO ARE IGBO
Although Mozambique did become a Portuguese colony similar to that of Angola,the Ibo inhabitants had already been living there centuries before the arrival of the Europeans and were residing under the Ibo tribal heading. The Ibo of Mozambique are presently known as Chi-
Mwani and speak a dialect called Ibo. In Mozambique there are two coastal cities named Ibo conveniently located for the importing and exporting of slaves.
In their early attempts to colonize Mozambique the Portuguese established their first trading post on what is known as the Ibo Islands and by 1754 Ibo was chosen by the Portuguese as their main clearing house for slaves.
It is estimated that by 1807 80% of the captives destined for the Americas were being imported from Angola, Mozambique and the Igbos of Biafra.
Beginning in the 16th century when the Spanish and Portuguese were in charge of the slave trade,they transported 15,000 slaves from Angola to America every year. The Ebos of Angola and the Ibos of Mozambique were classified amongst those of Congo. The Congo slaves began arriving in such places as Cuba in the 1500’s. The Portuguese began dispersing Igbo captives across Africa at the beginning of the slave trade in the 16th century. Those
sent to such places as San Thome and Gabon were of Ibo origins as
acknowledged with the first recorded Ibo slave Caterina Ybou who like
her fellow Ibo captives arrived at San Thome and Gabon to work on the
newly established slave plantations. In Gabon Ibo runaways were so numerous that one of the largest mountain in Gabon became a place of hidden refuge known as Ibounji. It is acknowledged that most of the captives that came to San Thome and Gabon were from the Congo and in turn it is acknowledged that these captives were Ibo. Present day Congo cities such as Ibondo, Iboko,and Ibola are reminiscient of the once numerous Ibo captive population.
THE EGBA ARE IGBO-
Southwest Nigeria is commonly referred to as “ Yorubaland “ which is home to a mosaic of distinct tribes and tribal states who collectively form the present day Yoruba tribal identity, however the original Yoruba designation exclusively referred to the Oyo, a tribe who
at one time lived amongst the Hausas in what is presently Northern Nigeria.
In fact the word Yoruba is of Hausa origins.
Misrepresentations of Nigeria the Facts and the Figures by Yusef Bala
Usman PH.D – Center for Democratic Development, Research and Training-
“ The fact is that the earliest record we have of the use of the very
name Yoruba was in the Hausa Language and it seems to have applied
to the people of the Alfinate Oyo. Don Masani wrote a book on the Muslim scholars of the Yarriba.”
Over the centuries the Oyo were gradually driven southward where
they in turn became the conquerers of the indigenous people of “South-west Nigeria “ who like their Southeastern counterparts were referred to as the Igbo. The Southwestern Igbo were protected by an army of masked warriors known as the Egbo or Egba.
Olumida Lucas states that the name Egba is synonymous with Igbo. The indigenous Igbo (Egba) lived in the forest area surrounding Ife. The name Ife derives from an Igbo system of “divination” called Ifa. It was at Ife that the Igbo (Egba) were first confronted by Odudwa who along with his youngest son Oranyan are remembered as the founders of the Oyo (Yoruba) Kingdom at Ife.
At the time of Odudwa’s invasion the indigenous Igbo(Egba) resided under the leadership of Obatala whose name means the Oba or Obi Ala. Obi or Oba was initially an Igbo title of authority and Ala is the land deity of the Igbo. Amongst the Egbo tribes of Calabar the Oba appears in the form of the deity Obassi who is also called Abassi.
Like the indigenous forest dwelling Igbos,the present day Egbas are
historically associated with the Obas. In fact the name of the Egba ruling council known as the Ogboni relates to the Igbo word Ogbonna which indirectly refers to an elder.
The Wikipedia Encyclopedia- “ Yoruba “
“ The numerous Egba communities found in the forests below Oyo’s
Savannah region were a notable example of elected Obas though the Ogboni ,a legislative judicial council of notable elders wielded the actual political power” ( The Ogboni “ Cult “ played a central role in the Brazil slave rebellion of 1809.)
In their initial encounters the Oyo (Yoruba) were unable to penetrate the frightening Egba(Igbo) as these intimidating masked forest dwellers mastered the art of instilling fear into their opponents. In defense of their homeland the Egba(Igbo) went further in raiding and burning down the intruding Oyo(Yoruba) settlements in the town at Ife.
The Egba were first defeated through the scheming of a woman named
Moremi who allowed herself to be captured as she used her beauty to seduce the Igbo (Egba) King into revealing the secrets of the masked Egba warriors.
She later returned to the Oyo providing her countrymen with the necessary information needed to finally conquer the Igbo(Egba) Kingdom. This defeat of the Igbo(Egba) is celebrated every year at the annual Eid Festival of Ife.
In 1835, the Egba declared themselves to be independent of the Oyo
(Yoruba) and in response the Oyo along with the Ijebu drove them out
of Ibadan, Ife and other towns north of their present day capital of Abeokuta.
As a result of contact between the Ijebu and the indigenous Igbo the city Ijebu-Igbo was established.The founding of the Egba Kingdom of Abeokuta in 1837 is considered to be the last kingdom to be recognized within the “Yoruba federation of tribes .” By this time the term Yoruba had expanded beyond its original usage in referring to the Oyo and now generally applied to all of the inhabitants of Southwestern Nigeria.
The tradition of the masked Egba(Igbo) warriors is likewise documented
in Southeast Nigeria amongst the followers of the Egbo Society of Calabar.
EGBO- A secret society at one time existing as a political bond between various towns especially Eastern Nigeria. – World Book Dictionary A-K 1974.
In 1876, the Scottish Presbyterian missionary Mary Slessor came to Calabar. According to the accountings of Ms. Slessor in the “ Igbo “ dominated areas a secret society known as Egbo went around in masks and beat people. She claimed to have chased a group of Egbo and tore off a mask. The image of Mary Slessor would later appear on the 10 pound British Monetary note. ( The Egbo/Egba warriors seem to have a problem or weakness in defending themselves against foreign women. First Moremi in the west informs her people to burn the masks of the Egba(Igbo) warriors and later in the east Mary Slessor
claims to have ripped a mask off of an Egbo man.)
The Egba of Abeokuta worship a deity called the Oro. Oro is a god who
resides in a bush. In honor of Oro a sacred ceremony is performed at a secluded spot inside the bush. This ceremony is called Igbo Oro and is very similar to bush ceremonies observed by the Egbo Society of Calabar. There are many similar practices and rituals performed by both the Egba of “ Yorubaland “ and the Egbo Society of the east. In this regard it is of interest to note the name of the Biafran Officer from Ejagham(Calabar), the formidable Captain Ndom Egba.
Although the concept of Legba varies it began as an ancestral
memorial designed to maintain the Egba identity during times of
persecution and hardship. Legba is also known as Eshu and relates
to the deity Isua which is honored in the Egbo Society as the Master of Ceremonies. Legba was also activated in the New World as a means
to counter modern slavery and its attempts to wipe out the Egba identity of the captives. The deity is described in Yoruba mythology as the “Divine trickster” because of his ability to outwit his fellow gods. Evidences of Legba have been documented throughout the Americas in such places as Brazil,Guyana,Trinidad,Haiti, and New Orleans under various names such as Lebba,Legba,Elegbara and Liba. It is the Igbo descended Mina tribes such as the Ewe and Fon who are most readily associated with the Legba variant.
The term Elegbara is of great significance because not only does
the name appear in the Americas amongst Igbo descended captives
meaning the Egba and the Mina tribes but it is also the name of a tribe
that lives on the Southern Sudanese- Northern Ugandan border and of
whom are likewise related to the Igbos of Nigeria as they are known by
the variant of Elegbara being called the Lugbara. When travelling in Uganda I personally met a Lugbara Doctor of Medicine who previously studied alongside of Igbo students from Nigeria. The Lugbara man stated that he could understand much of the Igbo Language which held a great deal in common with his own Lugbara Tongue. Through numerous and prominent cultural and linguistic affinities the Lugbara man was definitely convinced that the Lugbara and the Igbo are akin.
Similar to the Igbo of the east,the western Igbo descended Egba were
always known to be revolutionaries in continual revolt against the Colonial British authorities, European missionaries, and their traditional Yoruba enemies being primarily that of the Oyo and Ijebu. In 1929 the Igbo market woman of the east led a tax revolt against the Colonial British Government which became known as the Abia Women’s Tax Revolt. The Egba women carried out a similar tax revolt in 1947 known as the Abeokuta Women’s Tax Revolt of Egba Market Women. The Egba market women were led by Fumilayo Ransome Kuti,a teacher and wife of a prominent Egba educationalist. The protest of over 10,000 Egba women caused the governing authorities to abolish taxes on women for several years and the Alake who conspired with the Colonial authorities spent three years in exile in Oshogbo.
Many of the positive social and ethical traits which are often associated with the Igbo are historically documented as being characteristic of the Egba as well. Robert Campbell who along with Martin Robison Delaney signed a pact with Egba leaders for the right of resettlement of African – Americans to “ Egbaland” states that the Egba are the most industrious people on the face of the earth.(Burton 1863:101)
James Africanus Beale Horton concerning the Egba(Akus):
“ It must be admitted without question that there are no people on the coast who are so hard working and so long suffering in proportion to what they expect in return. “ He also went on to say that the Egba as a race are amongst the most industrious, perservering and hard working people on the coast of Africa.(Horton 1969:149)
In terms of education the Egba like the Igbo are deserving of great acclaim. The first Black-African to receive a nobel prize in Literature was an Egba man named Wole Soyinka who like the Igbo actively opposed the Nigerian Government during the Biafran War. Soyinka was detained by agents of the state between 1967 and 1969.
In this regard Booker T. Washington whose middle name Tanifeani attests to Egba origins should be noted as the founder of the famous Tuskeegee Institute.
In Brazil an organized Ibo revolt led to the establishment of the Independent “Ibo Republic” of Palmares which lasted 45 years. Being consistent with “ Igbo resistance “ Palmares ended in a massive suicide of Ibo warriors who preferred death to capture. The city Ibotirama testifies to a strong Ibo presence in the region,however as in the case of Haiti, Afro-Brazilian culture and religious practices are more readily associated with that of the “ Yoruba “(Egba) including
the worship of Legba.
Olukwumu is spoken in Brazil and interestingly enough in a few Western Ibo communities such as Anioma, Idumu-ogu,Ubulubu,Ugbodu,Ugboba and Okwumuzu.In fact communities bearing the name Olukwumu(Olukumi) still exist amongst the Western Ibo. Although this dialect cannot be found in the Yoruba heartland it remains in reference as a “ lost dialect of the Yoruba Language”. All of the above clearly indicates that many of the captives in Brazil including those who successfully revolted in the establishment of
Palmares were of western Ibo origins and like the Egba are being mistakenly classified as Yoruba. In Brazil the Western Ibo were accompanied by a massive importing of Ebos from Angola and Ibos from Mozambique,the latter further accounting for the dominant and preferable Ibo usage amongst the Brazilian captives.
In Cuba the Olukwumu were referred to as the Olukumi,Lukumi or Akumi. The Egba have traditionally resisted identification with the term Yoruba preferring to be called Egbas or Akus. Slaves in Cuba known as the Lukumi or Akumi meaning of the Egba people were well known for suicide resistance which often found them hanging from the branches of the Guasima trees. This being very similar to the “Igbo” resisters of Haiti who were likewise remembered for suicide resistance as understood in the Haitian saying; Ebos pend cor a yo
meaning the Ebos hang themselves. The relationship between the names Olukwumu and Olukumi with that of Akumi (Aku or Egba) further solidifies the common origins which link the Western Ibo and the Egba peoples.
The Egba who like the Igbo were originally known as forest dwellers are
acknowledged to have been at one time living east of their present day location.
The process which led to the vanquished links of brotherhood between the Igbo and the Egba can be characterized by the often strained relations that currently exist between some of the eastern and western Igbo communities of today.
Biafran Nigerian World Message Board-JAN.6th 2004 Efulefu of Western
“ ………. lately some misguided Igbo people of Anioma/Ibusa (in short Western Igbo stock) have been making anti-Igbo noises. I read that a group of 419 purporting to represent Anioma and all Western Igbo issued a statement disavowing their Igboness……. If you are from Western Igboland and you no longer wish to consider yourself Igbo you have only one option. Pack your damned bags and leave otherwise we are coming!!!
History not only records the common origins of the Egba and the Igbo
but their common destiny as they are identified as two groups most
devastated by the slave trade which is expressed in the following;
“ The Egba have suffered more than any other nation in West Africa
from the depredation of the slave trade.”(Horton 1969:146)
“ It is stated that a dispersion of the Egba in the 1st quarter of the 17th century scattered the exiled Egba to Sierra Leone,United States, Gambia, Fernando Po, Hausa, Borneo, Central Africa, The Fezzan, Egypt and even Istanbul.” (Horton 1969:146)
“Igboland was one of the areas most affected by the slave trade. Igbos were exported as slaves throughout the whole period of the trade.” (Isichei 1973:45)
The Four African Societies of Modern Cuba represent the various elements which comprise the Igbo ancestry of African-Americans.
1. LUKUMI (EGBA) – The Lukumi Society whose name derives from Akumi meaning those of the Akus who are the Igbo descended Egba and their brethren the Ketu. They are often mistakenly referred to as Yoruba,an estimated 275,000 were brought to Cuba.
2. ARARA (EBO) – The Arara Society pertains to the Igbo descended Mina tribes who were designated to work the Gold Mines of Ghana and of whom were sold to the Americas from Sao George which became known as El-Mina (THE MINES). El-Mina was the center of the gold trade and the focus of the greater slave trade. The main Mina tribes of Ghana were the Igbo descended Ewe and Ga,while in Dahomey they were called Fon(Fongbe) or Abo as in Abomey. The origins of the Mina tribes is maintained in the name of the Igbo-Mina tribe of The Kwara State in Yorubaland. Most Mina tribes were known as Ebo and approximately 200,000 arrived in Cuba.
3.The Egbo Society(EGBO)- The Egbo Society consists of the descendants of the coastal “Igbo Nation” of Egbo-Shari. The present day Efik and Ibibio are amongst the most prominent tribes to be historically associated with the Egbo Society,however during the time of the slave trade the largest and most powerful tribe within the Egbo nation were those known as the Kwa and thus the Egbo Society was also known as AbaKwa(Abacua).
The majority of the Kwa were sold to the Americas during the Slave trade. Slave traders often referred to the Egbo as Calabaris or Kwa Ibo. A division of the Egbo Society is called Ekpri Akata. Many present day Yorubas and Africans in general now derogatorily refer to African-Americans as Akata (Akuta). Since there was such a large number of Akata(Egbo) sold during the slave trade the term Akata became synonymously associated with those being enslaved. Approximately 240,000 Egbo were brought to Cuba.
4. BAKONGO (IBO/EBO) – The Congo Society is made up of the
descendants of Ibo captives who arrived in the Americas from
Angola(Ebo),Mozambique,and the Congo and Gabon.Ibo captives
were shipped to the Americas throughout the 16th,17th and 18th
centuries. Their practices are often reflective of that of the slave-
trading tribes of whom they encountered such as the Imbangala,
MaKua and Lemba.
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