Urhobo Historical Society

Studies in Urhobo Culture


Edited by Peter P. Ekeh


About this Book


Studies in Urhobo Culture offers diverse perspectives on the culture of the Urhobo people of Nigeriaís Niger Delta. They include descriptive and analytical essays on naming traditions and practices of the Urhobo and their traditional religious beliefs and values. An in-depth account is given of a nineteenth century monotheistic religious movement, called Igbe. Its doctrine was claimed to have been divinely revealed to its founder, Ubiesha Etakpo of Uhwokori. This religious movement is examined in the context of hostile reactions from British colonial authorities to its explosive influences in Warri and Benin Provinces of colonial Nigeria.


Other chapters of this book provide important insights into Urhobo traditions of marriage and artistic productions. A treatment of Urhobo traditional poetry and a selection of poems in English with Urhobo themes yield clues on intellectual aspects of Urhobo culture. Thoughtful comments on the nature of Urhobo language, including a revealing analysis of an esoteric sub-language of divination, strongly place Urhobo culture in the midst of Edoid complex of languages and cultures. Three chapters on the geography of Urhoboland and agricultural practices of the Urhobo people yield a good understanding of the physical environment of the Urhobo and their tough tropical surroundings.


Studies in Urhobo Culture tackles challenges that confront Urhobo culture. Indeed, Urhobo food and dress subcultures have already accommodated pervasive influences of the Atlantic world in which the Urhobo have participated for several centuries. Now, the urgent global problem of language endangerment, which imperils small and medium languages in Africa, threatens to weaken the hold of Urhobo language and culture on younger generations of the Urhobo people. Urhobo language is endangered by an invasion from English language and Pidgin English that followed from the era of British imperialism and its aftermath. An absorbing piece of folk history of the murderous reaction of an impotent husband to his humiliation by the extended family gives a clue of the expansive claims of kinship on individuals in Urhobo culture.


A unique attribute of this book is that its chapters have resulted largely from pioneering work of analyzing their culture by native bearers of Urhobo culture. Unlike other major ethnic cultures in Nigeria, which were studied by Western anthropologists and linguists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Urhobo language and culture did not benefit from such investigations by Western scholars. The responsibility for studying Urhobo language and culture has thus fallen for the most part on those among the Urhobo who have acquired skills and the methodology for examining their own culture. This compendium is a handsome result of these efforts.