TITLE-TAKING IN IGBOLAND
TITLE-TAKING IN IGBOLAND
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There is a popular saying that says “Igbos love titles”. Title-taking is an inherent element of the Igbo culture. In Igboland, title-taking is valued as it is one of the greatest instruments of social control and authority and as such titled men are greatly respected. In typical Igbo communities, people are not known, called or greeted by their given names, but rather by their titles. It is a sign of respect to confer an individual with traditional or chieftaincy title and the title is usually conferred to men of substance or people that have distinguished themselves from others by a traditional ruler. Various titles exist in different parts of the Igboland such as Ichie, Nze, Ozo, Ebubedike, Ogbu Agu, Odibeze, Ogbuefi, Iyom etc. the most prominent among them is the Nze na Ozo title.
Nze na Ozo title
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Highly accomplished men are admitted into order for people of title such as Ndi Nze and Ndi Ozo. The Nze title qualifies one as a red cap titled man (red cap Chief) of a community and permit the title holder to give in to discussing matters of huge importance in the community. The Nze precedes the Ozo title (one must become an Nze to quality to become an Ozo). The Ozo title is the prestigious and revered title for the higher titled men; it is the highest ranking order in most Igbo communities.
Nze na Ozo is the highest and most important socio-political and religious all-male group that is highly revered in Igboland. It is sacred institution performed by initiated men who bridge the gap between the visible and unseen world of the ancestors. Ndi Nze na Ozo are regarded as the custodians of trust, dispensers of justice and moral compass of the society. There are also certain rules and customs that regulate title-taking in Igboland, namely women are not permitted to take the Nze na Ozo title etc. The Nze na Ozo title is seen as a major symbol of prominence in the land because the title-taking event is organized with an abundance of yam, wine, meat and all other staple foods; all of which symbolize prosperity in Igbo culture. An Nze na Ozo title holder is easily identified by the beads around his ankle and the ankles of his first wife (Lolo), and also the eagle feather fixated on his red cap. Anyone who successfully goes through the stipulated processes would have been considered to be fully initiated, and his counterparts will no longer have any inhibition in giving him the traditional Igbo three(3) back hand salute and hand shake (ina ito) which is social greeting ritual that is reserved only for the initiated.
This cultural heritage (title-taking) is extended to the woman folks in the society. In traditionally, women have been gracefully distinguished by their social status through initiation into various societies in the community.
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The Iyom/Odu title remains the most revered and coveted for women of integrity, class and character in Igboland. Admission of a woman into this society requires the validation of her husband, kinsmen and members of the Iyom society confirming her worthiness for the honour. The women who take the title are addressed as Iyom. Once initiated, an Iyom is expected to live a life of philanthropy, upholding and defending truth always.
Photo source: imeobionitsha.org
The titled women are usually known by their regalia which consists of white tusks known as “Odu” on the bracelets and anklets; and white wrapper tied up to the chests. It is a symbol of wealth, beauty, royalty, authority and class. This female society is very
Ejikemeuwa, J. O., & Okere, J. E. (2020). Nze na Ozo Title in Igbo Culture: A philosophical reflection on its significance in a contemporary society. Oracle of Wisdom - Journal of Philosophy and Public Affairs, 4 (3), 36-45.
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