IMA MMOWU (INITIATON INTO THE MASQUERADE CULT) IN ARONDIZUOGU AS DESCRIBED BY MAZI MBONU OJIKE (1955)

IMA MMOWU (INITIATON INTO THE MASQUERADE CULT) IN ARONDIZUOGU AS DESCRIBED BY MAZI MBONU OJIKE (1955)

“In my town no boy can be considered adult until he has performed the Imamowu rituals. He must earn enough money by his own labour to pay the huge fees ranging from three to thirty pounds. He must provide ten mounds of utara, or pounded yam meal, which no two persons heaving together could lift up an inch from the floor. He must provide other edibles and drinkables upon which the members must feast until their stomachs appear to be bursting. At midnight he is led into a dark room where he is frightened by a masked mowu or juju. The mowu puts a reed between his jaws and talks like the spirit. The boy must shake hands with him. Then they converse in a friendly way about society and its needs. The climax comes when the candidate appears fearless and natural. Mowu threatens to kill the boy with a red-hot sword. He offers one chance for the boy to live, and that is, if he should renounce his society and be exiled in safety. This the boy rejects, and chooses death. He is ordered to prepare to die. He steps forward, closes his eyes – ready to be killed. After ten minutes he hears an order, “Open your eyes and see!” As he opens them, he sees the mowu raise the sword and slash at him. The sword strikes him, but there is no wound. It is not really a sword: it is a mock sword made of soft cloth and grass.
The juju shakes the boy’s hand three times and leads him out into the gathering, where he is formally initiated with proper rituals. Before the group, the juju undresses. He is really an elder brother or other known member of the village. Everybody laughs at the fun. The boy is taken into the dark chamber again, where he learns how to dress a juju. Then he is dressed himself. He, with the older juju, comes out, dances and retires to undress. From that day on he is a full-grown man. He can talk where other adult men talk; he can marry and rear children of his own.” Culled from, Mbonu Ojike, _My Africa_ (London: Blandford Press, 1955), 131 – 132. What lessons are there in this narrative?

I really sympathise with Ndigbo who have thrown away their traditions and culture because someone who does not even speak their language told them that they are evil. How could we have explained it to children if we had allowed Ikeji to die? I mean How? When culture dies, the connection with the past is destroyed. Identity, self-esteem, originality and self-awereness die with it too. The consequences are moral depravity, lack of community spirit, selfishness and impiety.

Happy Ikeji in advance umunnem.
Rev. Fr. Angelo Chidi Unegbu 

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