The Urhobos are people located in Southern Nigeria, near the
northwestern Niger delta. The Urhobo are the major ethnic group in
Delta State, one of the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Urhobos speak the Urhobo language. Their culture is related to
several in the Niger-Delta, including Isoko. Because of this close
relation, missionaries erroneously labeled the Urhobo and Isoko
cultural groups as Sobo, which was strongly rejected by both tribes.
However, some still claim that Isoko is a dialect of Urhobo. The
Urhobo nation is made up of twenty-four sub-groups, including the
Isoko used to be regarded as a part of Urhobo nation until they were
granted autonomy in the late 1950s.
The word Urhobo refers to a group of people rather than a territory.
Approximately two million people are Urhobos. They have a social and
cultural affinity to the
1 Indigenous government and politics 2 Location 3 Culture
3.1 Festivals 3.2 Marriage 3.3 Urhobo calendar
4 Food 5 Religion 6 Notables 7 See also 8 References
Indigenous government and politics
The Urhobos are organized into two different political kingdoms,
gerontocracies and plutocracies. A gerontocracy is a government run by
elders, based on the age-grade-system, while a plutocracy is governed
by the rich and wealthy, with some elements of gerontocracy. Although
it is not clear which kingship is older among the kingdoms, their
developments reached a climax in the 1940s and 50s.
The Urhobo government structure occurs at two levels, kingdom and
town. The people are organized either by elders or by the wealthy.
Urhobo indigenous governments have an Ovie (king), who is the highest
political figure. The Ovie is the symbol of the kingdoms' culture and
royal predecessors. His councillors consist of the Otota (speaker),
and the Ohoveworen or Okakoro, addressed collectively as Ilorogun
(singular: Olorogun). Other title holders are the executioners
(Ikoikpokpo), and the warriors (Ogbu). Other political titles are
specific to the different kingdoms. The judicial system places a clear
distinction between civil and criminal offenses.
The queen, is called Ovieya, and her children are known as Ọmọ
Ovie. Presently, this name is given to children without royal
heritage. Some Urhobo cultural divisions adopted titles other than
Ovie. For example, the
Urhobo is physically embedded in the Atlantic forest belt that stretches from Senegal in West Africa to Angola in central Africa. Historically, this region was the most pristine in all of Africa. Until the Portuguese burst into its territories in the late fifteenth century, its forest peoples cultivated their own forms of civilization, untouched by outside influences. This forest belt of western Africa was reached neither by ancient Christian influences, which had a large foothold in North Africa, nor by Islamic forces that came as far south as Hausaland by the eleventh century. While East Africa and even Central Africa were touched by Asian and Arab influences from across the Indian Ocean, as the amalgam of Swahili language bears out, no similar trans-Atlantic influences breached the forest belt until the Portuguese arrival in the late fifteenth century." — Professor Peter Palmer Ekeh, founder of the Urhobo Historical Society, Studies in Urhobo Culture
The bulk of the
The Urhobos live very close to, and sometimes in boats on the Niger
river. Most of their histories, mythologies, and philosophies are
water-related. Annual fishing festivals that include masquerades,
fishing, swimming contests and dancing, that became part of the Urhobo
heritage. An annual, two-day, festival, called Ohworu takes place in
Evwreni, the southern part of the Urhobo area. During this festival
the Ohworhu water spirit and the Eravwe Oganga are displayed.
Marriage in Urhobo culture requires prayers to the ancestors
(Erivwin), and God (Oghene). The marriage ritual, known as Udi
Arhovwaje, takes place in the ancestral home of the bride or a
patrilineal relation of the bride.
The groom goes with his relatives and friends to the bride's father's
home, bringing gifts of drinks, salt, kola nuts and occasionally food
requested by the bride's family. Formal is given by the bride's
parents, or whomever is representing the bride's family, as are the
traditional rites of pouring gin, brought by the groom, as a tribute
to the father's ancestors in order to bless them with health, children
and wealth. After this marriage rite the husband can claim a refund of
the money (bride price) should the marriage fail. It is believed that
the ancestors witness the marriage, and only the physical body that is
sent to the husband in the marriage, the Erhi (spirit double), remains
in the family home. This explains why a woman is brought back to be
buried in her family home when she dies.
In the ancestral home of the man, the wife is welcomed into the family
by the eldest member. She is expected to confess all of her love
affairs during and after her betrothal to her husband, if any, and is
then absolved from of them. She becomes a full member of her husband's
family after this ritual, and is assumed to be protected by the
supernatural (Erivwin). This ritual symbolizes an agreement between
the wife and the Erivwin.
If the wife later becomes unfaithful, it is believed that she will be
punished by the Erivwin – this is why wives are faithful to their
The Urhobo Okpo (week) is made up of four days, based on regulated
market cycles, religious worship, marriages and other community life.
The four days are Edewo, Ediruo, Eduhre and Edebi. Edewo and Eduhre
are sacred days to divinities, spirits and ancestors. Most markets are
held on these days. On Edewo, ancestors are venerated. Most
traditional religious rituals are held on Eduhre.
Spirits are believed to be active in the farmlands and forests on
Edewo and Eduhre. Therefore, farmers rarely work on these days so as
not to disturb the spirits.
Urhobo months are called Emeravwe and are made up of 28 days. Most of
the annual festivals are held during the months of Asa, Eghwre,
Orianre and Urhiori. These are the months of harvest, when farming
activity is at its lowest, so most farmers are free to partake. These
are also months to honor the gods of the land, as well as spiritual
forces that brought a good harvest.
As with most tribes in Nigeria, certain foods are considered to belong
to or originate from a particular tribe. For example, pounded yam and
egusi soup come from the Igbos (Eba), and Ogbono soup, made from
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Alibaba Akporobome, comedian Fred Aghogho Brume, senator and industrialist Richard Mofe Damijo, actor and politician Harris Eghagha, career soldier and diplomat M. G. Ejaife, Urhobo nationalist, first republic Senator and the first principal of Urhobo College David Ejoor, retired Nigerian army and governor of the now-defunct Mid-Western Region Justus Esiri, actor Kefee, gospel singer and composer Felix Ibru, Nigerian architect, senator and governor Michael Ibru, Nigerian businessman Mudiaga Odje, Senior Advocate and Officer of Nigeria Tanure Ojaide, poet and writer Blessing Okagbare, IAAC Silver medalist and Olympic bronze medalist Ese Oruru Isidore Okpewho, scholar and novelist Ben Okri, poet and novelist Bruce Onobrakpeya, visual artist, sculptor and painter Gamaliel Onosode, administrator and politician Stephen Oru, Minister of Nigeria Igho Sanomi, businessman Onigu Otite, Professor of Sociology (retired)
^ "A Royal History of the Okpe-Urhobo of
v t e
Ethnic groups in Nigeria
Anlo Ewe Annang Afusari Atyap Bariba Berom Buduma Chamba Defaka Dendi Djerma Ebira Edo Efik Eket Ekoi Eleme Esan Etsakor Fon Fula Goemai Gwari Hausa Ibibio Idoma Igala Igbo Ijaw Isoko Itsekiri Iwellemmedan Jukun Kamuku Kanuri Kilba Kirdi Kofyar Kotoko Kuteb Longuda Mafa Mumuye Nupe Ogoni Saro Tarok Teda Tiv Urhobo Yoruba
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