Urhobo People Ihwo r' Urhobo
c. 2 MILLION+
RELATED ETHNIC GROUPS
Isoko , Bini
An Urhobo mask An Urhobo Man in Traditional Regalia
The URHOBOS are people located in Southern
The word Urhobo refers to a group of people rather than the
geographical territory. There are approximately two million Urhobos,
and they have a social and cultural affinity to the
* 1 Indigenous government and politics * 2 Location
* 3 Culture
* 3.1 Festivals * 3.2 Royal family * 3.3 Marriage * 3.4 Urhobo calendar
* 4 Food * 5 Religion * 6 Urhobo notable people * 7 See also * 8 References
INDIGENOUS GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
The Urhobos are currently organized into two different political kingdoms, gerontocracies and plutocracies. A gerontocracy is a government run by elders, based on the age-grade-system in the community, while a plutocracy is governed by the rich and wealthy, but still retains the elements of a 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. Men and women of Urhobo heritage are organized either by elders, based on a gerontocracy, or by the rich and wealthy, based on a plutocracy. Urhobo indigenous governments have an Ovie (king), which is the highest political figure in the kingdom. 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 called Ogbu. Although there are other political titles specific to the different kingdoms, the judicial aspect of government among the Urhobo places a clear distinction between civil and criminal offenses, which ensure justice to the parties concerned.
Professor Peter Palmer Ekeh, founder of the Urhobo Historical Society, later wrote in his book, Studies in Urhobo Culture, that:
"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."
A bulk of the
Urhobo people reside in the South Western states of
Delta and Bayelsa in Nigeria, also referred to as the
Niger Delta .
Ofoni is an Urhobo community in Sagbama, Local Government Area, in the
Bayelsa State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Ofoni is about 40
kilometers by water to Sagbama. Many Urhobos live in small and major
cities in regions or local government areas in
The following are local government areas where Urhobo traditional homes are located in Delta State and Bayelsa State:
The Urhobos live very close to, and sometimes on the surface of, the Niger river . Therefore, most of their histories, mythologies, and philosophies are water-related. Annual fishing festivals that include masquerades, fishing, swimming contests, and dancing, are part of the Urhobo heritage. There is an annual, two-day, festival, called Ohworu that takes place in Evwreni, the southern part of the Urhobo area. It is during this festival that the Ohworhu water spirit and the Eravwe Oganga are displayed.
The king in an Urhobo clan or kingdom is called the Ovie. His wife,
the queen, is called Ovieya, and their children are knowns as Ọmọ
Ovie. Presently, these names are also given to children without royal
heritage. A number of Urhobo cultural divisions have other titles
other than Ovie. For example, the
Before marriage in Urhobo culture is properly contracted, prayers must be offered 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 is approved by the family.
On an agreed day, the fiancé goes with his relatives and friends to the fiancée's father's home, bringing gifts of drinks, salt, kola nuts, and occasionally food requested by the bride's family for the ceremony. Formal approval for marriage is given by the bride's parents, or who ever is representing the bride's family, as are the traditional rites of pouring the gin, brought by the fiancé, as a libation to the father's ancestors in order to bless them with health, children, and wealth. It is only after this marriage rite that the husband can claim a refund of the money (bride price) should the marriage fail. It is believed that the ancestors are a witness to 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 Urhobo culture.
In the ancestral home of the man, the wife is welcomed into the family by the eldest member of the family. There, she is expected to confess all of her love affairs during and after her betrothal to her husband, if any, and only then can she be absolved from all her wrongdoings. 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 believed to be the reason why married Urhobo women are very faithful to their husbands.
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 of the Urhobo week are Edewo, Ediruo, Eduhre, and Edebi. In Urhobo mythology, 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.
Divinities (spirits) are believed to be very active in the farmlands and forests on Edewo and Eduhre. Therefore, farmers in most Urhobo communities rarely go to 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, and also when farming activity is at its lowest, so most farmers are free to partake in festivities. 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, a certain food is considered to
belong to or originate from a particular tribe. For example, pounded
yam and egusi soup come from the Igbos (
The main focus of Urhobo traditional religion are the adoration of "Ọghẹnẹ" (Almighty God), the supreme deity, and recognition of Edjo and Erhan (divinities). Some of these divinities could be regarded as personified attributes of Ọghẹnẹ. The Urhobo also worship God with Orhen (white chalk). If an Urhobo feels oppressed by someone, he appeals to Ọghẹnẹ, who he believes to be an impartial judge, to adjudicate between him and his opponent. The fundamental factor and manifestation of all divinities in Urhobo religion is Oghene. Urhobo divinities can be classified into four main categories, which probably coincide with the historical development of the people. These categories are Guardian divinities, War divinities, Prosperity divinities, and Fertility and Ethical divinities.
Erivwin, which is the cult of ancestors and predecessors (Esemo and Iniemo), is another important element in the Urhobo belief system. The dead are believed to be living, and looked upon as active members who watch over the affairs of the living individuals in their family. Urhobos believe in the duality of man, i.e., that man consists of two beings:
* Physical body - Ugboma * Spiritual body - Erhi
It is the Erhi (spirit man) that declares man's destiny, and controls the self-realization of man's destiny before he incarnates into the world. Erhi also controls the overall well being (Ufuoma) of the man. Ọghẹnẹ (God) is like a constitutional Monarch who sets his seal on the path of destiny, set by a man's spirit (Erhi).
In the spirit world, Erivwin, man's destiny is ratified and sealed. In the final journey of the spirit man, Erhi, after transition, the Urhobo believe the physical body, Ugboma, decays while the Ehri is indestructible, and goes back to join the ancestors in the spirit realm. The elaborate and symbolic burial rites are meant to prepare the departed Erhi for happy re-union with the ancestors in the spirit world.
Despite this age-old and complex belief system, the influence of western civilization and Christianity is fast becoming an acceptable religion in most Urhobo communities.
Epha divination, similar to the Yoruba
URHOBO NOTABLE PEOPLE
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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
* ^ "A Royal History of the Okpe-Urhobo of
* v * t * e
Ethnic groups in