The Ikwerre people are an ethnic group located in Rivers State, Nigeria. They have a rich and diverse culture heavily influenced by their traditional beliefs and practices. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of the Ikwerre among the 371 tribes in Nigeria, including their traditional marriage ceremonies, festivals, religion, and more.

About The Ikwerre Tribe

The Ikwerre, also known as Iwhuruọha, is a prominent ethnic group in Rivers State, Nigeria. They are the largest subgroups of the Igbo people in the region. Traditional history has classified the Ikwerre into seven groups called “Ikwerre Essa,” which include Elele, Isiokpo, Rumuji, Emohua, Choba, Aluu, Igwuruta, and Obio. This classification was recognized by Forde and Jones in their ethnographic study of the Igbo-speaking peoples of South Eastern Nigeria. 

The Ikwerre lands in Rivers State, Nigeria, are known to be rich in oil resources. The area is home to several major oil fields, including the Eleme Petrochemical Company, one of Africa’s largest petrochemical complexes. The oil industry has played a significant role in the economy of the Ikwerre people, providing employment opportunities and driving economic growth in the region.

The Ikwerre people are also known for their rich and diverse culture, which is heavily influenced by their traditional beliefs and practices. They have a strong sense of community, and the extended family is highly respected and plays a vital role in the lives of the individuals. They are also known for their traditional festivals, religion, art, and craft.

Different Aspects Of The Ikwerre Tribe

Language and Communication

The Ikwerre people speak the Ikwerre language, which is a dialect of the Igbo language. The language is spoken by over 2 million people in Nigeria and is known for its unique mother tongue language. 

Some popular greetings in Ikwerre include:

  • Call: Ikwerre anu meka!
  • Response: Dieli!!

An Ikwerre man greets a gathering of other men:

  • Call: Nderiya mma!  
  • Response: Oyoyo!!  

An Ikwerre man greets a gathering of other women:

  • Call: Oro anu werum o! or Nde wem rishim duru eli!   
  • Response: Owe!!

Like other tribes in Nigeria, communication is an essential aspect of the Ikwerre tribe. They have a strong oral tradition, and storytelling is a popular pastime. The Ikwerre people also have a rich tradition of proverbs, which are often used to convey wisdom and advice. 

Additionally, English is also widely spoken among the Ikwerre people and is often used in conjunction with their traditional language. Nonverbal communication is also an essential aspect of the Ikwerre tribe, making their language and communication an intricate and rich aspect of their culture.

Marriage and Family

Ikwerre Marriage

Marriage and family are central to the Ikwerre culture. The traditional marriage ceremony is a significant event that involves several steps, including the man asking for the woman’s hand in marriage, paying the bride’s price, and the traditional engagement ceremony. 

The bride price, also known as “Iku Akwukwo,” is a payment made to the woman’s family to symbolize respect and appreciation. It is usually paid as money or other valuable gifts, such as cows or goats.

The Ikwerre traditional marriage ceremony comprises several steps that involve both the groom’s and the bride’s families. The steps include:

  • Oze-omahia-oro: This step is the initial stage of the process, where both families inquire about each other’s background and get to know each other.
  • Oli-aka-nu-onuha: Also known as “knocking-on-door,” this step involves the groom’s family officially asking for the bride’s hand in marriage, based on the outcome of the previous step.
  • Odoka-okwukwo-oyi: This step is when the bride’s family officially inquires about any previous or ongoing romantic relationships between the bride and groom. If any are found, the groom must pay for them, and a paper symbolizing the previous relationship is torn to show that the new marital relationship is approved.
  • Ome-nha-nwere: This is the final step, where the groom must pay a dowry, which includes a list of items for the bride’s father, father’s kinsmen, and mother. These items may be provided over time, but the bride can only leave with the groom once the last requirement has been fulfilled.

Festivals & Celebration

New Yam Festival

Festivals and celebrations are an important aspect of the Ikwerre culture. They have several festivals and celebrations throughout the year, bringing the community together and giving thanks for the bountiful harvest. One of the most popular festivals is the New Yam Festival, also known as “Iri-ji” or “Iri-ji-mmuo.” 

It is a celebration of the yam harvest and is a time for families to come together and give thanks for the bountiful harvest. The festival also marks the end of the farming season and is a time for farmers to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor. 

The New Yam Festival is an annual event that occurs in the middle of the year among the Ikwerre people. It is a sacred tradition and considered taboo to eat new yams before this festival. During the festival, a high priest sacrifices a goat and pours its blood over a symbol representing the god of the harvest.

The goat’s carcass is then cooked, and a soup is made from it while the yams are boiled and pounded to make foofoo. After the priest has prayed for a bountiful harvest in the coming year, he declares the feast open by eating the pounded yam and the soup, followed by the eldest lineage or family members. Then everyone joins in, and there is dancing, drinking, and merrymaking. 

After the festival, new yams may be eaten by anyone in the community. It is a custom in the Ikwerre culture that women are not allowed to grow yams for the yam festival, as it is considered a symbol of manliness.

Religion

Religion

The traditional religion of the Ikwerre people is deeply ingrained in their culture and heritage. They believe in a supreme being, known as Ndichie, who is the creator of the universe and is responsible for the welfare of all living things. 

They also believe in traditional gods responsible for specific aspects of life, such as fertility, protection, and prosperity. For example, Ojukwu Diobu is the god of war and protection, Amadioha is the god of justice and thunder, and other deities and spirits are responsible for different aspects of life.

Ancestor worship is also an important aspect of the Ikwerre traditional religion. The spirits of deceased ancestors are believed to significantly influence the lives of the living. They are honored and respected, and it is believed that they can bring blessings and protection to their descendants. Offerings, rituals, and ceremonies are performed to honor and communicate with the ancestors.

While traditional religion is an important aspect of the Ikwerre tribe, Christianity and Islam are also widely practiced by the Ikwerre among the 371 tribes In Nigeria. They have been introduced to the Ikwerre people through the efforts of Christian and Islamic missions in the region. 

Many Ikwerre people have adopted the practices and beliefs of these religions while still maintaining their traditional beliefs and customs. This has led to a unique blend of traditional and religious practices among the Ikwerre tribe.

6 Interesting Facts Of The Ikwerre Tribe in Nigeria

  • Ikwerre is the biggest ethnic group in Rivers state.
  • The Ikwerre is made up of four main groups, namely the Elele group (Ishimbam), the Igwuruta-Aluu (Ishiali) group, the Rumuji-Emohua-Ogbakiri (REO) or Risimini group, and the OPA group (Obio/Port Harcourt/Akpor).
  • The Ikwerre people have a rich history and culture that is heavily influenced by their traditional beliefs and practices.
  • The Ikwerre language is a dialect of the Igbo language, and over 200000 people speak it in Nigeria.
  • The popular festival in the year is the New Yam Festival.
  • A total of 92 oil wells, producing an estimated 100,000 barrels of crude daily, are located in Ikwerre land.

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