What are some fundamental mores of the Ibo community?

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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The Ibo society is based on several cultural standards/norms. These are focused in a few key areas.

  • Role of Men in the community- Men are the providers. For men, this role involves some sort of physical prowess, as demonstrated by the importance placed upon the wrestling competitions. In the Ibo village, the wrestling matches are events which can signal the passage from childhood into maturity for the boys, or continued virility and leadership for the men. The ability to provide factors into mens' functions as well, as one who can harvest vast amounts of crops can not only feed his family, but may sell the rest for extra wealth. Thus farming and growing healthy yams is considered part of the male arena in the book. Finally, strength on the battlefield is respected in the culture. A man who brings home the heads of the enemy is considered a hero, and carries the sign of virility. Men also have many wives, another symbol of virility.
  • Role of women in the community- Women are in charge of some farming (not yams) & of course, raising children. Children are raised by all wives, sharing the responsibilities among all members of the family. Also, all chores are shared amongst the wives and children. Wives have their own huts, where their children return at the end of the day. The husband has his own hut as well. Women who show strength are able to bear children, grow and harvest women's crops, and take care of their husbands without complaint. It is clear that women had rights in this culture as well. For example, during the trial of the women who left her husband, she is found to have been in the right. He is the one punished for having beaten her repeatedly during their marriage. Okonkwo too is reprimanded for his treatment of his wives, and when he beats his wife during the Week of Peace, he is publicly humiliated and told he has committed a great evil.
  • Religious Beliefs- The Ibo are a polytheistic society, & they believe in particular gods for various aspects of nature. Often, they identify the source of a drought as some sort of blasphemous act that has occurred on their soil. In order to restore the rain & the land, one must make a sacrifice of some kind, a penance for sin, if you will. Okonkwo does this through his suicide. It becomes the ultimate offering for the village and the gods, atoning for the sins he visited upon the society.The Ibo also worship both masculine and feminine deities. Indeed, one of the most powerful members of the community is Chielo, a priestess of Agbala. Although she is female, no man can order her because of her status. Her religious role has elevated her to equality with men, perhaps even surpassing them.
  • System of Justice-The Ibo have a complex justice system, that involves all members of the community. The roles of judges are played by the egwugwu, who are prominent citizens of the village wearing masks. The masks represent the ancestral spirits of the village, who pass judgment upon the accused. Each person who brings a suit to the egwugwu gains a trial, during which both sides plead their cases, much like prosecutors and defenders in contemporary legal courts. After hearing the case, the judges will confer together, then decide the best course of action. Often, if the case warrants punishment, it will be a very public one, usually carried out by all members of the village.

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