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Nigeria's Igbo culture celebrated in London

IGBO TRADITIONS: A masquerade is performed on stage during last year’s Igbo Conference

HUNDREDS OF people gathered in central London last week for a special conference which explored the history and culture of the igbo tribe of eastern Nigeria.

The 3rd Annual Igbo Conference, held at the University of London’s School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) attracted academics from the US, UK and Nigeria, students and people interested in knowing more about the region.

The event was organised by academic Dr Louisa Uchum Egbunike, Yvonne Mbanefo who runs online Igbo dictionary project learnigbonow.com and film-maker and playwright Ndu Anike in association with the Centre for African Studies at SOAS.

Igbos from the south-eastern region of Nigeria are one of the country’s largest tribes consisting of 36 million people.

FAMILIAR

People all over the world have become familiar with Igbo culture through celebrated author Chinua Achebe’s famous work Things Fall Apart.

The 1958 book, republished in the UK in 1962, shows the impact that British colonialism and Christian missionaries had on the tribe during the late nineteenth century.

More recent works such as the 2006 novel Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie have also highlighted aspects of Igbo history to a wider audience.

The book was recently made into a Hollywood film starring BAFTA award winner Chiwitel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton.

Dr Egbunike told The Voice: “There are very few places in the UK where people can learn more about Igbo culture if they want to so the event really gave people the opportunity to engage and discuss in a friendly setting.


HIGHLIGHTING CULTURE: Dr Louisa Uchum Egbunike

“Some of those who attended were generally interested in Africa and others were interested in more specific aspects of the programme such as Igbo heritage and how people from that tribe maintained their heritage and culture after being sold into slavery. It’s our third conference and we’ve had such a positive response which is why the event has been growing each year since it started.”

Among the wide range of speakers at the conference was Professor Douglas B Chambers from the University of Southern Mississippi who gave a talk on the Igbo diaspora in the era of the slave trade.

HERITAGE

Chukwudum Ikeazor from the Metropolitan Police spoke about the link between Igbo heritage and the pursuit of justice; Chikodili Emelumadu from igbophilia.com addressed the audience on how to be Igbo in the 21st Century and Chidozie Mbanefo from New Crystal Communications shared insights on using Igbo culture to boost entrepreneurship. There was also a showing of Onye Ozi (The Messenger) from leading Nollywood director Obi Emelonye.

According to Dr Egbunike, the success of the conference will help the organisers achieve their ultimate goal of creating an Igbo cultural centre which will act as a hub for anyone interested in research in the field of Igbo Studies.

CULTURE

She said: “We want to have a museum-like space where people can learn about Igbo culture. We want to have some interactive materials there, an archive and a library for people to do research. But the project is also quite inclusive in that we’re looking to make connections with people trying to do similar things with Yoruba culture, another large indigenous tribe of Nigeria or the Twi culture of Ghana.

“With the closure of the Africa Centre in London there is definitely a gap in terms of having a space for African people to celebrate their culture and let people from other cultures know what’s happening in that community. It’s important that we start to take steps in creating that space.”

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