An Elder of Agukwu Nri. c. 1911 

HomeCultureAn Elder of Agukwu Nri. c. 1911 
An Elder of Agukwu Nri, Present-day Anambra State, photographed by Northcote Thomas, c. 1911.
An Elder of Agukwu Nri, Present-day Anambra State, photographed by Northcote Thomas, c. 1911 and colourized from black and white by Ukpuru. Image courtesy: Ukpuru on X

This colorized photograph, originally captured by Northcote Thomas in approximately 1911, features an Elder of Agukwu Nri. The image is a crucial artifact for understanding traditional Igbo society and its hierarchical structure. It underscores the significance of titleholders and their roles in Igbo culture. The traditional attire visible in the photograph offers insights into social standing and community significance.

The Historical and Cultural Context

The Kingdom of Nri, founded by the mythical “sky being” Eri, is a cornerstone of Igbo civilization. The Eze Nri, or kings of Nri, were both spiritual and political leaders, promoting the well-being of the Igbo people. These monarchs had the authority to demand oaths of allegiance, regulate cultural practices, and mediate conflicts within Igbo communities.

Northcote Thomas and Colonial Documentation

Northcote Thomas, a British Government Anthropologist, documented Igbo culture, history, and traditions during his tours of Igboland. His work was aimed at preserving Igbo heritage, but it also served the colonial agenda of better understanding and controlling indigenous populations. Despite its colonial context, Thomas’s documentation, including photographs and artifacts, provides valuable insights into Igbo society.

The Colorization of Historical Photographs

Ukpuru’s colorization of this photograph transforms it from a black and white image into a vibrant portrayal, enhancing the viewer’s connection to the past. Proponents of colorization argue that it brings historical events to life, making them more accessible and relatable. They believe it adds a new storytelling dimension to historical photographs.

Conversely, critics claim that colorization can distort historical accuracy and create a misleading sense of immediacy. They argue that black and white photographs more accurately represent historical moments, capturing essential qualities that help viewers understand the period better.

Regardless of these debates, colorized photographs have gained popularity as tools for preserving and presenting cultural heritage. This colorized image of the Elder of Agukwu Nri offers an engaging way to connect with traditional Igbo culture and history.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How does the colorized image of the Elder affect your perception of the past?
  • What insights do you gain about Igbo society from this photograph?
  • How can we best support the preservation of Igbo traditional practices?

Explore Further

For those who wish to delve deeper into the history and culture of the Nri people, the following books are recommended:

DIRT ON WHITE SPECTRUM: Myths, Travails and Legacies of Eze Nri, the Custodian of Igbo Tradition and Nigeria's Oldest Kingship Institution" by Chukwuemeka Ifeanacho Onyesoh

Overview: "DIRT ON WHITE SPECTRUM" by Chukwuemeka Ifeanacho Onyesoh is a comprehensive historical account detailing the myths, challenges, and legacies of Eze Nri, the revered custodian of Igbo tradition and the oldest kingship institution in Nigeria. Published on October 28, 2021, this book offers an in-depth look into the rich cultural heritage and high-profile civilization of the Igbo people, with a particular focus on the influential role of Eze Nri.

Key Themes:

  • Historical Significance: The book traces the origins of the Eze Nri kingship to before 900 AD, highlighting its long-standing importance in the governance and cultural preservation of the Igbo people.
  • Cultural Custodianship: Eze Nri is portrayed as a pivotal figure in maintaining Igbo traditions, including the regulation of the Igbo calendar, the introduction of title-taking ceremonies, and the establishment of monotheistic worship practices.
  • Human Rights and Governance: Onyesoh emphasizes Eze Nri's advocacy for pacifism, the sanctity of human life, and dignity, predating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by over a thousand years.
  • Colonial and Political Challenges: The narrative addresses the efforts by colonial powers, missionaries, slave traders, and modern Nigerian politicians to undermine Eze Nri's influence, yet the enduring legacies of Eze Nri continue to shine as an "irrepressible constant star" in Igbo culture and beyond.

Author's Perspective: Chukwuemeka Ifeanacho Onyesoh provides a detailed and reverent portrayal of Eze Nri, underlining the significance of this historical figure in preserving and promoting Igbo cultural heritage. The book is a call to recognize and appreciate the profound contributions of Eze Nri to both the Igbo people and the broader Nigerian society.

Publication Details:

  • Format: Paperback
  • Print Length: 377 pages
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 979-8752357954
  • Publication Date: October 28, 2021
  • ASIN: B09KN7ZNM8
  • Dimensions: 6 x 0.89 x 9 inches
  • Publisher: Independently published

Audience: This book is essential for readers interested in African history, Igbo culture, and traditional leadership systems. It offers valuable insights for historians, cultural enthusiasts, and anyone seeking to understand the historical and cultural complexities of the Igbo people and their influential kingship institution.

Conclusion: "DIRT ON WHITE SPECTRUM" is a meticulously researched and engagingly written account that sheds light on the profound legacy of Eze Nri. Chukwuemeka Ifeanacho Onyesoh's work is a significant contribution to the documentation and appreciation of Igbo cultural heritage, emphasizing the timeless relevance of Eze Nri's principles and practices. This book is a must-read for those interested in exploring the deep roots of one of Nigeria's most ancient and respected kingship institutions.

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Ora-eri Nnokwa & Nri dynasty by Charles M Ezekwugo

Title: Ora-eri Nnokwa & Nri dynasty Author: Charles M Ezekwugo Publisher: Lenjon Printers (Publishers) Publication Date: January 1, 1986 ISBN-10: 9782472018 ISBN-13: 978-9782472014 Language: English Print Length: 50 pages

Review: “Ora-eri Nnokwa & Nri dynasty” by Charles M Ezekwugo is a historical exploration of the rich and enduring legacy of the Nri dynasty and its influence on the Ora-eri and Nnokwa communities. This book, although concise, offers a deep dive into the traditions, customs, and governance that have shaped these communities’ identities.

Content Analysis: Ezekwugo’s work is a valuable contribution to the understanding of Igbo history and culture. It provides a detailed account of the Nri dynasty, known for its religious and cultural significance in Igbo history. The author meticulously documents the lineage and impact of the Nri, offering insights into the socio-political structures that have been pivotal in the region’s development.

Cultural Significance: For readers of Igbo Archives, this book is an essential read that captures the essence of Igbo ancestral heritage. It serves as a bridge connecting the past to the present, ensuring that the stories and achievements of the Nri dynasty continue to inspire future generations.

Conclusion: In “Ora-eri Nnokwa & Nri dynasty,” Ezekwugo has crafted a narrative that is both educational and engaging, making it an important resource for anyone interested in the historical narratives that have shaped the Igbo people’s way of life. It is a celebration of Igbo history, providing a lens through which we can view the complexities and richness of Igbo civilization.

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These works provide a comprehensive understanding of the Nri people, from their origins to their complex interactions with colonial powers. Explore these texts to enrich your knowledge of a resilient and vibrant culture.


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Onyeka Nwokike
Onyeka Nwokike

Onyeka Nwokike, a graduate from the University of Nigeria Nsukka and a writer at Igbo Archives, is working to challenge common misconceptions and broaden understanding. He has curated a collection of historical photographs and artifacts for Igbo Archives, which helps to fill the educational gaps left by mainstream media and school curricula. His commitment to the celebration and conservation of Igbo heritage has made Igbo Archives an essential resource, cultivating a strong sense of pride and cultural identity within the Igbo community.

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