Gospel on the banks of the Niger, 1859

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The Igbo Archives presents a window into the past with a focus on the Igbo masquerade tradition, a cornerstone of our cultural heritage. This tradition, deeply rooted in spirituality, social order, and entertainment, is vividly captured in an image from the journal “Gospel on the Banks of the Niger” by John Christopher et al. (1859).

Three Igbo men and a Masquerade. Image Credit: Dede Chibu
Three Igbo men and a Masquerade. Image Credit: Dede Chibu

The image portrays three Igbo men alongside a masquerade, a scene that encapsulates the essence of Igbo communal gatherings and spiritual practices. Masquerades in Igbo culture are not mere spectacles; they are revered as embodiments of ancestral spirits and societal values. They play a pivotal role in festivals, embodying the connection between the physical and spiritual realms.

Another poignant image from the same journal depicts Wamah (Nwanma) of Aboh in a moment of prayer, dated March 5th, 1858. This prayer, documented during the Niger expedition, is a testament to the Igbo spirit’s direct and fervent communication with the divine.

Prayer by Wamah (Nwanma) of Aboh on March 5th, 1858. Image Source: Emmanuel Eke on IGBO HISTORY (IGBOS SINCE 3000BC)
Prayer by Wamah (Nwanma) of Aboh on March 5th, 1858. From The Gospel on the Banks of the Niger

The Depth of Igbo Spirituality

The original Igbo prayer goes: “Biko Tshi, mere’m ihoma, ngi wo ndu, biko kpere Tshuku Abiama, gwa ya obi’m dum ma-biko wepo ihinye ojo di na obi’m, tsufu Amusu, mekwa akku bia’m…”. This translates to a heartfelt plea for divine favor, life, and prosperity, reflecting the depth and directness of Igbo spirituality.

As we delve into these images and their accompanying narratives, we invite you to reflect on our shared history and the enduring legacy of Igbo culture. Consider the power of these words and the spiritual connection they foster, and perhaps, say this prayer in your own dialect, embracing the timeless bond it represents.

We encourage our readers to share their thoughts and experiences. How do these images and stories resonate with you? Do they evoke personal memories or a deeper curiosity about our rich cultural tapestry? Leave your comments below and join the conversation.

Explore Further

For those interested in delving deeper, consider exploring the following books available on Amazon:

The Gospel on the Banks of the Niger: Journals and Notices of the Native Missionaries Accompanying the Niger Expedition of 1857–1859

This 1859 publication contains the journals kept by Samuel Crowther (who in 1864 became the first African bishop of the Anglican church) and John Christopher Taylor during their respective missions to the banks of the Niger in 1857 and 1858. Crowther, a rescued slave educated at the Anglican mission in Sierra Leone, and Taylor, another Sierra Leonean, travelled on a trade expedition endorsed by the British government. Taylor disembarked at Onitsha and founded the first mission among the Ibo people, while Crowther landed further up the river, at Rabba. Revealing great Christian zeal and enthusiasm, both journals offer compelling insights into the daily life of a missionary in Africa and also serve as a valuable source of local history. The book includes the account of a canoe expedition undertaken by Crowther, along with a table of expenses for the trip, and a fascinating collection of Ibo proverbs compiled by Taylor.

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The igbo people is a tribe in west African and one of the most populated tribes in African with unique history and culture. This book is to teach this history and culture of the igbo people, also to teach their own civilization. Because they where civilized before the European.

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These works offer insightful perspectives on the Igbo people’s vibrant past and present, enriching our understanding of a culture steeped in tradition and resilience.

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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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