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Egungun As Part of Houston’s Nigerian Culture

Egungun As Part of Houston’s Nigerian Culture

Posted by: Wisdom O. Ogbor - Houston, Texas -
Thursday, November 23rd, 2017 - 8:01 pm
 
In the early 70's and 80's, students from Nigeria seeking admissions into a university outside their country began to troop into Houston for a few obvious reasons. The temperature in the commercial Texas city is not too cold, very comparable to the tropical climate in Nigeria; One University there, Texas Southern University, was admitting a huge number of Nigerian student applicants, and Nigerians who were already in Houston, were inviting their friends and relatives to come and settle with them in Houston.

It was only a matter of time before the newly arrived students began to make their presence felt in their new community. Young African American girls, who fell in love with their Nigerian "Prince" Charmings, are now proud mothers of a new super generation of Nigerian Americans. Politicians, like Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who was smart to befriend the Nigerian community early in her career, still enjoy repetitive political victories, while The Houston basketball team, the Rockets, claimed two national championships under the leadership of the Nigerian, Hakeem The Dream, Olajuwon.

The community has continued to grow with so many of her people in the Houston work force, owning unique Nigerian businesses, and several storefront Churches in keeping with a keen Nigerian competitive spirit. Not to be outdone, the cultural and traditional community is also taking root with Babalawos and traditional healers.

A Nigerian Ifa priest, Oluwo Ifatoba has become the first Nigerian to introduce the Egungun celebration to Houston. Watch the video below:


 

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Young Kings of Africa, Making A Difference Here, And Now



Posted by: Wisdom O. Ogbor - Asaba, Nigeria
Posted on: Monday, October 23rd, 2017 - 1:48 am

Once upon a time, Africa used to be known as a land of Kings and Queens, and of princes and princesses. The kings were usually old and powerful men, and in a few instances women, who ruled in council with equally older and wise men. Their powers were absolute and they were able to inflict pain or death to their subjects with no fear of retribution. These modern times however, have left Africa with fewer kings as foreign alliances have formed countries and heads of governments, leaving the few remaining ancient kingdoms with mostly ceremonial authorities.

History has taught us about some few young boy kings of the past, like the biblical King David, slayer of giants, and Egypt’s King Tut who ruled when he was very young, and unfortunately died when he was only 19 years old. There have been, and still, there are several great kings, but it seems like people only pay more attention when the young are crowned, or when the crowned are Queens. In this article, Real Roots International magazine brings to your attention the story of six kings in Africa who ascended the thrones of their ancient kingdoms very early in age, and are still considered as some of the youngest monarchs in the world today.


1. The youngest king that was ever crowned in the world was first recognized in Nigeria’s Delta state in 1979 when the Dein of Agbor Kingdom, His Royal Highness Benjamin Ikenchukwu Keagborekuzi 1, ascended the throne of his late father James Obika Ikenchukwu. The new Dein, or King as translated from their ancient language, was just two years and four months old, and his crowning was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as a world’s first.

The Agbor kingdom is one of the oldest dynasties in Africa with the first dynasty dating back as far as 721 BC. The crowning of Dein Keagborekuzi 1 made him the 19th monarch from the third hereditary dynasty that began in 1270 AD. Because of his young age at the time of his crowning, Dein Keagborekuzi spent most of his childhood studying in England until he was old enough to return and take over from regents who had been sitting in for him during his absence. Now in his early forties, the Dein of Agbor kingdom has matured with experience and the respect of his country and his subjects. He is now in a good position to mentor the newer and younger kings who were crowned in Nigeria, and are currently only in their teens and twenties.


2. In Uganda, a similar history to that of the Dein of Agbor repeated in 1995. King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV of the Toro kingdom was crowned at the young age of three and half years old. He was also enlisted in the Guinness World Records Book as the “World’s Youngest Monarch” at the time of his coronation. The young “Omukama of Toro” was born in 1992, and when his father died in 1995, he became the 12th king in the 180-year-old kingdom in Uganda.

The people of Toro make up a small but powerful minority of Uganda with a dynasty that dates back to the 14th century. The word, “Omukama”, means king in the Toro kingdom. The late Colonel Muamar Gadhafi of Libya mentored the young King of Toro after his coronation, and Libya spent millions of dollars to refurbish the palace of the young monarch, and to support the development of several projects in Toro kingdom. King Oyo is currently in his early twenties, and is well respected in Uganda for the progressive policies that he champions for young people in his kingdom


3. Another incident of the crowning of a young king in Africa happened in Nigeria’s Delta state again. In 2016, Young King Chukwuka Noah Akaeze 1 of Ubulu-Uku kingdom, was crowned at the age of 15 when his father King Akaeze Edward Ofulue III was murdered at a young age. The new King Chukwuka Noah Akaeze 1 who is still in school in England, is not expected to begin his royal duties now until he is done with his education. Meanwhile, his uncle, who will serve as a regent until the king is ready to serve, is assisting him.


4. Delta state, Nigeria holds the record of kingdoms where young monarchs are crowned in Africa. Obi Nduka Ezeagwuna II of Oligbo kingdom, in Issele-Uku, Delta State, was crowned in 2016 at the age of 24. He was just 22, and a university student when his father, King Henry Ezeagwuna 1 was killed in a ghastly motor accident in 2014. He was immediately declared king after his father, but had to undergo so many rites that culminated to his official crowning in 2016.

The Oligbo kingdom of Issele-uku is one of the oldest monarchies in Nigeria because of their direct tie to the ancient kingdom of Benin Empire. Before finally taking the staff of his office, the young King Nduka Ezeagwuna II was sent for mentoring with the Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty Oba Ewuare II. At his coronation, King Nduka Ezeagwuna II said these words in appreciation of the role played by Oba Ewuare II in support of the new king of Oligbo kingdom: “The profound mentoring I was privileged to receive from him while there reassured me of my affinity and strong roots. The exposure has strengthened my confidence in confronting the task of leadership of my people”


5. King Mswati III is another young African king who was crowned in 1986 at the young age of 18, as the “Ngwenyama”, or “Igwenyama” of Swaziland kingdom. At the time of his coronation, he was also regarded as the youngest monarch in the world. Together with his mother who became the Queen Mother, he rules as an absolute monarch in his independent country of Swaziland. He is mostly very famous for being a polygamist with 16 wives, and 25 children. He organizes a yearly dance of young virgins in his kingdom where he constantly searches to increase the number of his wives.

King Mswati was just 14 years old when his father, King Sobhuza II died in 1982. King Sobhusa himself was married to 125 wives during his 82-year-old rule.

6. The last king of the Mpondo people on the Eastern Cape of South Africa might be King Ndamase Ndamase. King Ndamase was also the youngest king in South Africa when he was crowned in 2008 at the age of 25 years old. However, if government authorities are to have their way, it has been challenged by a commission that after King Ndamase, there will be no more kings for the people of Western Pondoland after the sixth monarchy that dates back to 1845. But the Ndamase Royal family has put up a court challenge against the South African government commission that is threatening to end their monarchy. According to a favorable court ruling for the monarchy, the government has no business to interfere, if a collective of people get together and decide to subject themselves to the rule of any monarchy. But as King Ndamase Ndamase hangs on to power in his kingdom so far, tribal and government intrigues cloud the future of his monarchy.



 

You Dey Make “Yanga” – Origin of A Nigerian Slang



Posted by: Wisdom O. Ogbor - Veracruz, Mexico
Posted on: Sunday, October 1st, 2017 - 6:05 pm

It is on record that Nigeria is a group of people consisting of more than 350 tribes with more than 500 ethnic languages. It is very difficult to communicate in a country like this, however Nigerians have found a way to manage, using Pigeon English, or Broken English, a bastardized version of the English language that was introduced to Nigeria by British colonial masters.

If you grew up in Nigeria, you must have heard the word “Yanga” spoken in Pigeon English, or mixed up in other ethnic languages. “You dey make Yanga Tolotolo” meaning “You are showing off like a Turkey”. Or “No make Yanga o, you hear?”, meaning “Do not be too proud”, as in the advice of parents to their children going away from home for the first time to a school, or a new job. There are so many words mixed up with regular English that many Nigerians use in Pigeon English, but very few pause to think about how these words got mixed up in their language. Like “Yanga”, for example.

People have used the name Yanga as a surname around the world for many centuries. It is very popular in Tanzania, and in New York City at the turn of the last century, there were many Yangas registered to be living there. But the most popular reference and obvious origin of all these Yangas, is traced to Mexico around 1545 to a slave named Gaspar Yanga who lived near the Port of Veracuz before Mexico became independent. Gaspar Yanga was an African slave taken from the region of Congo during the slave trade, who refused to accept his condition as a slave, and fought and defeated his Spanish slave masters several times.




The Spanish settlement near Cordoba, in Veracruz, were using African slaves to farm and produce sugarcane in the 1500’s. Gaspar Yanga was one of these able-bodied “Mandingo” as they were called, whom the plantation owners depended on to cultivate sugarcane for the lucrative sugar market. But Yanga, a very proud African descendant of kings organized his fellow slaves instead, and fought war against their Spanish slave masters. Unable to resist Yanga’s war, the Spanish withdrew from their plantations to settle at what is known today as the city of Cordoba, the capital of the State of Veracruz. Now left alone with his people in the plantations, Gaspar Yanga founded the first free territory for African slaves in the Americas.

Yanga was celebrated by his people as a liberator, and news about him gave strength to other slaves in the area who began to escape to join Yanga in his new free territory. This was obviously not good for the Spanish as it began to seem as if they were loosing control of the region. The Spanish organized several times to bring Yanga and his people under control, and failed. Left with no other option, Yangas people were left alone and Yanga ruled over them as a king for so many years.

When the Spanish saw that Yanga was getting old, they organized their army and attacked Yanga’s settlement once again. Unable to resist a more organized and armed Spanish invasion this time, Yanga fled to the mountains with his people and began a guerilla war against the Spanish, demoralizing them, and causing the sugarcane plantations to suffer great losses. In order to have stability once again, the Spanish negotiated with Gaspar Yanga and his people, and agreed to recognize their freedom in return for peace in the region.




Yanga ruled in his autonomous town situated between the city of Cordoba and the very important Port of Veracruz for many years. The news of his exploits now circulated to all the regions of the America’s where other slaves dreamed of victory and freedom just like Yanga and his people. But Yanga was betrayed as he got older. He was tricked to attend a meeting with his former masters where he was subdued, arrested and killed. His people now left with no leader became less war-like, and the Spanish once again had stability and commerce in their region.

But Yanga’s town still remain today in Mexico’s state of Veracruz, bearing his name and celebrating Yanga’s legacy as liberator and founder of the first town to be free from slavery in the Americas. Visitors to the town of Yanga today are greeted by Gaspar Yanga’s huge statue, and what remains of his descendants have slowly been mixed with the Spanish and Indians of Mexico. Their legacy however, is now the black culture of Mexico, which also includes the African settlements of La Costa Chica in the desert states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.


 

 

THE STORY OF THE BLACK JESUS CHRIST



Posted by: Wisdom O. Ogbor - Esquipulas, Guatemala
Posted on: Thursday, September 7th, 2017 - 3:22 am

I must say from the beginning here, that this is not a story of black supremacy begging for attention, or a story to condemn those people of faith who are devout in their Christian belief as it is; but rather, this is a story of what I have seen, and it is taking place now all over the world.

Having said this, many people will agree that the Roman Catholic Church is one of the main sources and the guardians of many popular Christian relics that are known in these modern times. I say “popular”, because, even though there are other sources, the Vatican imposes their collections above the rest of them. As such, when I discovered that the presence and worship of a black Jesus Christ has got it’s roots tied to the Roman Catholic church, I was less afraid to associate with it, to learn about it, so that I can now write about it. This is more so because I am a black African who has been brought up to know only about, and worship the image of a white Jesus Christ. .

So, I took a particular interest during my travels in Mexico and Central America, to the existence of altars and cathedrals dedicated to the worship of a black Jesus Christ. In the Spanish language it is referred to, as “El Hermanadad del Cristo Negro”. .




THE CATHEDRAL IN MEXICO CITY:

I first came in contact with this at the giant Roman Catholic Cathedral in Mexico City. Inside this cathedral, there are many altars for the Virgin Mary, and various saints. However when I entered the cathedral, I was surprised to see that the altar that was attracting the majority of visitors and worshippers, was one with the image of a black man on the crucifix. When I asked why this was so, I was told about the legend of el Cristo Negro. Now, there are different variations of the stories of this legend, but the one unmistakable conclusion is that this image is associated with so many miracles, which has made it the most sought after altar in that busy cathedral in Mexico City. .

There is one story of a rich man over four hundred years ago, who was a devout worshipper and always kissed the feet of a statue of Jesus Christ. But his enemies were so jealous of him and plotted to kill him by sending him a poisoned cake. After eating this cake, this rich man went again as always to worship. Kneeling in front of his beloved statue and kissing its feet, the statue instantly absorbed all the poison in the rich man’s body, causing the statue to turn to black. All the other worshippers on seeing this, immediately recognized a miracle, and then began to worship the statue that was now a black image of Jesus Christ. .




THE ESQUIPULAS CATHEDRAL OF THE MIRACULOUS BLACK CHRIST

However, the original legend of El Cristo Negro, comes from a quiet mountain town in Guatemala, named Esquipulas. In this town, bordering Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras, there is a huge white cathedral built and dedicated to this image of a black Jesus Christ. The cathedral attracts tourists and pilgrims all year round, including presidents and popular figures from all around the world. On the 15th of every January, every year, a festival is held for this miraculous Cristo Negro in Esquipulas. .

The legend of this black Jesus Christ is that a sculptor was commissioned to make a statue of Jesus Christ for the faithful. The dark skinned Indian converts of the area had requested that a dark skinned statue of Christ be made to reflect their indigenous image. A white statue was made instead. However, before the work of art was commissioned, the statue had miraculously turned black. No matter how they the church tried to restore it to the original color, it was futile; and thus began the legend of the black Jesus Christ. .

But there are some people who say that the image became black over the years because of a certain type of wood that was used in the sculpture. Others even say that the smoke from candle burns in the church had turned the statue black. However, once black, no one was ever able to restore it to a different color. But that was not all. Miracles began to be associated with the image, making the blind to see, the cripple to walk, and the inflicted to be healed. Needless to say that people began to flock around the statue for favors, and faithfuls carried the image far away to Mexico, all over Central America, and some parts of the USA. .

In Portobelo, Panama where the hermanadad del Cristo Negro is highly popular, residents there attribute the popularity to the power the statue had at one time, to calm the storm that was threatening to ravage their community. After the storm was calmed, the image of El Cristo Negro was found floating in the sea where it was fetched and hung inside a church. Soon after that, miracles began to happen in the community, and people from all over Panama began to seek out El Cristo Negro and ask for favors from him. .

I have no way of knowing what legend to believe among all of these. And there are more, but I am encouraged by the way the Vatican has allowed this to become a part of worship in their different dioceses in Mexico and Central America. There have been reports that even point out that there is a special image of a black Jesus that the papal fathers worship. Some of these acts have been documented outside of the Vatican where Pope John Paul II was seen praying in front of the image of a black Jesus in Angola, and Pope Francis worshipping a black Madonna. .

As much as I have been encouraged to see a multitude of Roman Catholic faithfuls going on their knees, praying and celebrating the image of a black Jesus in the Americas, I am sad that this tradition has not been allowed to flourish to Africa. Because of the lack of exposure to this culture, Africans frown on any image of Jesus Christ that is not white. There are other claims of Jesus Christ being originally black, which I have not cited here in other to avoid controversy, but even so, many Africans will take this factual story I have presented here as a slight to their faith and religion. But I have only presented what my travels have revealed to me, and the pride I have taken from it, to dare to picture my Jesus Christ in my own image




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