What is it about?

Ọzọ title is an esteemed title taken by honorable men of integrity in Igbo-Ukwu and Igbo land at large. It was abandoned with the advent of colonialism and Christian religion because it was seen as a ‘heathen’ title. The title was later revived and reconstructed because of its role in character building and enforcing good morals in Igbo societies as well as preserving Igbo identity. The reconstruction involves removing some aspects of the initiation rituals connected with Igbo traditional religion to make the title acceptable to all people irrespective of their religious beliefs. However, some members of Igbo-Ukwu community argued that reconstructing the initiation rituals reduced the title to a social one and made some ọzọ initiates live without obeying the rules and regulations of their institution. The author argued that the indigenous ọzọ title taking in Igbo-Ukwu and the reconstructed one serve the same purpose and have similar requirements. This is because one of the major qualities an individual must have before joining ọzọ institution is that he must be a good person, a good person does not need to be compelled by an oath taken in the shrine of a deity or pledge made to the Supreme God to live according to the rules and regulations of the institution he joined. The reconstruction of the ọzọ initiation rite encourages communal harmony because it brings people of various religions and status together. Presently, in Igbo-Ukwu, any member of the community whether a free born, ritual slave or slave who meets the required standard for taking the ọzọ title is allowed to take the title. Truly, it is better to amend culture and preserve the people’s identity because when culture is not flexible or changed to carter for the ever changing needs of the people, it will be abandoned resulting in loss of culture and identity. The following recommendations are made as a result of the outcome of this study; The character investigation done before an ọzọ aspirant joins the prestigious ọzọ title must be carried out without fear or favor to make sure the right candidates are selected for initiation. It is equally important to organize a seminar before each ọzọ initiation rite, this will help to educate candidates more on the rules and regulations of ọzọ title and the consequences of not living by the rules.

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Why is it important?

The work is important because it will help Africans to refrain from the total abandonment of some aspects of their culture connected to African traditional religion but rather modify them to suit people of all religious inclinations. This is essential because people without culture are clueless and have no identity.


I hope this article makes people to be more confident in their culture and work seriously for cultural revival, reconstruction and preservation. This is because culture makes people whom they are and people without culture are considered not to be in existence.

Dr Obiageli Christiana Okoye
University of Lagos Akoka Yaba Lagos, Nigeria

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Cultural Reconstruction of Ọzọ Initiation Rites in Igbo-Ukwu Southeast, Nigeria and Identity Preservation, Journal of Religion in Africa, June 2022, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/15700666-12340228.
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