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Friday, April 18, 2008

African Insurance And Festivals

For some time now, I have been thinking about festivals and what I have come to understand by the term, African Insurance.
The first time I heard about African Insurance, it was from a neighbour, when she was describing what happened when robbers attacked another neighbour’s family and shot at some of them. Of course the bullets bounced of the kids and wife, because they all had African Insurance.

Thinking of it, I then realized that at some point in my life, I also had an African Insurance, to ensure that I wouldn’t be harmed by a cutlass.

For those who know the Isoko people, they will understand why we are called Isoko Tolopia (The Isokos picks cutlass).

I really don’t know why the term is used for us, except that the Isoko’s use cutlass for a lot of things, including war. It is the reason why people will joke about an Isoko man chasing men sneaking around to see his daughter, with the cutlass he has under his bed. My papa no get oh!

A friend of my brother accompanied us to the village in 2003 to bury my grandfather, when he encountered a woman chasing her son with a cutlass, because according to her, she carried him for nine months, and before he kills her, she will kill him. So my brother’s friend said he now understands why the Isokos are related to the cutlass.

But I digress.

When I was six years old, I got an African Insurance during the period of the village’s yearly (or was it once in two years?) festival.

The festival consisted of three warring side, which represented the three quarters of the village, which again represented the three brothers, Urabe, Ukoli, and Egbo, sons of the king of Olomu, whom many years ago, left their land with their village god on their head, running away from God knows what and for the safety of their god, to protect it from whatever war was going on back in the days.

After journeying away from their Urhobo land of Olomu for many days, they decided to rest, so they dropped their god (owa olomu, which means Olomu’s load). After resting, they decided to continue but Owa Olomu refused to be carried, and they decided it liked it where it was among the Isoko people, and they settled there, married and bred and my sweet village- Olomuoro, out of Olomu, but renamed Olomoro by the white men, again- came into existence.

There after, before Olomoro’s festival, some sort of permission is taken from the king of Olomu and elders from Olomu attend our festivals. While the festival really wasn’t about the three quarters warring, they tried to relive the greatness of Olomoro, a warring town that bred a warrior like Owowo, my great grand father, and others. And also to pay some respect to whomever, and display what they are known for. Cutlass. (for the record, this isn’t entirely precise, but I know I am on the track, with a lot missing. I will save it for my book)

Anyway, I digress again.

Before the festival proper, the whole village prepares, farming ceases for a while, and priests prepare the warriors.

One fateful August, a break in my primary school, we traveled home and it was a festival period.

I woke one morning and saw one of my cousins with leaves in her mouth. She had gone to do a sort of medicine, so that if she pierces one cheek with a needle, it would come out on the other side.

I was intrigued. I think I was seven not six. I asked lots of questions and realized there were different types of medicines to do. Without telling anyone, I was off for an African insurance.

A new blade was used to mark thirteen marks each above my breast, and a needle was used to draw three lines on my chest. The medicines were robbed in and I was ready for the festival as long as I didn’t go near water the rest of the day (those med marks don go back to where them come from).

Another of my cousin did a different insurance and later was tied to a tree, just like some other guys, and shot at with a gun. Of course he wasn’t hurt.

My insurance, insured me from cutlass. The festival then, is full of cutlasses. At the village square where the parade holds, all the warriors fighting the fake war are busy throwing cutlasses left right and centre into the air. If you dare to look up, you will be so confused because all the cutlasses looked as though they were fighting in the air. What’s more, every cutlass thrown into the air is always caught by who ever threw it. They never fell to the ground, and there never were calamities, but just in case, the African Insurance protects one from harm. And the warriors are dancing as they throw, moving around, but still, a cutlass will locate its owner.

It used to be fun. I attended just one of such festivals, before they stopped holding them. And their reason for stopping, I know not, except I hear that once you are a Christian, you cannot attend such festivals anymore.

I miss the festivals really, because it is tradition and passing our history down to the next generation. It is our identity and our roots, and I wanted my own children to experience it, without the insurance of course, from a distance. And that brings me to wonder just how in the name of God, does all these medicines/African Insurance work.
I do wonder.

Nice weekend ya all.


  1. Carrying their gods on their heads protecting them from intending war, Africans na wao, whats the essence of having a god. Love the write up miss fake eyelashes.

  2. please who is taking you in this history?

    i dont know nada about my people except the infamous Lisabi story.lolllll

    Uzezi im impressed

    Nice weekend

  3. this babe, I' afraid of you o!

    On the real though, its quite impressive that you know a lot about the history of your people. Sadly, our children might not get to experience such history. They might get the hisory of blogging, facebook, and video games :)

  4. Chineke mee!This is serious. I heard about those things while growing up, but never had any personal experience.

    Great history by the way. Another example of our rich heritage.

  5. U definitely know a lot about ur pple.
    Am kinda clueless when it comes to mine, xcept d origin of our name.

    How d african thingiee works, ul have 2 ask 1 of those who prepare them.

    Lovely weekend.

  6. An update!
    God be praised.
    I concur with Archi on this oh!
    You mean those things are for real?
    I've lived in Naija all my life and never seen this. Heard the rumours though.
    Dang, girl!
    13 marks above of your breasts!
    I hail oh :P

  7. girl, are u saying u have "odeshi" now....and cutlass or bullet cant hurt you? thanks for the history lesson ma..lol

  8. You mean it really works? The "insurance'? There was this cult dude in my unit that was shot several times but did not have a scratch on him. He attributed it to his mother's church - MFM but word on the street was that he had gone to boil himself in jazz.

    Are you sure they did not shoot your cousin with blanks?

  9. Beautiful, colorful history... I wish we could claim our rich ancestry despite (or because) of the advances of Christianity... When it's done for the purpose of knowledge and understanding, why is it conflicting with religious views?

    Good that you know so much and would be able to enlighten some others!

  10. Interestin piece. You have inspired me to do another hstory post.

    Thank God sey all the marks don return to sender sha o

  11. So the cuts you received meant you were exempt from harm? Is that it? That was the insurance? PS Lol you were first on the BA comment you made. Lol thanks xoxo

  12. and what an update...well worth its wait...impressive story...i too worry about what is being preserved for posterity...my dad has told us, as of late, stories about mami wata and her/its protection in the area he's from...and he had told us other stories about special medicines...

    ...we should go and revive the practices o!!...you-of your people and i can do my dad and mom's people...what say you?...be blessed this weekend...;)

  13. Blessed weekend your self.

    Nice piece. Wish i knew my background so deep like you know yours. Impressed.

  14. @ sprezatura - that protecting the gods thing i no understand too.

    @ darkelcee - who is taking me in the history? I think i listen when elders talk and i ask questions alot about home and why so is so. i just love history

    @ bumight - no fear i beg.
    lol@ our kids getting the hisory of blogging, facebook, and video games.

    but we can help preserve our sense of idendity by knowing who we are, so we can pass the story on. That is a start.

    @ archiwiz - ya. we do have a great history

    @ OluwaDee - if i ask they will think i want to take their business from them.

    @ tobenna - those things work but i wouldn't bet my life on them for absolute protection. heard stories of when they fail. No power compares to the Almighty God

    @ soupasexy- no now. it expired many many years ago.

    @ In my head and around me- well, i guess it has something to do with what u believe in. I mean, a cutlass didnt fall on me and nobody tried to behead me, to really prove to me that i was safe.
    u have a point. maybe they were blanks

    @ Ms Sula - i wish we could claim it too.wonder why we cant relate it with christianity.

    @ ablackjamesbond- please do. i really loved the one you did on names and babatunde.

    @ Nogo- that's what it was supposed to do.

    @ guerreiranigeriana- thanks. and we should worry. im with u. let's do it in whatever way we can through our arts. writings, paintings, photography, documentary etc. we have to begin somehow.

  15. So they really stopped this festival? na wa o. What a shame. Our traditions are extremely necessary. They are the link that ties us to our past. Without them, we lose sight of who we are and where we are going. While I understand that not all customs can be retained in light of our move towards Xtianity/Islam, I desperately hope that we do not do away with the better customs that personify who we are as a people.

    Nice post Uzezi. It reminded me of the various festivals/'masquerades' I attended at my mother's village (Abonema, Rivers State - Nyemoni, you sabi wetin I yarn, shey?) as a child. Being chased by my cousin who was a masquerade because i didn't give enough money to 'appease' the spirits. lmao! I ran that day and hid under my grandpas bed. My cousin did not realise I was a runner growing up and all those beers in his bele did not allow him to keep up with me. I dusted the bobo sha. lol! Fake masquerade. May his soul rest in perfect peace.

  16. Hiaaaaaaaaaaa! Those cutlass festivals na real waya oh! Ofcourse na only for television na im me i don watch am, fear no dey allow me go. Meanwhile, that festival is the serious shit. Hundreds of people packed in that crowd, all throwing cutlasses in the air with crazed looks on their faces and catching them anyhow....the thing is scary ohhhh! A fucking packed crowd...I always knew those people that dared to stand right in the middle, knew something that I do not. How person go dey middle of "cutlass rain"? Na craise?

    Shebi the Urhobos have one like that, Agbasa festival? Dat one na the scariest of them all, apart from all that cutlass throwing, na so dem dey sacrifice human head join. I think they still do "curfew" in Warri anytime that festival is on...na so for morning time you go see headless bodies for road....

    They said they have banned Agbasa and all the rest, but still, anytime festival time reach, na so headless humans go dey show up here and there.

    Meanwhile, baby girl, wetin dey worry you self? no yarns for your sista? abeg, halla na!

  17. @ SOLOMONSYDELLE- they stopped it oh. and i dont know why. and these festivals can help attract tourists to our country. i agree that not all aspect of our tradition can be retained due to religion, but what recording them down, so that two hundred years from today, those records can be used to study origins and culture of people who once existed, because let's face it, many of our small languages in this country will become extinct in just a matter of time.

    @ Waffarian- my sister u for try attend one o. i would give anything to experience it again as an adult. and those beheading of bodies was common and i think still common in lots of places in Delta state. and it isn't just cos of festivals they behead innocent people. even when an ovie (king) dies in most of the towns, before he can be buried, a certain number of heads most role. used to hear the story how for a week and more, farmers at home wouldn't farm, cos head hunters were out in the bushes.

    and to our deal, my sister, my fear no let me give u feedback. make i gather courage first.

  18. Interesting tradition.
    Thanks for sharing.

  19. are you for real? like you really had the whole cuts and stuff?
    wow...someone take me to the deep ends of my roots, i want to know more..

  20. wow, very impressive.ive always wondered about how much those things work. this African insurance, does one have to renew it or na for life?

  21. This is a fantastic write-up, sista. It's unfortunate that christian and Islamic doctrines have eroded our culture to the point that we appear to distance ourselves even from the beautiful aspects of it. It's a shame, don't you think?

    And quite ironic that the whiteman who brought us christianity, would give anything to have a rich culture like ours so they could make ish loads of money from it in tourism.

    I can't help feeling (even as a christian)that 'christianity' and 'Islam' or the dogmatic adoption of 'faith' has done more to enslave Nigerians than to better them. Think, think, Nigerians, Africans think!!!

  22. Uzi. Dont wonder at all about how those things work o. You really dont want to know. Just leave them as they are. In the past.

    How u dey?

  23. I wonder as well but they do work o! LOL….sounds like fun….am from Delta state and I had cause to witness “Ine festival” once growing up…it was real fun! But hope the scars of the cuts have healed??

  24. Dann uzezi, this post is actually scarey...

    Great history but scarey all the same especially the guy that was tied to a tree and shot at...

    on second tots.... with all the stabbings going on in the streets of london maybe I should come home and get this insurance!!!

  25. Interesting, just wrote a post along these lines

  26. Interesting, just wrote a post along these lines

  27. lovely post.
    it's a shame they stopped it.
    our culture shud be preserved and allowed to evolve to fit the present..
    how u dey?

  28. Wow! u know so much about ur culture. I'm really impressed.Is your african insurance still effective? If I use cutlass on you now u mean sey u no go bleed? LOL!

  29. @ Abbie- u r welcome.

    @ fantasy queen- very for real. had the cuts, but since they weren't deep, they've all healed.

    @ For the love of me- haba, it cant be for life now. no dont want the people trading in it to feed? but i don't advice it. No power pass God Almighty.

    @ naijalines- yeah, religion did take stuff away from us.

    @ N.I.M.M.O - i will listen to you and not wonder. i'm alright.

    @ doll - sure they healed.

    @ Afrobabe- what is scarey about it?
    Naaaaaaaaaaa. The only insurance u need against all the stabbing is that blood that was shed on the cross.

    @ Comrade- really? i will come check it out.

    @ Sherri- let's start somewhere. it's obvious we all want to preserve our culture. let's all start by doing the little we can.

    @ Today's ranting- effective? i don't know o! I only know that durinf the years of the festivals, people do them again, so it's not for life. No carry cutlass on me o! lol.

  30. wow...i ve seen some rituals on discovery...but tht was a detailed write up...africa is the land of mystery..hope i get to visit there sometime soon :)

  31. ah!finally here but this post long ooo!

  32. uzezi i gotta give it to you, you know your shit

    very impressive. The only thing i know about history is....erm.....anyway

    as for me, i wont only have cutlass, na gun...

    i dont think i understood about the African insurance, maybe i did but dont get it, i dunno

    its been long sef, where have u been

  33. @ maverick- not mystery maverick, culture. do visit. u will be wowed beyond ur expectations.

    @ wellsbaba- i go vex if u no read this post and some other old ones, since u refused to notice this blog a long time ago

    @ Fresh and Fab- yeah, u gotta give it to me. i know my shit. na gun own u want abi? i can imagine

  34. Seems like you answered my question already. Was thinking that the insurance must have expired by now and you'll prolly pay a premium going by the number of years you went without paying subscription.

  35. I dont know anything about the history of my tribe or their festivals..let me go and think about my life now...

  36. very nicely written post.

    i wasn't too familiar with the doctrine, yet now i leave with a sense.

  37. Nice post....hard to understand.....
    from another area in Africa.....this is called witchcraft.

  38. Babe your ahem..insurance.Does it protect you from Samurai swords? abi na only local Kotilasi?

  39. u seem to be really in touch with ur roots, wish i can say same for myself.

    hullo dearie

  40. gal! u r one brave chic!

    heard stories here and there sha, interesting stories and memories you have.

  41. am so embarrassed dat i know next 2 nothing abt my ancestoral history. i've heard some of dem, in bits & pieces, but i can't tell a story of it.

    can't remember attending village festivals. we girls were always in d kitchen cooking & serving d visitors dat would come. by d time everyone had gone, d festival was over. i wish now i experienced a bit

    yes, christainity as done a lot od damage 2 d festivals. everything has been 'baptisized', it's no longer d same. Those who want 2 keep it original r accused of being demon worshippers (mayb they r, maybe they r not, who knows 4 sure)

    it's a pity sha

    abt d african insurance, can't say i believe in it. Have seen a lot of it on TV, but never in person. As far as my personal experience goes, it could all b croak of shit dat makes babalawos in business

  42. @ 30+ - lol @ premium payment.

    @ NigerianDramaQueen - easy o

    @ Don - thanks

    @ joyunspeakable - witchcraft! I understand that.

    @ Adekunle Shobowale- lol. Swords?

    @ Ms. emmotions - im sure u have some stuff we don't know about

    @ SOLOMONSYDELLE, soupasexy - so soon?

    @ Bunmmy- claim the brave part.

    @ Free-flowing Florida- oya find some and post so we can learn. what the kitchen has made women miss, we can't begin to count.

  43. Uzezi! I did not know you were my personal oniovo. I am from Igbide. A silly maternal cousin once came to visit and assured my sis about his own insurance and allowed my sis to "test" it. Needless to say, my mom had to deal with the medical bills from her stabbing his left palm with a pocket knife. His excuse was that he should not have boasted about it, lol.He got a good deal from it though, he got to extend his trip to the city, while my guilt ridden sis spent time feeding and babying him.

  44. I think I'ma need some of that African Insurance at school today...abeg we fit jam?

    am serious o...

  45. being a christian should not stop you from enjoying your roots.

    having said that, next time i see you, i will be swooping a cutlass fast at your head, hope your insurance pays out

  46. @ Anon- oniovo me, eve wo ro? Igbide? Hmmmm... i reserve my comment. SO ur cousin's insurance failed abi? I no mad reach that level to test am sha. NOt that i will ever do it again.

    @ Charizard - lol. what's happening in school? u belong to frat?

    @ Jinta- it really shouldn't stop me. u will come at me with a cutlass? Ha!

  47. are u serious!!
    i was sheilded from all this growing up!! its all so intriguing!!

  48. although mahy medicines are vey good i prefer to use herbs

    less side effects and much more powerful

    this is how our afrikan ancestors cured themselves of fatal diseases before they saw a european

  49. @ TinTin - very intriguing

    @ James Tubman - u r right

    @ Eve - very real

    @ SOLOMONSYDELLE - im posting soon, specially for u

  50. Whao!. Are you for real? African Insurance? Do those things really work? What about overseas? LOL

  51. I loved it, I've never been to a festival before,

    but come ooh!uzezi update nah!sho

  52. @ Morountodun- im 4 real. they work for some people oh. I try not to question it anymore

    @ Zena - really! updating soon.

  53. Too bad they stopped the festival. Maybe they could have a 'toned' down version but it wouldn't be the same, would it? One thing though, why didn't the people change back the name of their village after the white men left?

  54. @ Gbemi's Piece - 2 bad really that the festival stopped. y didn't they change the name back? guess Olomoro was easier on the tongue.

  55. Uzezi, i still love you but i dey fear you, no lie,lol!

  56. @ aphrodite- no need to fear me oh.

  57. so if i attempt to cut u now wiv a cutlass, it would bounce off or sth?
    on the other hand, i hope the scars have faded o, cuz i cant picture them being sexy at all...lol

    big ups on the history, it made for a nice read too.

  58. @ Smaragd- no try am o! that will be the end of blogging for me.

  59. Good for people to know.