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The Concept of Igbo kwenu and Its Symbolism in Igbo Life of Nigeria
by Patrick E IROEGBU   
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Last edited: Sunday, December 13, 2009
Posted: Monday, February 16, 2009

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This article discusses the concept of Igbo kwenu in Igbo society and draws out its symbolism in Igbo life and culture. It demonstrates how the Igbo of Nigeria mobilize in doing Igbo affairs through oratory skills and assertiveness. Through the analyzes Igbo neighbours are revealed on how they take pride in symbolizing the Igbo with Igbo kwenu. The article is well argued and explained such that it reflected the notion of Igbo kwenu and its heritage of the Igbo.

The Phrase “Igbo Kwenu”
A common linguistic analysis helps us to understand the phrase Igbo Kwenu. Here we have two words: ‘Igbo’ and ‘Kwenu.’ The term “Igbo” refers to Igbo people – men and women of all ages of tradition and modernism. On its own, “Kwenu” as a word refers to agreement, endorsement, solidarity, unity, bondedness, strength, collective will. The conception of the idea to stay together as a community and act as one is very important for the Igbo. The Igbo see the fact that to stay united in a direction or course of action will bring a shared honour to them. As a result, they value strongly to come together. Coming together is deterministic and central to all else. In gathering of all sorts, namely marriage, rituals, celebrations, age grade meetings, war, wrestling, hunting, masquerading, and village political affairs, and of course the Annual Convention of the Umunumo Nationals, the Igbo assert their emotions and psychology together through calls to order of solidarity by way of Igbo Kwenu. Today also, the Nigerian political class comes up with all sorts of slogans not far from the culturally enhanced idiom of Igbo Kwenu. When someone is to speak to an issue, he will call to order the gathered Igbo to listen to him through the application or summon of Igbo Kwenu. Women do not necessarily trouble themselves with the calling out of Igbo Kwenu. Gender wise, women bother with what is called ihia oro, such as amm seleehhh, Igbo orue nuoo! (Elongated high tone musical call out, which refers to – it is time to act and is consequently responded to with - Oh Yes!). Nuanced forms of this call to order by the women exist in different regions of the Igbo in Nigeria.
Traditionally, when a person among the gathered Igbo group intends to speak and has masterly and skilfully summoned attention with Igbo Kwenu, he is automatically granted audience. Igbo Kwenu is a supreme rallying call to attention and order to speak in a culturally appropriate way. Once the Igbo Kwenu is announced and responded to, all ears will listen, at least momentarily to the person who surely will stand out and speak to them. His (the caller’s) idea, point of information and facts, contribution and oratory skill will determine how much attention he will command. The Igbo can be noisy in public meeting sessions. Being noisy while discussing public affairs is not easily understood by the non-Igbo. Speaking out loud and clear is a well cherished Igbo cultural feature. It is not merely seen or viewed as shouting or yelling, rather as a form of strength of communication and emphasis. Noisy sessions will essentially prompt the call to Igbo Kwenu for calm and attention to help the speaker, rather than not, speak up and make his point.



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