Awka is an ancient town located in Eastern Nigeria. But, prior to the colonization era, it was known as ‘Ọka’. The nomenclature was mutilated, and renamed ‘Awka’. The latter was declared capital of Anambra State in 1991, bordered by towns like Enugwu-Ukwu, Nimo, Abba, Amansea and so many other towns.
Every Igbo town has something they are known for, each town in Igboland has a peculiar crafts, arts or work they have mastered through the years. These crafts might have being passed down to them by their ancestors or something learnt from other tribes then integrated into their own culture as we can all attest to the fact that culture is dynamic.
Just like we have areas of specialization in our modern universities, Igbo towns have distinct areas of specialization, some are known for blacksmithing, farming, wine brewing, hunting and building.
The Town of Awka is one town that showed superiority in blacksmithing, people visited from far and wide just to get one tool or the other from this town. Awka was so busy with people in its prime that our great Chinua Achebe said, “Awka has a certain kind of aura about it, because it was the place of the blacksmiths that created implements which made agriculture possible.” Awka indeed made Agriculture possible through their crafts.
The town of Awka took so much pride in their crafts that even their traditional rulers bears “Eze uzu” (King of blacksmith). One who does not understand the importance of blacksmithing should clearly look at the modern wielders that joins irons together.
To add to their crafts, Awka pioneered the making of guns in South-East Nigeria, and the country at large. People trooped from all part of the country to get Awka-made guns which is still in use till date. Awka blacksmiths made a one-shot rifle which replaced the spears, bows and arrows used in hunting during the ancient times.
During the Nigeria-Biafra war, Awka as usual contributed immensely by making a one-shot rifle available to the Igbo people, in as much the rifle has it’s own limitations, every single weapon ever produced has limitations too and is being corrected through subsequent editions.
Gun productions and other inventions regarding blacksmithing reduced drastically, when government authorities swung to arresting blacksmiths who make guns in Awka. A good number of blacksmiths were arrested, which frightened the others out of work.
That is the sad story of how the Nigerian government silenced the power of creativity – the pride of a whole town. There are still blacksmiths in Awka who engage in the making of crude tools and farming implements, others have proceeded to seeking a more secured means of livelihood.
An Awka blacksmith, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he could still make guns; even the sophisticated guns in use today.
The Igbo people have always survived by creating things out of nothing, or imaginations. They are known for their ingenuity which propelled the manufacturing of local bombs and explosives (Ogbunigwe) during the Biafra war.
Ifesinachi Nnabugwu reporting, Obinwannem News