Ikenga, meaning and significance

Obinwannem News Ikenga, meaning and significance

The Igbo race are people with distinct values. The sacredness of their symbols, crafts and religion, is bar none. They represent their beliefs, identities, feelings, and emotions on artistry – carvings and crafts.

Perhaps, this could be the reason the concept of Ikenga is embedded on artistry. Ikenga is a bi-syllabic word — ‘Ike’ and “nga” — which could be loosely translated as “the strength of the journey”. Ikenga is said to be the personal god of every Igbo masculine. In most Igbo societies, Ikenga is made for a man upon birth, and it’s believed to guide him through the rigorous journeys of life.

In addition, most Ikenga are two-faced. It is believed the two represent ‘past and the future,’ such that, the personal god is watching a man’s past and future – for it is what determines a man’s destiny.

In towns like Agulueri, once a child is born his personal god (Ikenga) is made for him. It appears in the form of dual horned imagery. It is kept in safe place for the child until he becomes a man, or until he understands the need for the Ikenga. Till then, his parents performs sacrifices to the Ikenga on behalf of the boy.

Sacrifices offered to Ikenga ranges from cows, fowls to kolanut. Two kolanuts are needed for this act, and a local dry gin too. More so, the blood of the animal is spread atop the Ikenga. Subsequently, the first kolanut is broken, and spread for the Ikenga. While holding unto the second kolanut, prayers are being offered to the Ikenga; after which the kolanut is broken, chewed, and spit directly at the Ikenga. The individual also sips the gin, and spits it towards the ikenga.

It is important to state that these actions have spiritual implications, and deeper meaning than the eyes can see.

In the ancient Igbo society, a man does not leave his house in the morning without consulting his Ikenga, or praying for protection from his personal god. It is believed that whatever happens to a man: whether good or evil, good fate or ill luck, is courtesy of the man’s Ikenga.

When a man makes a fortune, it is believed that his personal “chi” (god), which implies the Ikenga, has favored him. There are no known records of women owning an Ikenga. It is reserved for the men. The same way women do not go to war, Ikenga is slated for the brave and those who perform heroic acts. Men (warriors) do go to war without consulting their Ikenga, and most men go to war with their ikenga as an added protection.

It is an abomination for a man to destroy his Ikenga. Such things are unheard of; and as such, considered sacrilegious. Men cherish their Ikenga, and often warn their wives and other female relatives not to go close to it.

The practice of having an Ikenga has declined over the years due to the influx of Christianity. People now dedicate their newborns in the church instead of getting an ikenga for them.

However, it is still very much in practice amongst those who still stick to the Igbo traditional religion.

Ifesinachi Nnabugwu reporting, Obinwannem News

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