Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Connections Galore and Happy New Year!


Onome organized a wonderful Christmas dinner for us!

Onome organized a wonderful Christmas dinner for us!

Connections are Key

My days in Nigeria were filled with family and other connections with and about relatives.

Christmas dinner with Sam and his family was delicious and more than plentiful!

We celebrated our wedding anniversary the next day with lunch at an excellent restaurant.

Our son Chinaku with Onome after our anniversary lunch

Our son Chinaku with Onome after our anniversary lunch

Several conversations during our ten days in Clem’s village Nanka were all about connections. We heard who is related to whom, who lived with whom years before, who married whom, and so on.

First example: Mbafor is Clem’s cousin. She called on us with her daughter Pauline and grandson. During conversation Pauline mentioned that she had lived with Edna, Clem’s sister, in Agulu at least 25 years ago. In this context, “lived with” means she was there as a young relative to be a household servant. She remembered the time fondly.

Second example: Clem and I visited the Ezento family. We were thinking of it as a condolence call. When the son Benji died three years ago around age 50 we couldn’t offer condolences to the mother. Why? Because the info was kept from her until after we had left the village. (That’s another story that you’ll be able to read in my next book!)

Their compound is just a few hundred yards down the road from ours. The mother was away but others were there. I did not know which of them were Benji’s siblings, and no one explained. There were several younger people but I have no idea who they were.

We all sat around for nearly an hour in conversation about the interrelationships between their extended family and ours. We are members of the same clan or umunna. I got completely lost. Even my husband was confused. Everyone else seemed happy with the discussion! Somehow we had confirmed the key connections.

Sam, center, with cousins Nonso left, and Osita, eating roasted yam for breakfast.

Sam, center, with cousins Nonso left, and Osita, eating roasted yam for breakfast.

Clem’s sister Monica who had not been to Nigeria for over 20 years was with us. Accompanying her was her daughter Nonso. Comet, daughter of Clem’s sister Edna, came too. Our son Sam and his wife Onome brought their children, Teya a girl 8, and Bruche, a boy 6, to the village for their first visit ever! We had a full house and lots of fun!


The most exciting part of our village time was watching the masquerades. You probably recall that masquerades are, in Igbo tradition, spirits who take on the form of a human so they can appear to other humans.

New Year’s Day, which used to be an important time for the masquerades to come out, had been proclaimed “A Day of Worship” by the town leaders, so very few masquerades were about, but two came to our compound.

The scariest masquerade is Agaba.

The scariest masquerade is Agaba. He’s surrounded by his people. I promise a better pic next time!

Sam had frightened his children with stories of masquerades, so when the first appeared, they dashed to hide under the table in the dining room. But by the second day when there were many, Bruche was persuaded to go close to them to give them money.

That day we were all watching from a viewing stand along the main road. Our friend Obi Adimora had taken over a bar/restaurant along the road for the occasion. He invited Clem and me to join him in front-row seats!

Bruche and Teya sat with us for a while. The biggest masquerade, Agaba, came right in front of us. He was the most terrifying. But by then, the children were over their worst fear.

There was a group of musicians who played every time there was a break between masquerades. The instruments included two gongs which are hit with a stick, a large hollow gourd which is struck with something that looks like a fan, and a shaker, a gourd covered with seeds that rattle.

Two "female" masquerades who were dressed identically and danced together.

Two “female” masquerades who were dressed identically and danced together.

Most of all I liked the “female” masquerades. These are men portraying women with their white masques and in their movements.

I have more pictures and a couple of great videos, including one of the musicians and another of the female masquerades. But so far I haven’t been able to figure out how to put the videos in my blog! I’ll keep trying. Right now they’re in iCloud. Your technical advice is welcome!

We visited the Igwe Nanka. Here we are outside his palace.

We visited the Igwe Nanka. Here we are outside his palace.

The Igwe

Clem and I visited the new Igwe, or king, of Nanka, in his palace. He’s tall! Here we are in a photo with him and some of his other visitors. Our cousin Christian who had arranged the visit is in the red cap.

He was installed more than a year after the death of the previous Igwe who had attended our wedding anniversary in 2014.

So I had a wonderful time renewing connections and making new ones!

I was fortunate to miss the “Bomb Cyclone” on the East Coast. I returned on Monday when the weather was a manageable 25 degrees.

I hope you too had a great time over the holidays with family and friends. I’d love to read your news in the Comments.

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Such a wonderful story, with great photos! Pete and I really enjoyed reading it and reminiscing a bit about Nigeria. Happy Anniversary to you and Clem. Pete and I celebrated our 50th this past June. Sharon

  2. Beautiful pics and family! I loved reading about all the events and seeing your family and connections . Sounds like a very satisfying time. Happy New Year and greetings form sunny MX!

  3. Happy New Year. I didn’t realize until I opened this email that thehad been no emails, from you, in some time.

    Enjoyed reading about your time in Africa. It is always great to be with family for the holidays. You have a lovely family and I am sure they enjoyed your visit. Thank you for sharing.

    Happy Anniversary to you and Clem. Many happy returns of the day.

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