Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

New Yam Festival

New Yam Festival

You know that I love Igbo culture. This article in has five photos that are really lovely examples of Igbo culture. All are related to the New Yam Festival which takes place now, at the end of August.

Three views of the jigida worn by masquerades at the New Yam Festival

Three views of the jigida worn by masquerades

The New Yam Festival is celebrated at different times in different towns and villages. But all will have at least some of the elements pictured in the article.

Masquerades are certainly a major part of the New Yam Festival. Not many people today believe that the masquerades appear from inside the earth. However they are still respected for their traditional role as spirits of the ancestors and enforcers of a town’s customs.

The sound of approaching masquerades is unique. Each masquerade wears one or two raffia ropes, called jigida, tied at his ankles or waist. On the rope are dry pods, attached in pairs, so they hit each other as he runs.


Masquerades are an important part of the New Yam Festival.

I find that jigida now – or always? – also means the waist beads of glass or ceramic that women wear, not just the ‘native’ ones with the pods.

You can even buy Nigerian waist beads on Etsy or eBay! But none  that I saw have the traditional pods. Who knew?

UN Secretary General – a Woman?

Isn’t it time that the UN is headed by a woman?

Sec. General Ban Ki-Moon’s term is up at the end of this year. This year there is a serious attempt to make the selection process more open than it has been in the past. Previous selections were made by the Security Council and then – always – ratified by the General Assembly.

Countries were asked to submit nominations this year. There are ten nominees. Five are women!

There are several considerations among the member countries. Regional representation is one. Eastern Europe has never produced a Secretary General.

But there is a problem. “. . . tension between Russia and Western permanent members over the conflict in Ukraine has raised the possibility of deadlock over an Eastern European nominee, meaning that candidates from other regions (particularly non-European members of the Western European and Others Group and Latin America) are being seriously considered.”

Helen Clark, candidate, and UNDP administrator

Helen Clark, candidate, and UNDP administrator

Personally, I think I’d choose Helen Clark, just because she is better known than the others (meaning I know of her but have barely heard of any others).

But I also really like Irina Bokova because she is Director General of UNESCO and was Acting Foreign Minister of her country Bulgaria. Those roles should give her the experience she’d need heading the fractious UN. But all the women are impressive. Who would you pick?

There have been several straw polls among the member states, the latest was yesterday. You can see the results here.

I haven’t seen the date of the actual election. If you know, please share!

Meanwhile, UNWomen has posted a statement encouraging the selection of a female Secretary General.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Still Amazing

On Sunday afternoon NPR played at least part of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech from Aug. 28, 1963. I only caught it near the end.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The voice and the words are so powerful. I had to pause to listen. “In the words of the old Negro spiritual, free at last.. . ”

The reporter said he was in the NPR studio just a few miles away from the site of the speech.

What would Dr. King say of our state of affairs today?

Chibok Girls

President Buhari was in Kenya at the sixth Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD VI) organized by the Japanese government. When he spoke with reporters he said his administration is ready to discuss a swap. They would exchange detained Boko Haram fighters for the Chibok girls.

But he needs to know the people who are negotiating actually have the girls and can guarantee their release.

These would be very delicate negotiations. I wish him and his administration success!

Nigeria as an Investment Destination

The Nigerian President also revealed what the media called a top secret!

The secret? “Speaking at a plenary session on ‘Dialogue with the Private Sector’  President Buhari said his administration is implementing policies and measures to create right and enabling environment for business and investors in Nigeria.”

He said he will make Nigeria into one of the top 100 countries as an investment destination by 2019!

Nigeria has a long way to go in three years! It is “currently ranked 169 out of 189 countries by the World Bank, according to the Bank’s 2016 Ease of Doing Business report.”

Can it happen? Not without a lot of change, one of which is better customer service and quick responses to inquiries!

I’ve been contacting bookstores in Nigeria, trying to find one to carry my memoir. No reply so far!

Groundnut Stew

groundnut stew

My groundnut soup or stew

I’m cooking groundnut stew, also called peanut stew, for a potluck supper tonight. I found two recipes, one called Liberian Peanut Soup, comes via Helene Cooper of the New York Times. The other is just called Groundnut Stew.

I’m taking some from each and adding a little of my own creativity. It already tasted good. Now I’ve added the okra and the peanut butter.

I hope my friends like it!

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. Catherine — As always, I can find much to enjoy in your blog! And, your peanut stew looks amazing! I can see your next book as a cultural journey of Igbo foods; something like an ethnography of Igbo foods.