Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Time for New Yam Festival

The New Yam Festival

Yams like those for the new yam festival

Yams like those for the new yam festival published an entertaining article yesterday about the new yam festival. This is the time of year for the festival. The first new yams have been harvested, and it is time to celebrate.

The event begins with, “a ceremonial roasting of whole yams by the king or titled elders of the community.” After the yams are ready to eat, “portions of the yams are offered first to ‘Ahijoku’ (the yam or earth gods).” There are a variety of names for the various Igbo gods. In Clem’s town the gods’ names would be “Anijoku.”

The gifts to the gods are thanks for their “Protection and kindness in leading them from lean periods to the time of bountiful harvest.” After this gift-giving, new yams are shared. “The community can then feel free to consume new yam without incurring the wrath of the gods,” the writer says.

There are dances, masquerades, and lots of food to eat with the yams at the festival which may be one day or several.

I wrote about the festival a year ago. Watch for it next year as well!

AA yam barn in Nanka where yams are stored for the year

A yam barn in Nanka where yams are stored for the year

At the time of the new yam festival, any yams left from the prior year’s harvest are eaten or destroyed, at least in theory. I’ve never seen anyone throw away yams, but then I’ve never asked specifically about this custom.

Writing About Igbo Spiritual Practices

I will mention the new yam festival in the chapter I’m currently writing about Igbo spiritual practices.

Things Fall Apart, recent edition of novel published in 1958

Things Fall Apart, recent edition of novel published in 1958

I’m finding this chapter especially difficult! Wikipedia has lots of information, but I do not want to copy that. I commented to my niece-in-law about the challenge, and she recommended Things Fall Apart.

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a wonderful resource about Igbo traditions. I had already mentioned his book when she suggested it. Now I’ve decided to quote several sentences, even a whole paragraph, from the novel.

Is that a good idea?

Retired Men’s Association of Greenwich

As promised, I’m including pictures from my presentation to the Retired Men’s Association of Greenwich.

Here is the video of the whole talk, including Hollister’s introduction and the questions afterwards.

Hollister who is program chair, and the IT and sound people, were all extremely helpful. Aline did her usual magic setting up the book table.

Audience member Reggie and me

Audience member Reggie and me

I do enjoy telling people about Nigeria – people, politics, history, and customs. I also like to show the size of the African continent. It’s one of my favorite moments early in the talk. I show a slide of the map of Africa with the U.S., China, India, and several other countries superimposed on the continent without filling it up. It always surprises audiences.

Come to the next event to see it yourself!

At the book signing table

At the book signing table in Greenwich

Next Event at New Canaan Library

New Canaan Library, New Canaan, CT, “My Nigeria: An Insider’s View,” is on September 25, 2017, at 6:30 pm.

The event is free but the library asks people to register.

Atlanta Black Star Article on Nazi Use of Jim Crow

This is a fascinating article about the parallels between Nazi practice and Jim Crow.

The author of the book about the topic uses the example of miscegenation laws in this country and the prohibition against marrying Jews for the “pure” Germans.

“Under the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, marriages between Jews and German citizens were forbidden, as was extramarital sexual relations between the two groups. Punishment for breaking the law included imprisonment and hard labor. The law was enacted on the grounds that ‘the purity of German blood is essential to the further existence of the German people.’ ”

The writer continues: “These German restrictions on intermarriage and sexual relations reflect the influence of the American anti-miscegenation laws which were on the books in 30 of the 48 states, including outside the South, and were the most severe laws of their kind, with draconian criminal punishment for interracial marriage.”

Indeed, when I married in 1964, our marriage was illegal in Kentucky, the state where I lived before going to Nigeria, and where my parents still lived!

How the American Jim Crow System Inspired Hate and the Alt-Right

Kenya Supreme Court Annuls Election Results

Like other fans of African democracy I was pleased when the Kenya election result was received peacefully in the country in August. The loser did not encourage violence. But he did say he believed the result was inaccurate.

Newly popular Chief Justice Maraga of Kenya, from

Newly popular Chief Justice Maraga of Kenya, from

So I also cheered when the Supreme Court overturned the result a few days ago. They said the “Independent Electoral and Boundaries commission, the agency charged with conducting the election, did not follow the requirements of the constitution.” Kenyatta and Odinga will face each other again in October.

Ambassador John Campbell said in the Council of Foreign Relations blog he is hopeful that the ethnic basis for voting may be changing. “With this decision, law, process, and an independent judiciary appears to have trumped ethnicity,” he says.

The New York Times also had an article about the decision. I disagreed with the paragraph that said, “In 2015, Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous country, experienced its first transfer of power from one civilian government to another since independence in 1960, a process widely applauded across the continent.”

I wrote to The NYTimes to say there had been other transfers of power before 2015. The difference was that in 2015, the transfer was between two different political parties. It was peaceful and that was noteworthy. But they did not change their article.

The website agrees with me, saying a transition may be within one party or from one party to another, not just a change in party.

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.

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