Thursday, 6 December 2012

What tribe am I?

My daughter asked me an interesting question the other day and I was surprised when I realised that I didn't know the precise answer, so I was forced to respond with vague waffle. She asked what African tribe I belong to. Actually she asked a much broader set of questions about tribes, clans and the relationship dynamics associated with these for a social anthropological essay she is writing, but I still didn't know the answer to the fundamental question.

So I consulted the oracle. In other words, I phoned my dad.

Mr Ilube (Snr) does not do vague waffle. I now know the answer to my question. In fact I know the answer to more than I bargained for. I was given a short, sharp lesson on history, culture and traditions.

In Nigeria, there are about 200 tribes. The big ones that you may have heard of are Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa/Fulani. But there are many, many others. One of these is the Bini or Edo tribe and that is the one that we hail from. However, it is not as simple as that.

Years ago, the Binis established a huge kingdom in West Africa. I mean really big. It stretches back nearly a thousand years into ancient history and at its height the Oba (King) could marshall an army of 180,000 men. It was noted for its art and today you can still see the beautiful 16th century Benin Bronzes, although you may have to go to the British Museum to see them as they seem to have found there way there somehow, along with the Elgin Marbles and one or two other items from around the world!

Anyway, the Benin Kingdom had its capital  in the appropriately named Benin City and that's where the Oba and his family lived. From time to time princes would get fed up of hanging around court and head off to establish themselves in nearby lands. One such prince, Ozolua had been exiled to the north of Benin to an area known as Afenmai. He and his followers established several clans there in various parts of the Afenmai area. One of the areas within Afenmai is OWAN and within the Owan area a clan called EMAI was established. The main town in Owan is AFUZE. We hail from Emai clan based in Afuze.

So, it turns out that my tribe is BINI (or EDO), and I am from the EMAI clan, from the town of AFUZE in the OWAN area of AFENMAI land (Emai is pronounced EM-EYE just in case you find yourself in a competition situation where someone says "for £10,000 pronounce the word EMAI").

So, there you go. You've been told.


Anonymous said...

Kudos from an Ora man!The best that can be done for the kids who will want to know a bit of their roots is for someone to put some words of the language online before it goes extinct!

Anonymous said...

Great research! dr A