There is this popular phrase that says “what a man can do, a woman can do better” It's not contrasting to the role women implement in the society. In some places today, women are sustainers and family resting shoulder. In our individual homes, our sisters and aunties are the legitimate freeborn nwa-ada.
Okpu is a group of women whose mission is to main peace and order in the family at large. They work tirelessly for the growth of their town by standing on the part of fairness against any odd that may penetrate to disrupt the peace of the town or kindred.
The umu-okpu as originally called, umu-ada (women genealogical lineage) is a group of women born into a particular family or families(kindred) with essentially the same prospect to life. Women who are married to other towns are all bona fide members of their respective umu-okpu groups and are enrolled as members of that groups like the umu nna and age grade. This article highlights the way and manner at which umu-okpu operates in Igbo land precisely.
The umu-okpu is an important organ for maintenance of peace, tranquility, and good democratic government in their respective kindred and town. In terms of discipline, Okpu does not care if your ox get gored. It is a strong disciplinary body whose yes is- yes and no is no.
Being a member of Okpu group does not guarantee misconduct. No member of any umu-okpu group dare act contrary to the norms, of their code of conduct without being given penalty that commensurate to the offense. Relatives of the offender do not make statements in defense of the culprit, otherwise this will complicate the issue at stake, thereby making the matter worse for her.
The powers of the umu-okpu by that very fact are enormous. And even are very much feared by men of their kindred, especially in matters affecting deaths and burial rites, and also in traditional wedding and settling frictions existing among their men folks.
Any burial umu-okpu refused to attend isn't hold. It simply means the burial ceremony is freaky. That's more reason you agree with umu-okpu whenever you plan burial of your decease love one.
During the traditional wedding, umu-okpu get a strong position. Their attendance is vital, their share of marriage items are certain. It's cultural that umu-okpu must get a sizeable share of the items brought by the potential in-law.
The umu-okpu have a very strong binding ties among themselves. This indomitable bond is like the electric generator producing current without the use of commutators. It's a bond holding the atom of carbon close packed together in diamond. Thus making this mineral the strongest and hardest in the universe.
Umu-okpu that cut across kindred and are held together by these women must remain together intact answering their original names as in the olden days, the fact that marriages cut across these kindred not withstanding. Like umu-nna, every family of each village has her own umu-okpu groups.
One of the bad side of umu-okpu is their nagging. They can nag for Africa if you fail to satisfy their requirement. They are going to end up nagging among themselves. Furthermore, they can vomit fire to the highest degree. In most cases, scatter burial reception. Too bad, if they place a hand on the ground and cast a spell on whoever aggravates the issue.
Their spell can be hazardous-if not quenched. Umu-okpu can tear families apart too if they form parties and cliques among them.
Something peculiar about umu-okpu is their creative songs and dance steps. I have not heard umu-okpu song sang in circular music album. During burials, they have songs composed by them-also during traditional wedding and child naming ceremony. An indication, they were born creative musicians with a specific song generally. Here is one of their funny song, especially when you give them a gift they sing it to express gratitude.
ona-eme anya ka ofuru ada
ona-eme anya ka ofuru ada
ezigbo mmadu dalu
ona-eme anya ka ofuru ada.
(Meaning good person, who recognizes his sister, thank you).
Sharing gifts offers;
Yeah! They do share any gift items they get from the burial reception among themselves. In Igbo tradition, when a family member dies. Kindred of the deceased which comprises the umu-nna and umu-okpu will gather to bury him. During which the children of the sisters of the deceased known as umudiana will bow to umu-okpu to show reverence. They do so with cash or items of their choice. Virtually umu-okpu get gifts of money and edibles from friends, in-laws, grand-children and brothers. Once the third day ceremony is over, they share those gifts accordingly. Those who are married are entitled to bigger special share. Examples of gifts they usually get are;
- dried fish
- bar soap/ toilet soap
- cabin biscuits or any other
- bag of salt
- stock fish
- fresh meat
- packs of matches
- onions and tin tomatoes. Etc.
Umu-okpu are good to dine with, especially when you get along with them. Every Igbo lady should from time to time attend receptions, or occasion honored by her umu-okpu. Otherwise, if any need occurs for them to attend your ceremony, you may be disappointed. Their motto is you reap what you sow. Do me, I do.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Chinyere Okoye