Onitsha History, Kingship and Changing Cultures

Viewing The “Black Juju” (Iyi-Oji) at Nkwelle

From late 1960 on, we keep hearing about a famous famous mystical power shrine (Iyi) which apparently affects many people who reside in Onitsha, some of them with deadly effect.  It is located in the nearby Ndi-igbo village of Nkwelle.  After we discuss it with a man from the Onitsha village of Ogboli-Eke, James Abadom, he expresses willingness to show us the site, so we arrange a visit. See the Map at right, which shows the location of three major sub-villages directly northeast from Onitsha.

Below, a full view of our first photograph near the entryway. As you can see, the shrine clearing is surrounded by high forest.

32-09-iyi-oji-closeupAt right, an effort to provide a better image of the people shown in the photo. Helen of course is in the middle, James Abadom at right.  I do not know who the man is who acts as one of our hosts.1

Below, a view closer to the entry.  Note that it is guarded by an Oda, a medicinal arch that oversees and protects the shrine from any troublemaking intruder (a man stands beside it at far right).  Note also the fresh mound with a long stick sprouting out of it, just left of the entry.  The main shrine house stands behind, inside.

Below, the main shrine room.

The ritual objects contained in the shrine include mainly drums, an Ozo-man’s title stool (Awka style), and other objects, all claimed as emblems directly associated with the shrines success.  Overhead you may observe prominent hangings of black and red cloth.  The place shows no signs to us of recent use, but we do not consider ourselves familiar enough to explore further..

32-17-iyi-oji-detailBelow, looking out from the main building, we see the entryway to the deep forest, the continuous residence of the Spirit. Note the log lying athwart the path, indicating that entry is barred.

Below, Looking out of the main building in the other direction, you see the smaller building of the pair. James Abadom stands on the left. The contents of this building appear to be mainly an array of stacked chairs, presumably for use during group meetings at the shrine.

Below, a closeup view of the entrance. Anyone who passes in under the black cloth enters into the body of the Spirit, the place where oaths are made.

32-13-nkwele-iyi-ojiOur time available for this visit is extremely limited, and we hope to return to learn more about Iyi-Oji. (Unfortunately, another opportunity never came, as events back in Onitsha soon fully absorbed our interest.)

  1. As I have previously observed, we had chronic problems wih underexposure using our Aires 35mm camera. Return ↩
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