Land ownership in Igbo culture is synonymous with generational wealth. This means you inherit lands from one generation to another, following a paternal or maternal lineage, depending on various communal practices. ‘IGBU EWU ANI’ is one of them.
Ani/Ala/Ana (Land) depending on the communal tone or dialect, is one of the most valuable assets an Igbo man owns. In those days you determine a man’s wealth and status by the number of wives, farmlands, and yam barns he owns.
Igbu Ewu Ani – The traditional land cleansing/ownership rite
In Igbo culture, land ownership is intertwined with generational riches. This implies that lands go down from generation to generation, either through a paternal or maternal bloodline, depending on diverse communal norms.
Estates to inherit are split among legal sons. While daughters may receive land assets as part of their dowry upon marriage. Most crucially, only the first male offspring of a man inherits his Ana-Obi / Obi.
Property acquisition is one of the most notable Igbo features or characteristics, particularly the purchase of Lands and landed properties. As a result, there is a need to create a valid way of ownership that is both spiritually and materially recognized. Igbos call this practice ‘IGBU EWU ANI’.
This a cultural practice, common with Ndi-Igbo.It signifies the sale or purchase of land, reverence & acknowledgment to the ancestors (the initial and rightful owners of the land), and most importantly it is a spiritual change of ownership.
Reasons and Significance of the IGBU EWU ANI Ritual
1. Ani to Ndi-Igbo is sacred and contains unimaginable mysteries.
It’s the Wikipedia for both past and present occurrences. It documents the life story, history, and genealogy of all and any that ever walks this earth and at the point of death, Ani becomes a resting place and a passage for new beginnings.
For this reason, it’s essential to understand the importance of this cultural practice and the effect it has on us, as descendants of a lineage.
The history of most inherited lands isn’t being shared. So we tend to forget that most lands we grew up to inherit didn’t come without a price, like war, bloodshedding of blood, and handwork.
Therefore in this regard, it’s pertinent to inform the original owners of the lands before and after the sale of any land and most especially Ani-Obi. That way, we are able to placate the ancestral spirits. This is done out of respect, honor, and humility to Ndi Ichie, Ndi-mbu na egede.
2. Why this practice is important is to prevent plagues due to another person’s curse (Ana-Obara).
In a situation where you don’t do this ritual, the new occupant suffers due to the sins of the original ancestral spirits. And without the backing of your ancestral spirits(Ndi-Ichie), the new occupant stays alone to fight a lost battle.
This explains why a person may start a building project and won’t be able to complete it while most die immediately after they step into that land without doing the necessary rites. E.g: In Nnewi, a group of persons bought lands belonging to Ogwugwu Ezekwuabor, unfortunately, some are currently insane others are dead.
3. For the living, this rite acts as a form of oath-taking (A form of binding contract).
This holds everyone involved in the feasting, to be a true witness, especially in times of dispute. Those who partake in the eating of this meat would never be in a gathering where people attempt to resell this land especially if the deal is shady. The consequences of this are death or madness.
Igbu Ewu Ani
You may view the Traditional Land Cleansing Rite as superstitious by Gen z’s and scientists in the house, but you should respect a people’s cultural practice and treat it with absolute decorum.
This practice is one born out of respect and honor for those that came before us(Ndi Mbu na Ndi Egede, Ndi Tara Okpukpu na Ndi Tara Une). So when a person says it’s barbaric or demonic to pay homage to the “First generation” then we should revisit the definition of “Classroom and Modernization”.