THE KOLANUT AS A
PEACE SYMBOL IN IGBOLAND:
TOWARDS A CULTURAL NEXUS OF GENDER CONSTRUCTION AND MEANING
ALOZIE BRIGHT CHIAZAM
UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA NSUKKA
A PAPER PRESENTED AT THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF NIGERIA (HSN), SOUTH-EAST ZONAL CONFERENCE
THEME: SOUTH-EAST NIGERIA IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
HELD AT THE LAW AUDITORIUM EBONYI STATE UNIVERSITY, ABAKALIKI SEPTEMBER 11TH TO 14TH, 2011.
The kolanut a symbolic instrument for peace, conflict resolution and harmony is at
the heart of invariably all forms of human interaction in Igboland. It is strategic in the social, religious, ritual and communion observances of the Igbo people (Otagburuagu, 2010:93). However, the general perception, both in literature and among the Igbo people is that women have nothing to do with the kolanut or oji (Igbo rendition). This view has been articulated by many scholars (for instance Green 1947 and Uchendu 1965). Women thus are assumed to play only a peripheral role in the use of the kolanut. This view however is not entirely surprising because Igbo culture, since colonial invasion, has experienced rapid change. Infact, the
contemporary Igbo culture is merely an admixture of traditional elements and alien features (which neglected the presence of the women folk). There is no doubt that the partition and colonization of Africa led to a pragmatic shift in local paradigms and the significance attached on the agencies of cultural transmissions. Hence, in reconstructing our past and discovering our culture, we need to restore those parts of ourselves that have been scattered, suppressed and hidden. The gender symbolism of the kolanut is one such discovery that needs to be re-examined. This need to re-examine women s representation in specific cultural realities is of utmost necessity because a closer look at the kolanut symbol goes contrary to general perception that women have nothing to do with the kolanut as is evident in the discussion and presentation of this paper. Infact, this paper is of the view that in the use that is made of this peace symbol, men and women s positions and roles are integrated in the kolanut ritual performance in which case the elder, who does not represent any sex group, is a key symbol emerging as the voice of the family or community, as the case may be. This collectivized elder is an embodiment of the historical consciousness of the people and in him; the Igbo woman is incorporated, just as the man, in a tempo-spiritual relationship. The presence of the women, however, is symbolically represented in the kolanut ritual performance as is well reflected in the Earth goddess- a powerful deity in
Igboland. Understanding the participation of the Earth goddess will reinforce our appreciation of the voice of women even in a purely male-dominated affair. This forms the symbolic nexus between the kolanut culture and female representation. This relationship will be explored in this paper but first we have to understand gender and symbols and the symbolism of the kolanut. It should be noted at this juncture that this paper does not attack the traditional norm of the Igbo kolanut ritual as conclusions reached here are purely products of research, findings and logical reasoning. On Symbols and the Symbolism of Kolanut Symbol is something such as idea, object, conventional or non-conventional that is used to represent something else. According to Geertz (1973:90), a symbol is used for any object, event, quality, or conception. The conception is the symbol s meaning. It is in this sense that the number 6 (six), ABC or 123 are all symbols just as the cross is a symbol whether talked about, visualized or fondly fingered. These are symbols or at least symbolic elements, because they are tangible formulations of notions, abstractions from experience fixed in perceptible forms, concrete embodiments of ideas, attitudes, judgments, longings or...