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The Truth behind the Lies

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Countless cultures are destroyed on the basis that one is superior to another. African tribes have witnessed this throughout the 19th century from the European colonies that claimed these territories. Europeans believed that the African tribes were uncivilized, if not savage due to their differences physically and religiously. In Things Fall Apart, a novel by Chinua Achebe, an African man named Okonkwo, from the Ibo tribe, portrays the effects colonization has had on him, and the numerous traditions that were once common, but now extinct in the Ibo culture. Achebe displays the complex and organized structure of the Ibo culture and religion in order to impede the destruction of other traditions. As a developed tribe, the Ibo created ways to sustain themselves at a stationary location. The Ibo not only ate yams, but grew them as well during specific times of the year. Achebe demonstrates this by writing, “Like all good farmers, Okonkwo had begun to sow with the first rains. He had sown four hundred seeds when the rains dried up and the heat returned" (Achebe 23). Okonkwo’s knowledge on when to plant the yam seeds proves that the Ibo were intelligent enough to understand the difference between seasons and when the farming conditions were right for the yam. Only men could plant yams in the Ibo tribe. This illustrates the importance that the yam had in the tribe by restricting certain people access to special items. It also shows that the Ibo had a hierarchy where the men were above women in society. The yam was not the only important aspect of the tribe with unique processes, for the law had one too. Like all civilized societies, the Ibo had a complex system of law that incorporated appropriate action to different crimes. Their court system consisted of nine judges known as the egwugwu and a chief justice known as Evil Forest. The complexity of this judiciary system was expressed when Evil Forest says, “We have heard both sides of the case... Our duty is not to blame this man or praise that, but to settle the dispute” (Achebe 93). Any person put for trial was innocent till proven guilty. Additionally, the judges could not prefer either side, which confirms that their system was not corrupt either. The Ibo’s intricate structure for law reveals that the Ibo were sophisticated, but they had human emotions as well. The Ibo deemed certain aspects of their culture and traits to be significant, showing the emotion that the tribe felt. Ibo villages celebrated ceremonies by inviting the entire community to rejoice. The New Yam Festival caused the entire village to sit together to watch a wrestling match for entertainment. During the court trial, all of Umuofia was there to see the outcome of the case. The entire community attended even funerals because almost everybody knows the person who has passed away. This sense of community best translates when Okonkwo told his family, “It is not to pay you back for all you did for me in these seven years. A child cannot pay for its mother’s milk. I have only called you together because it is good for kinsmen to meet” (Achebe 166). The value placed on family and community verifies the emotion the Ibo have such as love and familiarity contrary to savages. The Ibo also placed value on masculinity. Okonkwo was regarded as one of the most successful men in all of Umuofia due to his strength and manly personality. Even traits such as wisdom were greatly appreciated by the Ibo providing evidence that the tribe did distinguish between good and bad character. The Ibo’s values were an important part of their society in addition to the beauty of their rich culture. Folktales and music were integrated in the tribe everyday, which would not occur in an uncivilized society. Okonkwo’s wife would always tell stories about magical places to her daughter. She addressed topics such as lying, which illustrates the morals taught through the subtle use of fairytales. The strange lands of the folktales intrigued the children, making them eager to hear more and discreetly learn more on how to behave properly. The Ibo also used music in various ceremonies at high levels of expertise. The drum players during the New Yam Festival played so well, that they were able to imitate the beat of the crowd’s heart during the anticipation of the wrestling match. It also brought entertainment to the people as demonstrated when "Unoka would play with [instruments], his face beaming with blessedness and peace. Sometimes another village would ask Unoka's band and their dancing egwugwu to co come and stay with them and teach them their tunes" (Achebe 4). These components of the society exemplify the creativity and beauty expressed by the Ibo. The Ibo’s elaborate and unique society is presented in the hopes that it will cease the destruction of other equally formidable cultures. The amount of thought put into their complex processes dignified the Ibo as intelligent human beings. Their connection to each other and opinions on personality allowed them to be independent. Using music and storytelling, the Ibo had a special way to entertain everyone. This tribe did not deserve to be treated inferior to modern societies. Their culture was complex, well thought, and could not be understood at first sight. Though the Ibo tribe’s culture has already fallen, other cultures may still be preserved if the colonies only discover the real truth behind the culture.

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