When I was in Primary two, my grandmum came visiting. One day, she told me to come read her Bible for her, I opened it and my eyes flew to her face.
It was not an
English Bible but Igbo. In my head I was like; “Does she know what she is
signing up for?”
It felt like I was seeing Chinese. I started
with the first sentence; we went about it slowly. I spent more than half the
time asking questions and not reading. Lol! I had to know the meaning of the words.
She signed up for it, every day. She would get tired often and admonish me to
read and not ask questions. Lol. We continued this reading for months.
I remember seeing Odum in the Bible.She told me it was a lion.
I had older siblings
in secondary school. A new world of not just reading English novels but also
Igbo novels had been opened by grandma. I would ravage their bags for Igbo
novels, dramas and the likes to read. There was a particular book I loved. It was
a book of folktales, all in Igbo. I spent my days with Mbe(tortoise), Odum, Agu
etc. I would disturb my dad, he would tell me, “Odum is a Lion. Agu is a
leopard.” I would go, “Isn’t the lion the king of the jungle? A lot of these
stories have agu in them.”
me one time that, “Igbo land does not have lions but leopards. We have plenty
Then I read “Chike
and the River”. There was a bad leopard there. The scariest of all bad leopard
stories to me then was, ‘THE BOTTLED LEOPARD.’. Then I understood the leopard
was a spiritual totem to Igbos. I saw books on the Biafran war. (I read
everything and anything in primary school. Lol. Reading was my thing, still is.)
The flag of the
Biafran war has leopards on it and not lions.
Let us go back
to the ‘bottled leopard’. As a child with an overactive imagination, every
event I went to with my dad, the leopard print and heads were just everywhere.
I did not like coming close to it and people that wore it. I could not escape
them. “This is my youngest daughter”. Greeting would follow and some would hug
me etc. My eyes would be on the leopard pondering if it would jump out from the
clothe and gobble me up. I did not like seeing the clothes made from leopard
skin or those with the head printed all over. I fought imaginary wars with them
in my mind and I won, of course. Lol!
Going to the
streams in the village, my eyes would be looking up at the trees and into the
bushes, waiting for a leopard to pounce.
All my years
as a child and I met plenty titled chiefs, Nzes, old men etc, I never saw any
put on a material with a lion’s head on it.
to me being bundled off to Abia state to attend Marist Comprehensive Academy,
run by the Marist reverend brothers of the schools. We had Igbo teachers but
one stuck out, we called him “Mazi”.
He even had a published text book on Igbo language. He
taught us Odum = Lion and Agu = Leopard. I still have his textbook. I am
keeping it for my unborn kids. Lol. No surprise I had an A1 in Igbo. Lol (It shocked people)
Let me help you with pictures just incase you don’t
know a leopard.
Even going to some Igwes’ & Chiefs’ houses with my
parents, they would have the skin hanging on the wall, on a chair, table or floor. One had the full head
and everything. He was an ‘Ogbuagu’. He killed it and displayed for little
Frances to fight wars with it.
The picture above is a leopard, AGU.
The picture below is a lion, ODUM.
Credit : Wikipedia
Why am I writing this post? It has nothing to do with
the UNESCO prediction in 2006 that the Igbo language would be extinct in 50
years. (Shout out to all the family and friends that speak Igbo but their kids
don’t even know what ‘come here’ is in Igbo. Jisike n’oru!).
I am not writing this to protect culture. I just love
facts! I see things in black and white, really. A cat is a cat and not a dog,
no matter what.
Isiagu is the head of a leopard and not the head of
Bubu’s costumier gets it! That is an Isiagu. See the head of the
leopard all over it? Although that head kinda looks like a tiger to me. (My prescribed
glasses are far from me. Lol).
Credit : Nairaland
The above picture is a leopard skin material. It is
also called ‘Isiagu’.
Credit : Jumia
The above picture is what the whole world now calls Isiagu.
Please it is not. It is Isi-odum.
Odum not Agu.
I have nothing against people putting on what they
want to but please call it the right name. Isi-odum material has a lion’s head
on it. It is not and can never be akwa Isiagu. Isiagu has a leopard’s head on
it or the skin of a leopard.
what you are putting on, the right name. How can you say you are Igbo and not
know what you are putting on?
ISI = HEAD.
AGU = LEOPARD.
ODUM = LION.
ISIAGU = LEOPARD’S HEAD.
ISI-ODUM = LION’S HEAD.
What we had and have are predominantly leopards. They are the big cats in the East. I doubt they still remain much.
Thank you for coming to my Igbo language 101 class.