Igbo People: What to Know About the Tribe, Language and Culture

There are more than 300 clans in Nigeria, with the Hausa people, the Igbo people, and the Yorubas being frequently referred to as the three most prominent. Igbo is a language spoken by members of the Igbo ethnic group, one of Nigeria’s three largest ethnic groupings. The group is indigenous to the Southeastern portion of the country, primarily on the eastern side of the Niger River, a region regarded as one of the most populous in all of Africa.

Igbo People

Who Are The Igbo People

The Igbo people, also known as Ndi Igbo and as Ibo or Eboe, are Nigeria’s third-largest ethnic group. The tribe follows the second-placed Yoruba ethnic group from the western region of Nigeria and the first-placed Fulani-Hausa ethnic group from the country’s north.

Uncertainty surrounds the precise number of Igbo individuals. However, the CIA World Factbook estimates that there are approximately 32 million. This represents less than 20% of Nigeria’s total population. The Hausa-Fulani make up approximately 29% of the population, while the Yoruba account for approximately 21%.

Igbos are indigenous to five major states in Nigeria. These states are Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu (its de facto capital), and Imo. The Igbos, however, assert that their territory extends to the present-day states of Delta, Cross-River, Akwa-Ibom, and Rivers to the west and south, respectively. This is supported by the presence of Igbo-speaking natives in these states. Owerri, Aba, Abakaliki, Onitsha, Afikpo, Asaba, Orlu, Agbor, Umuahia, Okigwe, Nsukka, and Port Harcourt are notable Igbo cities and towns. Igbo people can also be found in cities such as Lagos and Abuja outside of Igboland. The Igbo people have lived in harmony with their neighboring communities, which include the Ibibio, Nupe, Ijo, Idoma, Igala, and Ekoi, for many centuries.

The Igbo are reportedly the most dispersed ethnic group in Nigeria. This migration began during the earliest days of the slave trade and persists to this day. Reputable African-American figures have asserted their Igbo heritage. This conclusion is supported by DNA profiling. Notable individuals include the internationally renowned Bishop T.D. Jakes as well as the renowned actors Paul Robeson, Forest Whittaker, and Blair Underwood.

Igbo people are predominantly merchants, cultivators, and artisans, with agriculture being their primary occupation. The primary commodities grown in the region are yam, taro, cassava, and palm tree fruit. The primary staple food is yam, which is exported to neighboring regions. In addition, an annual celebration is conducted to commemorate the yam harvest. Over time, people have begun cultivating palm fruit due to its palm oil content. The palm crop is the most valuable cash crop in the region due to the significant quantities of palm oil exported from Nigeria.


Although politics is an integral element of the Ibo culture, their political influence on Nigerian politics is negligible. This is a result of the region’s many divisions and fragments. During the Nigerian civil conflict, also known as the Nigeria/Biafra war, this effect was first felt. This conflict, which occurred between 1966 and 1970, pitted the Igbo, Efik, Ibibio, and other local communities against the Northern Muslims. Since then, Igboland’s political system has never truly recovered. Political representations are low-key, and few individuals of Igbo descent occupy prominent political positions.

Igbo Language

The Igbo language, also known as Asusu Igbo, is the primary language spoken by the Igbo people. The language is spoken by approximately 24 million people, the majority of whom are of Igbo descent and reside predominantly in Nigeria. However, it is also recognized as a minority language in countries such as Equatorial Guinea.

In recent years, there have been discussions regarding the potential extinction of the Igbo language within the next 50 years. This is due to the preference for English, which native Igbo speakers perceive as the language of status and opportunity. This has led to a decline in the number of monolingual Igbo speakers and the deterioration of idioms, proverbs, and other elements of Igbo rhetoric.


Christianity is the predominant faith in Igboland, with more than half of the population identifying as Roman Catholics. In recent years, a substantial proportion has also begun to identify as Protestant/Evangelical.

In addition to the traditional religion known as Odinani, Islam and Judaism are also practiced in this region. The Igbo are a deeply religious people. Throughout their lifetimes, they always observe religious rites as well as traditional rites of passage. This will occur during childbirth, marriage, initiation, and death. However, western-based religions are progressively replacing traditional practices as the preferred religions.

Igbo Culture

Igbo culture comprises the numerous customs, practices, and traditions that include both archaic and modern concepts. These customs and traditions encompass the visual art, language, music, and dance forms of the Igbo people, as well as their clothing, cuisine, and language dialects. As a result of their numerous subgroups, their culture is even more diverse.

Although many aspects of Igbo culture are a bit unconventional, Igbo social behavior tends to be quite conventional. Respect is shown to both the male household leader and the elderly. Children are taught from a young age to revere their elders at all times and in all situations.

As in many cultures, your social standing is determined by your fortune. The Igbo classify their community members into three categories. The “nnukwu mmadu” refers to the wealthy, “dimkpa” to the middle class, and “ogbenye” to the poor. It is extremely similar to the majority of other classification systems worldwide.

They Celebrate Birth and Death Graciously

The Igbos hold birth and mortality in the highest and most revered regard. When a child is born into the Igbo culture, the members of that community hold a naming ceremony at which friends and family select a variety of names for the infant. Once the infant is born, the umbilical cord is buried beneath a tree selected by the mother. From that point forward, they believe that the tree belongs to the infant and will grow proportionally to his or her success.

Also of great significance to the Igbo is death. When a family member dies, a service is conducted in which the deceased is seated in an upright position, and family and friends are invited to pay their respects. Males who served as the chief of the family are frequently buried beneath their family’s home. The Igbo regard death as a time for commemoration rather than mourning.

Music is Greatly Appreciated in Igbo Land

The Igbo people are renowned for their love of music and diverse handcrafted instruments. The majority of their instruments are either string or woodwind instruments. They frequently perform the “opi” (which resembles a flute) or the “ubaw-akwala” which resembles a triangular guitar. Nightly, musicians will frequently perform the ubaw-akwala for residents and passersby as they circle the land.

Additionally, the Igbos perform various musical genres. Their primary musical style is referred to as “Ikorodo” and is performed with a variety of instruments and solo vocals. They also appreciate “Highlife” music, which is popular throughout the rest of West Africa. Highlife is an original blend of jazz and classical music.

Igbo Fashion is Colorful

In Igbo fashion, the fashion of the Midwest and the fashion of the east can vary, but they generally revolve around the same concept. Men are known to wear robes with basic shirts over them and sandals, or they may wear dashikis, which are extra-long shirts with jeweled and patterned designs. Dashikis are frequently worn at formal occasions and festivities.

Igbo Traditional Food

The Igbo have one of the world’s most nutrient-rich and flavorful delicacies. Their cuisine consists of ukwa (breadfruit), Ofe Onugbo (bitter leaf soup), Ofe Oha/Ora (Oha soup), Ofe Okazi (Okazi soup), Abacha, Ugba (oil bean), and numerous others.

The New Yam Festival, celebrated annually at the end of the rainy season in early August, is a significant cultural practice of the Igbo people. Yam is an essential crop for the Igbo, and it is harvested first. The night before the festival, all of the older yams are consumed or discarded.


Another notable aspect of Igbo culture is the masquerade, known by its indigenous name, Mmanwu. It is a significant form of entertainment in the region, primarily used to celebrate harvest seasons but also applicable at other times. Protection, enforcing village curfews, and serving as village security officers could be additional duties.

Typically, members of a masquerade are unknown. To conceal their identities from the rest of the village, they don masks. The mask is designed to resemble the spirit of a deceased community member, and it is believed that if a celebrant wears the mask, spiritual powers will be transmitted through the mask.

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