By Azuka Onwuka
There are three critical projects an Igbo man is not expected to fund alone. His kinsmen are expected to join him to fund them to make the burden lighter for him. These are:
1. Building one’s residence
The Igbos believe that every man must have a place to live, must marry, and must be properly buried. Each of these costs money. The Igbos believe that friends and kinsmen should rally round any person involved in any of such taxing projects. The only one that has slightly changed is the building of one’s home.
If a man is not rich enough to get a wife or bury his father or mother or wife, his kinsmen and friends would come together and raise the money to take care of the expenses involved in marriage or burial, as the case may be. But such a person could be ridiculed about it later in life.
Even if the man can afford the cost of marriage or funeral, his kinsmen and friends would still support him. Each “responsible” person attending a marriage ceremony or funeral ceremony is expected to present a gift to the celebrant. In the distant past it could be money, palm wine, kola nuts, food, meat, etc. But today, it can be money, cow, wine, cloth etc (for burial); money, TV, washing machine, pots, plates, baby items, etc (for marriage).
It is seen as an act of irresponsibility and insensitivity to attend a marriage ceremony or funeral, eat, drink, dust your buttocks and leave without supporting the celebrant. Each person is expected to give according to his financial standing. Such gifts are noted (and even recorded in a note book) and reciprocated in the same measure in future.
A marriage or funeral is also seen as a communal event. In the past, the women of the clan would come to cook for free for the celebrant, while the men would erect the tent, slaughter the animals and dissect them, get the venue ready and attend to guests. Aloofness was frowned at seriously and reciprocated in full measure.
In the case of erecting a house, one’s family members/age grade members would gather to dig and knead the clay and erect the hut and then roof it and also erect the compound fence.
Today, the practice is still strictly adhered to on the issues of marriage and funeral. Every guest is expected to support the celebrant financially. Your presence is appreciated, but it is not regarded as complete if you fail to present a gift, no matter how small. But a person who only sends money without ever attending an event, especially a funeral, or pay a visit later to the bereaved, is also noted. When it is his turn, his kinsmen may also send in their money and keep away.
When it comes to building one’s residence today, one’s kinsmen may no longer come to physically build the house, but they will still show their support. They will come to “inspect the work”. In my Nnewi dialect it is called “inene ọlụ.” The person comes with some drinks or food or snacks for you and the workers. In lieu of this, the person may come with money to commend you for erecting a house and rejoice with you for having such a thought and capacity. It is also seen as a way of letting the person know that you wish him well and are not jealous of him.