Kola-Nut -- Symbol of Hospitality

At any village function, the titled man or a village head is presented with kola-nuts, which play a very important social and ritual role in the Igbo culture. The kola-nuts are the highest symbol of Igbo hospitality. Whenever a kola-nut appeared in a gathering, the matter to be discussed at that particular time was regarded as very vital. The offering of drinks, food and meat are not regarded so important in Igbo culture as the offering of kola-nuts. When an important guest visits the community, kola-nuts are brought out and handed to the elder person or the priest. This symbol of Igbo hospitality has three steps and anyone who fails to follow these steps is penalized by the village elders.

The first step is the presentation of the kola-nuts

The second is the breaking of the kola.

The third is the distribution of the kola-nuts.

Below is an example of the role of Kola-Nut amongst the Igbos culled from Chinua Achebe's book, "Things Fall Apart,"

There was a wealthy man in Okonkwo's Village who had three huge barns, nine wives and thirty children. His name was Nwakobie, and he had taken the second highest title man could take in the clan. It was for this man that Okonkwo worked to earn his first seed yams. He took a pot of palm wine and a cock to Nwakobie. Two elderly neighbors were sent to present a kola-nut and an alligator pepper, which were passed round for all to see, and then the kola-nut and alligator pepper were returned to him. We pray for life, children, a good harvest and happiness. You will have what is good for you and I will have what is good for me. Let the kite perch and the eagle perch too. If one says no to the other, let his wing break.

The presentation of kola-nuts is a privilege reserved exclusively for the men. This privilege is denied to women for cultural reasons. When the kola-nut is presented to a guest, the kola-nut travels around until finally it comes back to the host. The elder who is present at the ceremony holds the kola-nut up and says a prayer to the ancestors. Thus, such prayers are said often in Igbo ceremonial gatherings. The gods of the ancestors and all the friendly spirits are summoned together and offered the kola-nuts. The elder demands good health for the good people, and ill health for their enemies and peace for all in the village.


1 comment:

  1. this is so amazing and thank you so much, i am from the Philippine but this is so fascinating and later this week i am taking a trip to France then the USA then to Lagos and then to owerri to get a taste of this rich culture