Page 26. " The man who had contradicted him had no titles. That was why he had called him a woman. Okonkwo knew how to kill a man's spirit. "
Igbo Women
Public DomainIgbo Women - Credit: Wikispaces

Women are considered to be of a low status in Igbo society; therefore, this is an incedible insult made by Okonkwo. See an essay here on the consequences of inferiorization of Igbo women.

Page 27. " But the Ibo people have a proverb that when a man says yes his chi says yes also. "

The Igbo people believe that a person's will is strong enough to change and control their destiny. 

The chi is comparable to a guardian angel; it controls one's failures and shortcomings as well as achievements and triumphs.

The Igbo people believe that their path is predetermined by their chi and that no human can rise above the destiny chosen by their chi. 

This quote is powerful because it states that a man's willpower and determination are strong enough to alter the path set by their chi. 


Page 29. " She has gone to plait her hair. "

Public DomainBraid
Plait(n): to braid (materials such as straw and hair)

Page 31. " You will bring to the shrine of Ani tomorrow one she-goat, one hen... and a hundred cowries "
Public DomainCowries

Cowries are mollusk shells and are used by many nations as a form of currency. It's easy to see why; they're small, easily recognizable, and difficult to conterfeit. Their use dates back to the early Chinese emperors. They were also a common currency in Nigeria. Their use delined after colonization since European settlers replaced the cowry with their own money.

Page 34. " He could not stop the rain now, just as he would not attempt to start it in the heart of the dry season, without serious danger to his own health. "

Rainmaking has continued in Africa despite Western influences.

Check out this essay about rainmaking in Africa.

And if you have some more free time, check out this rainmaking game!


Page 36. " The Feast of the New Yam was approaching and Umuofia was in a festival mood. "
New Yam Festival (Dublin)
New Yam Festival (Dublin)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeNew Yam Festival (Dublin) - Credit: Informatique

The New Yam Festival, known as Iwa ji, is a traditional harvest festival with deep significance to the agriculturally dependent Igbo people. It is a celebration of the end of the cultivation season and of the abundance of the yam. It is practiced throughout West Africa and is used as a means of tying together different Igbo communites through their common reliance on yam.

Several rituals compose the festival as a whole; the first of these is the eating of the first yam of the new harvest, which is done by the oldest member of the community or by the king of that particular region. It is believed that this role allows them to act as intermediaries between their people and the gods of the land. Other rituals include various sacrifices to the gods and the "spiritual cleansing" of participants in the festival prior to the consumption of the new yams.

The festival also involves a wide variety of convivialities, including folk dances, masquerades, parades, and parties.


Page 36. " Yam foo-foo and vegetable soup was the chief food in the celebration. "

Yam foo-foo (also called fufu, foufou, or foutou) is a staple food in Central and West Africa. It is a thick paste made from boiling starchy root vegetables, most notably yams. They are ground with a mortar and pestle until the desired consistency is reached.

Public DomainFoufou - Credit: Anongba

Unsubstantiated claims have been made that the traditional method of eating fufu is to take a moderately-sized ball in one hand and indent it so that soup or other liquid substances can be imbibed from it. Chewing fufu is generally frowned upon.


Page 37. " Okonkwo's wives had scrubbed the walls and the huts with red earth until they reflected light. "

The Majority of Igbo houses are made of bamboo, vines, and a red mud. The bamboo is held together by the vines, and the house is insolated with the red mud. Often times, once the mud hardens, religious symbols and other pictures are drawn on the walls.

Page 39. " She did not marry him then because he was too poor to pay her bride-price. "

A bride-price is the amount of money or goods that the groom and his family must pay to the bride's family before a marriage takes place. Bride-price is in contrast to a dowry in which the bride's family pays the groom and his family. Bride-prices generally reflected the "value" of the woman in terms of her beauty, heritage, status in the society, or other such factors.

Page 42. " As soon as she got up, the troublesome nannygoat, which had been dutifully eating yam peelings, dug her teeth into the real thing, scooped out two mouthfuls and fled from the hut to chew the cud in the goats' shed. "

A nannygoat is a female goat.

Page 46. " The whole village turned out on the ilo, men, women and children. "

In the Ibo villages, the ilo, or village green, is where the village people gather for sports, discussions, and many other events.  The compounds are built close together and are separated by the ilo.  The ilo is the center of the Ibo village. 

Page 46. " The elders and grandees of the village sat on their own stools brought there by their young sons or slaves "

The Igbo people were accustomed to having slaves in their culture, more than some people would expect. This is why trading with the colonists was not difficult. Slave trading was a good way for the villagers to make money and rid themselves of their rivals. Most would become slaves by getting captured during wars or even if the family was having economic issues and needed to sell their children. Disobedient children and criminals were also victims of slavery.

Page 46. " They too sat just in front of the huge circle of spectators, facing the elders. Behind them was the big and ancient silk-cotton tree which was sacred. "
Bombax ceiba
GNU Free Documentation LicenseBombax ceiba - Credit: J.M. Garg

Bombax ceiba, or the silk-cotton tree, is a tree found in parts of Asia and Africa with warmer climates (e.g. Malaysia and India) and is renowned for its beautiful red blooms that show in March or April. The wood of the silk-cotton tree is very soft. The trees have a stout trunk with spikes to deter attacks and can grow to be up to 60 meters in height (185 feet).

Page 48. " Your chi is very much awake, my friend…” "

Chi is what the Igbo people believe is a personal God or spiritual guide. For one's chi to be awake means that the human body recieves the chi in a positive and energizing way.

Page 48. " She has been very well for some time now. Perhaps she has come to stay. "

As in many cultures, the majority of children died in early childhood before they could ever reach their full potential. If a series of such deaths took place in a family it was believed that the same wicked spirit, the ogbanje, was being born and dying over and over again, spitefully grieving its parents. The name "ogbanje" in Igbo translates literaly to "children who come and go." Parents tended to be apprehensive about new children until they seemed to be likely to survive and had “come to stay.”

Page 50. " Quick as the lightning of Amadiora, Okafo raised his right leg and swung it over his rival's head. "

Amadiora is one of the main deities, or Alusi, that the Ibo worship. Amadiora is the god of lightning. Translated, the name means "free will of the people." This god is one of the most adored gods of the Ibo culture.