The Traditions of Origin of Emai People

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Last up date (October 4, 2018)

According to the tradition I collected, the original founder of Emai was named Ima. He was said to have committed murder in Benin and fled from justice. On his arrival in the Owan area he found people already living in Uokha and so decided to settle close by. He fathered a son, Uzuanbi, who himself fathered four children, Uanhumí, Owuno, Ivbiame, and Urule. Emai seems to be the least cohesive of any of the communities. It comprises four villages divided into fourteen wards. There is no group totem or shrine. There are no village totems or shrines. Totems or shrines are confined to the wards. There are seven ward shrines, the largest number in any Owan community. There is only one plant and one boa ward. Animal totems predominate. However, of the fourteen wards, six have no totemic emblems at all. It has been assumed that non-totemic groups were pre-Ogiso, the earliest of all Edo peoples. The founder, Ima (ca.1504—1536), was said to have been related to the royal group in Benin, apparently either through a mother or wife. Since he did not perpetuate his own totem, it must be assumed that he descended from the aboriginal Edo.

A case might be made that almost all clans entered Emai without totems. Normally informants have no idea how they procured their totem, claiming that the restrictions have come down to them from their ancestors. “It has always been so” forms a typical answer. When stories of totemic adoption are known, the researcher has reason to believe that this happened within historical times. Of the eight wards in Emai with totems, five have narrative traditions of how they were adopted. Furthermore, of the seven wards with animal totems—those usually associated most strongly with patriarchal values—six possess shrines to males identified in narrative traditions as belonging to the families of the founders. Even more remarkable is that male shrines or shrines of any type are confined to the animal totem wards. In brief, the traditions of the male shrines are as follows:

• Uze: Commemorates the founder of Afuze, “Uze’s family.”

• Oyaibi: A shrine to Uzuanbi, the son of the founder of the community, Ima. The ward was named after Uzuanbi’s maternal uncle Uanhumi, meaning “will prosper whose first wife was Igala.

• Obi: In honor of Aribi, who inherited his brother’S (Uanhumí’s) second wife. She was nicknamed Okpa “legs hike a guinea fowl” which became the ward name. She was said to have seduced Aribi’s sons, who were her stepsons.

• Ekpenore Following a remarkable friendship between a hunter and a female leopard, the children of the hunter called their family goddess Ekpenore “the leopard enters the house.” The ward name refers to the death of the leopard when the family shouted “Otoi Oyeo” meaning “she is falling down,” which was later corrupted to “Eteye.” Thereafter the ward would fight mock battels with anyone who killed a leopard and staged a funeral for any such animal killed.

• Omoikhi A shrine to the founder of the ward Omoikhi. The ward is called Ivbiomoikhi, “the children of Omoikhi.”

• Edeye: Olei, the founder of the ward Ivbiolei, ‘the children of Olei,” had two sons: Edeye, a native doctor for whom the shrine was created, and Agangan, who looked after the poor and needy and for whom an annual festival is celebrated.

Thus, Emai’s narrative traditions of totemic adoption and the remarkable proliferation of mate shrines which were created late as compared to the traditions of older female shrines appear to point to an unusual triumph of patriarchal values. Had the animal totems been in existence prior to migration, it might be argued that they arrived in Emai with patriarchalism firmly established. But they did not. Had the shrines been carried into Emai, a similar argument could be made. Rather, both had been adopted within genealogical time. This makes Emai unique. Moreover, it becomes obvious that the community charter of four sons of Ima founding the four villages is faulty when confronted with totemic, shrine, and even narrative tradition. Combined with the lack of community or village totems or shrines, Emai appears not to have been a community until just before or even after the British arrived, much like the communities of Evbo-Mion and Ivbi-Ada-Obi which admit their unity was brought about by military alliances and colonial decrees.

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