HISTORY OF URHOBO: The Urhobos are people located in southern Nigeria, near the northwestern Niger Delta.
The word Urhobo refers to a group of people rather than a territory. Approximately four million people are Urhobos.
Their neighbors are the Isoko to the southeast, the Itsekiri and Ijaw to the west, the Edo people, the Bini to the north, the Ijaw to the south and the Ukwuani people to the northeast.
Christianity 93%, Igbe religion 3%, Others 4%
Related ethnic groups
Isoko, Bini, Esan, Afemai
c. 4.5 million + (est.)
Urhobo language Isoko Okpe Uvwie English.
These variations manifest in the various Urhobo clans and kingdoms. A specific dialect of Urhobo has even broken off and become an individual ethnic nationality (Isoko). Another dialect is prospecting at this option (Okpe).
The main reason for this break-off is that these dialects see themselves as individual groups. The Isoko Dialect of Urhobo is so broad and large that it is effectively a language of its own. Isoko is a proto-Edoid language and hence it is closer to how Urhobo once was when the people said goodbye to their Benin progenitors.
Isoko has its own sub-dialects such as Iyede, Erhowa, Enwhe, Olomoro, Oleh, etc. The main dialectal difference between Urhobo and Isoko include; Use of Degwo instead of Migwo for greeting, repetition of utterances and words.i.e. “Yanzobone Yanzobone (Come here, Come here)”, different names for various objects, etc.
James W. Welch once asserted that Isoko is a dialect of Urhobo. For many years, most historians, linguists and cultural anthropologists are of the opinion that Isoko is just a dialect and a cultural unit of Urhobo.
In fact, this was upheld by the British that these two ethnic groups were once referred to as the “Sobo” people. Later on, the Isokos were called the Eastern Urhobos. Till now, some people are of the belief that these two ethnic units are one due to similarities in culture, language, food and virtually everything. The Isoko and Urhobo names for most items are mostly the same.
They greet the same way (Urhobos say Migwor and Isokos say Digwor), marriages are in the same tradition, traditional religion and philosophy is akin and even dressing is the same.
The Urhobos live very close to, and sometimes in boats on the Niger river. Most of their histories, mythologies, and philosophies are water-related. Annual fishing festivals that include masquerades, fishing, swimming contests and dancing, that became part of the Urhobo heritage.
Marriage in Urhobo culture requires prayers to the ancestors (Erivwin), and God (Oghene). The marriage ritual, known as Udi Arhovwaje, takes place in the ancestral home of the bride or a patrilineal relation of the bride.
The groom goes with his relatives and friends to the bride’s father’s home, bringing gifts of drinks, salt, kola nuts and occasionally food requested by the bride’s family.
Formal approval for marriage is given by the bride’s parents, or whoever is representing the bride’s family, as are the traditional rites of pouring gin, brought by the groom, as a tribute to the father’s ancestors in order to bless them with health, children and wealth.
After this marriage rite the husband can claim a refund of the money (bride price) should the marriage fail. It is believed that the ancestors witness the marriage, and only the physical body that is sent to the husband in the marriage, the Erhi (spirit double), remains in the family home. This explains why a woman is brought back to be buried in her family home when she dies.
In the ancestral home of the man, the wife is welcomed into the family by the eldest member. She is expected to confess all of her love affairs during and after her betrothal to her husband, if any, and is then absolved of them.
She becomes a full member of her husband’s family after this ritual, and is assumed to be protected by the supernatural (Erivwin). This ritual symbolizes an agreement between the wife and the Erivwin.
If the wife later becomes unfaithful, it is believed that she will be punished by the Erivwin – this is why wives are faithful to their husbands.
HISTORY OF URHOBO FOOD CUSTOM
The very popular Banga Soup also known as Amiedi originated from the Urhobo tribe. It is a soup made from palm kernel. This prestigious soup can be eaten with Starch (Usi), made from the cassava plant.
It is heated and stirred into a thick mound with added palm oil to give the starch its unique orange-yellow colour. Banga soup and starch have gone on to become a continental favourite.
Other notable delicacies from the Urhobo tribe are Ukhodo (a yam and unripe plantain dish prepared with either beef, poultry, or fish, and spiced with lemon grass and potash), Oghwevwri (emulsified palm oil soup), and starch (Usi) also have their origins from the Urhobo tribe.
Oghwevwri is composed of smoked or dried fish, bush meat, unique spices, potash and oil palm juice. Other culinary delicacies include Iriboto, Iriboerhanrhe,Ugbagba and Okpariku.