Traditional Lifestyles of Ebira People
Archery: Archery in Ebiraland was a very subject taught to every male child right from childhood the lessons are started using bows and arrows referred to as ‘Okita’ and ‘Igodi’ (mock-arrows). For the beginner, target aiming is first taught using a paw-paw placed at a fixed distance from the trainee archer.
As he progresses in his lesson, the distance is steadily increased. This practice is taught regarding stationary games, in particular, ground objects. The lesson is later extended to cover objects at some fixed heights; this time the target is the paw-paw right on the trees The primary aim is to pluck it down with the arrow.
The final stages of the lessons involve moving targets or games. This time, someone else is made to the role of the pawpaw in the desired direction while the trainee archer aims at it. Following this lesson, the paw-paw is thrown up by someone else while the trainee archer is again required to aim the target with his arrows. After these training programmes,
the trainee archer is provided with a real bow and arrows (unpoisoned type) with which he practices hunting alongside elders. The expertise so acquired, through these series of training, places the Ebira male child in a good position on the war fronts or during hunting expeditions. All the more reason why our then Yoruba neighbours would not dare an Ebira during communal disputes.
Cooking: When-the female child is about the age of 3-4 years she on her own volition practices the act of cooking as part of her play with other children; this is done by: mixing assorted leaves (though not necessarily edible) and she puts the mixture into a container and repeatedly stirs it up till she assumes it is done.
This mock cooking is a result of her previous observation of the mother and the other women folk when they do real cooking. Though the children do not do the mock-cooking on the fire they also arrange a tripod stove (of stones) and place the food being ‘cooked’ on the stove and place some small pieces of wood underneath the ‘pot’, just as real cooking is done.
When the ‘food’ is assumed cooked, the children Pretend to eat the ‘food’ and even pass comments as regards whether it is palatable or not. The mother actually teaches the daughter the art of cooking by her involvement first in grinding the soup ingredients.
Later the child is made to cook certain types of food but purely under supervision, she is made to participate more fully in domestic cooking. She is taught methods, of preparing the various Ebira dishes in preparation for her future roles as a housewife.
This training is right from the tender age of between 8-10 years and by the time she reaches the age of puberty and marriage, she will have acquired all the skills of cooking. Now under the average Ebira woman is a very good cook and housewife; always loved by her husband. All the more reason why other tribes of the North in particular now rush to Ebiraland to marry in recent times.
Hunting: This is exclusively reserved for the male Ebira children. Right from the very tender age of about 3-4 years, the Ebira male child starts playing with ‘Okita and Igodi’ in place of the modern-day toys of foreign background. In the good old days, all hunting expeditions were done using Bows, Arrows, and spears only. The use of catapults and guns is foreign and are a mere recent innovation.
The male children normally organize themselves into age groups and start practicing hunting by ‘avinuoiku’ referring to ‘hunting for rats’.
While part of the group beat the bush, usually at the outskirts of the settlement area though at close range from the settlement thereby disturbing the peace of the rat games who in their attempts to escape, get caught, by the other group of boys who position themselves strategically at possible outlets; probably pre-determined by a preliminary survey of the area.
This elementary or experimental hunting exercise forms a practical aspect of the applications of the training acquired during archery lessons, which as earlier highlighted involved demonstrations using rolled paw-paws etc.
Even tiny games like grasshoppers are not left in this type of hunting exercise. The ability to aim at such targets accurately with a small bow and arrow does not only signify good skills but also indicates that bigger targets will not be missed.
And for games on the tree—tops such as squirrels, etc, occasional hunting expeditions are organized to nearby forests. These involve going in the company of some senior boys or elders. And with technological advancement, Dane guns were introduced.
Initially, these guns were imported but traditional arms technologies have so much improved in recent times that the Ebiras have local manufacturers of Dane guns, double barrel guns, short guns, and even pistols of various types.
These are now employed in hunting expeditions; particularly when it involves large hunting teams. Other methods of hunting involve the use of traps of various types and sizes and digging—up holes for the dry season when games, particularly in bush burning are done.
In the good old days, at the farms which were quite far from the settlement areas, hunting expeditions in special game reserves referred to as ‘Osa’ used to be organized by neighbouring farm settlement communities.
This type of hunting expedition was usually reserved for the big—time hunters. Notably among such hunters of our times are the following:- Sule Ode of (Adavi), Idamisa Ejivade of (Ihima), and others from the various districts of Ebiraland.
During such hunting expeditions (festivals) they try their skills and supernatural powers. The hunters have now organized themselves into an association for the purposes of promoting unity and understanding among themselves.
Farming: This subject has been fully treated under agriculture. But it should however be recalled that our ancestral father, Ada’ai Ita’azi, was not only a famous hunter and warrior but a very good farmer. And Ebira oral traditions have it that he used to go all the way from Idah to Etu’ube (Etobe), his game reserve, and stay there for months before returning home.
And finally, he decided to cross over from Etobe to Opete and settled. During all these periods, he had to survive on food and meat. He, therefore, established a farm in this game reserve as a source of food while the meat is from the games killed during the course of his hunting expeditions.
This assertion explains why we Ebiras (especially the Tao groups) are not only good farmers but hunters too. Farming is the main occupation of the Ebiras.
Trading: In the olden days the form of trading the Ebiras engaged in was with special reference to the sales of her traditional occupations sales of farm produce and Ebira native cloth such as ‘uba’, ‘ikitipa’, ‘akoko’, ‘itaokueta’, ‘ubaneto’ etc. while the farm produce was essentially for local consumptions, the excesses were taken to the markets for sale. In this regard, the famous ‘Ohutenyi’ at the present-day Ajaokuta comes to mind.
Other markets and settlements in its environs include ‘Ohungere’ (mainly for blacksmith products), ‘Ohuruku’, and ‘Ganaja’. Similar markets in neighbouring settlements like ‘Ohu Aworo’, ‘Ohu Idaja’, ‘Ohu Ayere’ etc brought about good trade links with the Ebiras which also enhanced the early marriages which were mainly inter-tribal types.
This trend is still maintained by today’s Ebira traders. While the Ebira native cloths are now outmoded, these are now replaced by the modern ‘Okene’ cloth used worldwide. Ebira traditions have it that the Blacksmiths who have now become part and parcel of Ebiraland used to come as traders of their products to ‘Ohungere’; later decided to establish their workshops, to meet—up the high demands of these products in the area.
They became fully assimilated, particularly as the Ebiras need their services to boost their agriculture. This assertion dated back to the Ebira Opete days! And with the migration to the Okehi hills more and more blacksmith communities sprang up in our midst.
Modern trading activities in Ebiraland brought in the Ibos and other Nigerian ethnic groups. The Ebiras have now acquired knowledge of other businesses from these people and we are now even involved in International trade routes.
Domestic Science/ Works: The female children have the exclusive responsibility of domestic science/work. This essentially means that all aspects of internal cleaning of the house are done by the female; the washing of the cooking utensils is inclusive. The Ebira female at the very tender age of 4-5 years is brought-up to do these jobs.
While the senior ones do the sweeping of both inside and the surrounding, the younger girls do the washing of the cooking pots, bowls, etc. in this regard, traditionally the female children have to wake much earlier than the male in order to accomplish these tasks.
All these works must be completed before the adults wake up. Any failures regarding these primary duties are viewed with grave concerns. And with this type of upbringing, the Ebira housewives are normally very clean.