Imagining Chapter 1 • Okonkwo won fame and honored the town• His father Unoka, an improvident loafer, drinker and debtor laughs at his neighbor• Okoye’s attempt to collect his money from Unoka
I’ll never be like my father. I wash my hands of him and his ways. Okonkwo was clearly cut out for great things. He was still young, but he had won fame as the greatest wrestler in the nine villages. He was a wealthy farmer and had two barns full of yams, and had just married his third wife. To crown it all he had taken two titles and shown incredible prowess in two inter-tribal wars. And so although Okonkwo was still young, he was already one of the greatest men of his time.
The movie and Internet research may have helped you understand some of the Ibo items or rituals mentioned in Chapter One • Ibo (or Igbo) people • Umoufio (fictional place based on a real Ibo village) • Egwugu • Kola nuts • Yams • Chalk • Polygamy • Cowries
The setting of the story is Umoufia, a fictional Ibo village in the late 19 Century.
Music, instruments, and musicians are mentioned several times in Chapter 1: • Drums and flutes at the wrestling match. • Unoka recalling playing with the dancing egwugwu • [Unoka] “could hear in his mind's ear the blood-stirring and intricate rhythms of the ekwe and the udu and the ogene, and he could hear his own flute weaving in and out of them, decorating them with a colorful and plaintive tune.” Imagine the sounds of music and the feelings it inspires.
Imagine the sight of the egwugwu and feelings of the villagers “Sometimes another village would ask Unoka's band and their dancing egwugwu to come and stay with them and teach them their tunes. They would go to such hosts for as long as three or four markets, making music and feasting.” Egwugwu are spirits of the ancestors of the village, supposed to be terrifying, never to be unmasked.
Imagine the taste, ‘merry’ feeling of palm wine Unoka drinks palm wine from a gourd: “If any money came his way, and it seldom did, he immediately bought gourds of palm-wine, called round his neighbors and made merry.”
Imagine rituals of the kola nut and chalk (tastes and feelings — emotional, social, physical) When Okoye visits Unoka, Unoka serves the kola nut. He serves it with alligator pepper. They break it and pray over it.
Kola nut has been important in African societies for thousands of years Many purposes: Herbal healers use the pods to ease labor pains Seeds are deployed to relieve diarrhea, nausea, hangover Tree bark is used to heal wounds Nuts are chewed as a stimulant (contains caffeine) Roots can be used to clean teeth and sweeten breath The nut can be processed into a dye
Kola nut is a ritual food “By sharing with fellow humans in the ambience of the spiritual forces that define our cosmos, [the kola nut] mends and reinforces cohesion of the greater society.” http://www.osondu.com/VolumeFour/igbocolanutritual.htm
Ibo people are expected to offer and share kola nut with their guests as symbol of goodwill. It is usually presented with other accompaniments, alligator pepper (a hot spicy fruit from the ginger family). Passed to everyone, then broken by the host.
Imagine the feeling of belonging to a community The kola nut is passed around to everyone, then broken by the host. Some nuts are given to visitors to take home.
Kola nuts and chalk show hospitality — imagine emotional and physical feelings Unoka also provides chalk for Okoye. Chalk is an Ibo sign of hospitality. The Ibo have special dishes for kola nuts A chalk spoon or dish called okwanzu Chalk is offered to visitors and used during ceremonies. The offering of chalk is an important aspect of Igbo ceremonial life and a sign of hospitality. Chalk has magical properties and is often found on shrines or will be used to symbolically mark people. Chalk dishes will be kept in Igbo homes or placed on village or personal shrines.
Imagine look and taste of yams — like sweet potatoes, but not exactly Okoye and Okonkwo are successful farmers with barns full of yams.
Imagine polygamy: Okonkwo and Okoye both are described as successful with three wives.
Imagine the look and feel of cowries Okoye wanted to be repaid the cowries he had lent Unoka. Cowries are shells from Indian Ocean. The earliest evidence of their use in Africa was found in tombs of Egypt (c. 4000-3200 BC). These shells were ancient money used not just in Igboland, or in Africa, but throughout the world, predating the use of coins. http://www.the-nigeria.com/2011/11/ancient-currencies-cowries-manilla-and.html
As you read more of “Things Fall Apart” there is much you can research about the Ibo • Titles • Festivals • Locusts • Religious beliefs • Chi • Storytelling • Oracle • Warfare • British imperialism, colonialism • Missionaries • Twins
But to enjoy this story, you don’t have to know everything. You just need to imagine... • Unoka, a lazy drinker/ musician who laughs atOkoye, a neighbor who wants to be paid back • Okonkwo, a strong man ashamed of his father
Imagine new characters as you encounter them At the end of Chapter 1, the author tells us that Okonkwo will take care of a boy named Ikemefuna as part of a deal to avoid a war: “And that was how he came to look after the doomed lad who was sacrificed to the village of Umuofia by their neighbors to avoid war and bloodshed. The ill- fated lad was called Ikemefuna.”