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Hidden Spaces, Silenced Practices and the Concept of Igba N'rira

Nkiru Nzegwu


Igbo male literary writers—Chinua Achebe, Onuora Nzekwu, and Cyprian Ekwensi—have been criticized for the sexism in their writings. Much of this charge is based on what is seen as their patriarchal representation of Igbo culture. As if to undercut the legitimacy of these critiques, the works of Igbo male legal theorists provide support for the writers’ views. For instance, in Modern Family Law in Southern Nigeria, S. N. Chinwuba Obi asserts that the smallest sub-division of families: “consists of a man/patriarch and his wife or wives with their unmarried children and any other dependents such as wards and domestic servants” (1966, 9). The society he described in Ibo Law of Property and the range of laws he examined were fundamentally patriarchal, masculinist and male privileging. There is no question that Obi’s description of Igbo family overlaps with Achebe’s picture of Okonkwo and his family. Okonkwo was a patriarch in the legal sense in which Obi defined it. In the words of his maternal uncle, Uchendu, he has “many wives and many children...[is] a great man in [his] clan” (134).

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West Africa Review. ISSN: 1525-4488 (online).
Editors: Adeleke Adeeko, Nkiru Nzegwu, and Olufemi Taiwo.

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