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Kpone-Tonwe, Sonpie (1987) The historical tradition of Ogoni, Nigeria. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The thesis is a study of oral tradition preserved in the Ogoni district of Eastern Nigeria. The Ogoni, who occupy the mainland coast of south-eastern Nigeria, between the Imo and the Bonny rivers, are culturally and linguistically distinct. Their ancestors arrived in the area by sea in canoes many centuries before their present neighbours came to settle. Their social organization was based on class distinctions, with success in agriculture as the chief means of social mobility. Yams and plantains, which, they claim, were domesticated by their ancestors, constitute the main crops. Their religious-cum-military system included the award of titles, the highest of which is the basis of ancestral spirit-possession among the Ogoni. Contrary to long-held opinions, the thesis reveals that the Ogoni controlled the long-distance trade of the Eastern Niger Delta in pre-European times. Trade routes linked the hinterland to market towns on the coast of Ogoni. The main items of trade consisted of salt, slaves and sea foods, and the medium of exchange was an iron currency. The study showed that the ancient Ogoni regarded the acquisition of domestic slaves as a mark of social distinction. Furthermore, the thesis clarifies several issues concerning the early Portuguese contacts in this region and identifies the trading places described in the early Portuguese writings. The thesis is based entirely on primary material collected from selected informants during my fieldwork in the area from June till October 1981, and from November 1983 till March 1984. The type of informants included traditional rulers and chiefs, priests, spirit-mediums of founding ancestors who were currently possessing living descendants, recognized hunters, heads of traditional institutions, leaders of occupational guilds, heads of secret societies, etc. Interviews were recorded on tapes, transcribed and translated into English. The thesis is an analysis of this final material.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:03

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