Kolanut And It’s Myths In Igboland: A Documentary

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Kolanut is a cotyledenous five-centimeter fruit from the Kola tree – a genus tree grown mainly in Tropical rainforest Africa. Botanically it is called “Kola acuminata”. In Hausa it is called “gworo”, in Yoruba it is called ” Obi”, while it is called “Oji ” in Igbo.It is mainly consumed in the North, cultivated in the West and valued in the East. In Igbo Ethnography Kola is life, it symbolises peace. That is why it is the first thing used in welcoming visitors in Igbo land with the saying ” Onye wetara Oji wetara ndu”( he who brings Kola brings life). In Igbo land, Kola is the first thing served in every ceremony. In an event where Kola is not present when receiving a visitor , the person must make an explanatory apology either by saying ” Biko akolam Oji”, or “abali ewerela Oji” (if it is in the night).Kola is given as a symbol of hospitality, friendship and respect, it is presented to guests at any occasion or event. The service involving Kola is a cultural heritage of the Igbo which civilization cannot erase. It shows the happiness and love for one another.There are two types of Kolanut – Oji Igbo and Oji Gworo ( Oji Hausa).

Oji Hausa.

Oji Hausa is predominantly consumed in the North without any mystical or cultural attachment to it. It does not have much traditional significance or any cultural impact in Igbo land. It can also be presented in public functions or gatherings in Igbo land, but there is no special cultural myth or significance attached to it .

Oji Igbo.

Oji Igbo usually comes in two colours; white and red, the white one is called Oji Ugo. The Igbo hold Oji Igbo in a very high esteem for reasons of traditional significance. The high estimation of Oji Igbo contributes to the attachment of meaning to its different cotyledons. Each cotyledon has a mystic meaning that is culturally attached to it. Oji Igbo is held in a high esteem among the Igbo people for reasons of traditional importance which contributes to the attachment of meaning to it’s varying cotyledons ranging from one cotyledon to seven cotyledons. Kola with a single cotyledon is called “Oji Ogbu” – it is an abomination and abnormal which signifies a taboo. It is not eaten by anyone but rather thrown to the spirits. Kola with two cotyledons is also known as ‘Oji agbara’. Sometimes it is thrown to the gods or given to the eldest who performs some sacrifices before eating it. This is the reason why Oji Hausa or Gworo is not accepted in Igbo land for rituals or other traditional celebrations. Kola with three cotyledons is associated with strong mystic symbol as Oji Ikenga or “Oji dike” ( Kola of the valiant) which is only eaten by warriors or brave men. Kola with four cotyledons is called “Oji Udo” which means kola of peace and harmony. It also signifies the four market days in Igbo land namely: Eke, Orie, Afor, Nkwo. Kola with five cotyledons is called Oji Omumu meaning kola of procreation, multiplication, prosperity and increase. It also signifies abundant harvest which means wealth in Igbo land. Expectant parents and newly married couples are encouraged to eat this kola. Kola with six cotyledons is called ‘Oji Ogbugbandu’. It is not common, it is a symbol of covenant and bond with the ancestors. Its smallest cotyledon is usually thrown to the ancestors to show the link between the living and the dead in Igbo cosmology. Kola with eight cotyledons is a symbol of royalty which signifies joy and happiness. It is said that it spurs the titled men to exhibit their wealth and power.


Kolanut has a special presentation modality. In presenting a Kola to visitors, the host sometimes touches the kola to his lips to prove that he has no evil intentions. If a maternal grandson is present, the host must be careful not to mistakenly present only one Kolanut, otherwise the grandson will personally pocket it. The number of Kolanut that is presented is usually two, four, eight, sixteen, or twenty-four or more. One, three, five, seven, nine Kolanuts are not allowed to be presented, or other odd numbers. The real symbolism of Kolanut presentation in Igboland comes out clearly in public functions or gatherings. The fullness of social aspect of presentation comes clearly as the kola begins its journey from one person to another, according to closeness of kinship relationship from the host, as it passes through the audience and returns to the host . When it finally comes back to the host ,it goes with the saying that “Oji Eze alaghachila eze n’aka”. This symbolic presentation is also used for head count to identify all the people present before the substantive matter is discussed. Kolanut presentation in Igboland is a highly revered ritual which is done with absolute respect and technicality. Anyone who makes a mistake while carrying the Kolanut round the gathering will be penalized seriously.

Prayer or Blessing.

This is a very important Kolanut ritual. The Kolanut ritual is a traditional prayer or blessing offered before the Kolanut is broken and shared. It must be done in Igbo Language . In Igbo culture, it is the inelienable right of the eldest person in any gathering among the hosts to pray over the Kolanut. It may also be that of a king as the case may be. The eldest person is preferred because he is the custodian of truth and closest to the ancestors. In the evolutionary trend of Igbo tradition, an ordained minister takes precedence in the blessing of Kolanut, but the eldest person or king there who has the mantle will transfer it to the Minister as a privilege and not as a right. It is worthy to note that in Igbo land, Kolanut does not understand English language, or any other language, except Igbo language. The person who is to pray over the Kolanut will rise, hold one of the kolnauts in his right hand and say; in his own dialect, “Chineke Kere Eluigwe na uwa, umu gi agbakoola ebea taa”. Asi “onye wetara oji wetara ndu, ekpere anyi bu ndu mmiri, ndu azu, mmiri Atala azu anwula, obiara nga onye abiagbule ya, mgbe oga- ala mkpumkpu aputala ya n’azu”. Gozie oji a, mgbe anyi ga- ata, anyi ga-atata ogologo ndu n’ahu sirike, anyi gatata Omumu, uba na akuta enwere. Ndi iro anyi agaghi ahu anyi, nihi na ochu nwa okuko nwe Ada nwa okuko nwe nnwenwe oso, anyi noro n’ihu, ha noro n’azu, anyi noro n’azu ha noro n’ihu. Anyi si egbe bere, Ugo bere nke si ibe ya ebela nku kwaa ya, nihi na ichekiriche nwe elu nkwu mana Mgbada nwe uzo ohia. Gozie oji a, goziekwa aka wetara ya, mgbe anyi ga-ata, anyi ga atata ogologo ndu n’ahu sirike! . Then the audience will chorus ” Iseeeeeeee!Later, the person that prayed will take that particular Kolanut he prayed with.

Breaking of Kolanut. (IWA OJI)

Presentation of Kolanut in Igbo land does not end with the prayer but it includes the breaking and sharing of the kolnauts. Another event that brings Kolanut symbolism is its breaking.There are two major traditions as regards who breaks the Kolanut. In some areas, the youngest in the group who is presumed to be innocent and has not soiled his hands with blood, breaks and shares the Kolanut, while in some areas, it is the eldest who is the custodian of tradition and has the symbol of authority that breaks and shares the Kolanut. Some people among the audience are given an unbroken Kolanut like traditional rulers, titled men, eminent personalities. Also, persons from different states are given unbroken Kolanut which is called ‘alaruo akata’.

Symbolism of Kolanut .

Kolanut features prominently in all aspects of Igbo life from cradle to grave. It is revered with high esteem and also commands an exceptional respect among all nuts and fruits in Igbo land. It is a symbol of friendship, its presentation to guests surpasses any other symbol of hospitality. The inability of a host to either present a Kolanut or either make an explanatory apology is seen as a sign of unacceptance. In Igbo cosmology, the myth and custom of kolanut is one of the sacred traditions transmitted from the ancestors which will not be obliterated. In rituals, Kolanut is very important both for the dead and the living. The ancestors are usually called upon to share from the Kolanut and allow the living unmolested. This is the reason why Kolanut is traditionally seen as a sacred nut which is used as a link of communication with the ancestors. Kolanut permeates and brings unity in the lives of those who partake in it. It also embraces an aura of Symbolism which depicts happiness, life, peace and great ambience for vengeance when offered to the gods for vindication and retribution. kolanut strengthens peace, harmony, cordiality and hospitality, which the people are known for. As a symbol of unity and hospitality, it is important that the rituals associated with kolanut be expanded in order to reinforce unity , peace and friendship in Igbo land.

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