An Igbo poem from eastern Nigeria. This poem is from the Odo masquerade when, through masked dancers, the ancestors speak to the living.

This poetry varies from one singing Odo to another, but the general pattern is roughly the same – ranging from the rehearsal of the ritual of the Odo cult, to the tracing of the history of the people, especially the heroes and the Ozo-titled men, who in the past had been renowned for their marvellous activities and whose present sons must inevitably inherit this heroic blood. This is expressed in lgbo as ‘Ani-na-efu­ Ngwu’, and that is to say ‘The-Land-That-Breeds-The-Ngwu-Tree’. The Ngwu tree is sacred and mystic; it is a symbol of magic and super­ natural power.

from Black Orpheus (21st April 1967)
translated by R. N. Egudu

I live by the Ngwu tree
Near the Nkwo market…