One Week, One Proverb

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Case 19:

When the kola nut reaches home, it will tell where it came from.

Insight/Background Story:

The kola nut ceremony is undoubtedly Igbo tradition at its best. The kola nut tradition is used for a variety of events, but basically to welcome guests to a village or house. Iwa öjii (breaking of kola) as it is well known in Igboland may vary depending on the occasion and people present at the ceremony. But there is a common understanding in the traditional way of breaking these nuts.  To further explain this, let’s consider the occasion of welcoming a number of guests. The host presents a plate with the number of kola nuts (usually from two to fourteen) to the leader of the delegation, who will take the plate and show it to the eldest male member of his entourage.  To acknowledge that he has seen the plate, he briefly touches it with his right hand, before it is shown to the other members (in order of seniority). After that, the plate is returned to the host who then takes a kola out of the lot and gives it to his guests saying:

“Öji luo ünö, ökwuo ebe osi bia.”

“When the kola nut reaches home, it will tell where it came from.”


This proverb means that a visitor needs to show the kola nut to his people at home as a proof of having visited a place—a hospitable place, of course.

As we’ll gather to celebrate Easter tomorrow, we will also be “breaking kola” and serving garden egg and ökwa ose as well.

PS: It’s against the Igbo tradition to speak a foreign language while blessing the kola with incantations.

45 thoughts on “One Week, One Proverb

    1. You watch Tinsel too? That’s wonderful! I remembering the first time I was called upon to break the kola–the actual cutting, I almost pissed in my pants Lol. I was thirteen at the time.

  1. Let’s keep these wonderful traditions alive! You do a tremendous service to all of us, Uzoma, by telling these rich and beautiful tales from your land. We here have never heard them, so I thank you so very much for telling them to those of us who are ignorant of their existence .

    1. Oh I’m so glad you found the practice very interesting! We have other traditions and they will also be featured here when the time is right. I’m proud to share these things and so much more 🙂

    1. Aw, Diane, what a sincere comment! I bet there are things you know about that I haven’t even heard before. Our world is all about sharing and I’m glad you dropped by.

  2. Wow, I have never heard of this before and here I was thinking I knew quite a bit about your culture. It is always a pleasure to learn new things. This is fascinating. I hope you had a great Easter, mine was quite relaxing.

    Enjoy your week, Uzo (well, the remainder of it at least).

    1. Haha. Well, there is a bit more than you think 😉 I’d like to recommend Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe to you. I bet you’d like the novel. It covers a lot about my culture and people. My Easter was…okay. I can’t complain. Best of the week ahead, Valerie 🙂

      1. Things Fall Apart is a book I have often wanted to read. It’s one if those things that I have forever planned to do-damn procrastination! I will get the book, hopefully sooner than later.

  3. That is incredible, My Great Grandmother was rather keen on telling me proverbs and having me memorize past events that she thought were relevant in preserving our culture. She was a gem of wisdom; which is probably the reason why I revere Senior citizens. Great post!

    1. Hehe…First I must say that you’re fortunate to see you great grand parent–I didn’t meet any. Your great granny reminds me of my grandmother (paternal). She would sometimes speak to me in proverbs, adding that I’d only value them when I get older. Now I see the reason why. Your great grand was indeed a gem of wisdom. Thanks for dropping by, Phil.

      1. I saw two great grand parents, those were good times. We would save ourselves from all sorts of moral, cultural, social financial and emotional issues if we just became a little keen to words of the older generation. I was reading The richest man in Babylon earlier today and I came across this part, “and when youth comes to age for advice, he receives the wisdom of years.But too often does youth think that age knows only the wisdom of days that are gone, and therefore profits not… the thoughts of youth are bright lights that shine forth like meteors that oft make brilliant the sky, but the wisdom of age is like the fixed stars that shine so unchanged that the sailor may depend upon them to steer his course”
        Good Health, Peace and Blessings to you and your family my friend.

        1. Now that’s beyond lucky–you’re so blessed! Ha! I love the quote!!!!!!!!!!!!The speaker agrees with my granny. I’ll definitely look out for this book and I appreciate you brought it to my notice.

          Many blessings, peace, and prosperity to you, my bosom friend!

    1. I concur…Sharing brings us all together, really. It makes us appreciate each other better. Sorry I couldn’t reply to this earlier than this. Thanks all the same 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing, Uzo. Traditions are a powerful way of connecting and remembering with those we share with and converses, it feels good to be reminded in the proverb. 🙂

    1. You’re absolutely right. My people use proverbs a lot during important gatherings. There is this belief that it makes a lot more sense to prick the mind before the truth arrives.

  5. I read this yesterday and I couldn’t post on my phone (sometimes it just hates me!) and I loved it! It was interesting and somehow just made my day even better yesterday – I love learning new things, sooo thank you !

    1. Haha…Gadgets can be funny at times. I also feel excited whenever I come across a new story/event/lifestyle. I’m happy you enjoyed this tradition of my people. I learn also from reading blogs like yours.

      1. Yes they can! But they are also the most useful currently existing, so it’s a a pretty balanced love-hate relationship. It’s always interesting to me! I’ve got a soft spot for anything language and culture related. I just love learning about everything (as much as possible anyway). Thank you, and thank you for sharing!

  6. I like the idea of traditions that include giving guests something. Just as in most cultures, the guests add to the host’s household, too. This proverb is unique because the kola nut goes home with the guest to indicate the great hospitality he/she enjoyed as a guest. Very circular in its giving and taking lesson. Nice idea for a post that was interesting!

    1. Ah! You said it better! 😀 Yes, showing a guest hospitality brings fortune–at least, that’s what I believe. In my culture, the presence or absence of kola in a meeting mean “welcome” and “uncertainty” respectively. Glad you completely related with this one and loved it too.

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