Onu Nwa: the first-born child

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If a woman gives birth to a child, there usually will be a celebration, the size of which will depend on the financial capability of the new parents. It is a common practice for people to gather to celebrate with a woman who had just given birth.

If the newborn is the first child of the new parents, the woman’s father and his relatives will all come around to celebrate with her. This was what was called the Onu Nwa.

Announcing the arrival of a newborn

Women in different parts of igboland have different ways of announcing the safe delivery of a newborn baby. In some parts of ngwa-ukwu, a loud, joyful sound of “O o ooo” was made, while in some places, similar exultant sounds like “Owo-owo-o-owo-owoo” will be made.

On hearing the sound, women would rush to the compound from whence this spring sprang, and suddenly, a crowd of jubilant women would gather and begin to sing and dance around. These Onu Nwa songs and dances were usually melodious as well as energetic. Women danced enthusiastically, thanking God for the safe delivery.

While the newborn baby’s ecstatic father danced and settled the jubilant women, he would also make quick preparations to visit his father-in-law. On this journey to his in-laws, he would be accompanied by his friends or brothers. Upon reaching the outskirts of his in-law’s compound, he would announce his coming with two Dane gunshots to inform them of the baby’s safe delivery.

The sound of the gunshots alerts people around that a child is born, people would come out and join the celebration. Typically, if it is a male child, the announcement also entailed giving out the sum of two naira, ten kobo and one bottle of Schnapps to his father-in-law. Also, he would give one crate of soft drinks and two naira, ten kobo to his mother-in-law.

Welcoming the Onu Nwa

The next stage of the Onu Nwa involves the father-in-law, who in the company of two or three men pays a visit to his son-in-law’s house. Upon arrival, he too would release two Dane gunshots to announce their arrival. He would remain on this spot until his son-in-law came out to greet and welcome him, with at least, ten naira, fifty kobo.

As soon as the guests enter the compound, they are expected to drop some monetary support before settling into their seats. The amount of money expected from them is not fixed, depending on the host and the guests’ agreement.

The host would then present kola nuts and other things to his guests to welcome them to his him properly. He would give them one bottle of Schnapps and replace their fired gunshots by giving them money to buy gunpowder. As they made ready to leave, he would give them transport fare.

The mothers’ visit

The final stage of the Onu Nwa was the visit of the mother-in-law. After eight days, the mother-in-law would go with her friends to celebrate the Onu Nwa at her son-in-law’s compound. She would take along with her items such as fish, yams, pomade, towel, cup, and plenty of garri.

Upon reaching the son-in-law’s compound, they would continue to sing without venturing into the compound until the son-in-law called them in, holding some items in his hands, including money, to welcome them. This money was used to get the load off her head. The son-in-law would also give them additional monies for them to settle down properly and also for kola nuts and for their eating allowance.

After this, he would give them ego ikpegheomugwo (money for child delivery). This was very well negotiable and depended on the agreement between the son-in-law and the mother-in-law. And on their departure, he would give them transport fare which, of course, was also negotiable.

The mother-in-law would remain at her in-law’s place, while her friend would go back home. She would stay here for eight days and either go back home with her daughter and the child afterward or continue to stay for Omugwo, depending on her agreement with the son-in-law.

Usually, mothers-in-law did not take the child home unless the child’s circumcision healed. When she was about to return home, she would be given one leg of goat meat and one bottle of Schnapps for the father-in-law to show appreciation and acceptance.

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