The Akan people of Ghana are significantly responsible for the continental African presence in Jamaica, as seen by cultural similarities, names, feasts, and assimilation.
The word ‘Mumu’ comes from the Ewe and Akan languages. It’s used to characterize someone who is stupid or idiotic, just like in Jamaican Patois.
Dokunu is an African term that refers to a traditional Jamaican delicacy cooked in banana leaves. Tie-a-leaf and blue draws are other names for the same thing.
The word ‘Bafan’ comes from the Akan language and can refer to a youngster, a vulnerable person, or a handicap. It’s a term used in Jamaican patois to describe someone who hasn’t learned basic abilities that others have. Then there’s Akan folktale character Ananse (witty Spider).
In Jamaica, however, there is a sizable Igbo population. Captured and enslaved Igbo people from Nigeria’s south-eastern port towns of Bonny and Calabar ended up on the island, as a result of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Between 1790 and 1807, when the British passed the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, which outlawed the slave trade in the British Empire, slave ships from Bristol and Liverpool brought the bulk of enslaved Igbo people to the Island, circumventing the system.
They were compelled to work on plantations as slaves. They settled in the northern part of the island, near Montego Bay and St. Ann’s Bay, and left their mark on Jamaican culture in terms of language, dance, music, folklore, cuisine, religion, and demeanor.
Because of their light skin, they are referred to as “Red Eboe” or “Red Ibo” in Jamaica. Igbo slaves were identified by their fair or “yellow” complexion tones, a stereotype that still exists in modern-day Nigeria. The term “Red Eboe” is now used in Jamaica to denote people with pale skin tones and African features.
Jamaican Patois has seen an infusion of some Igbo words. They include:
Patois Language Original Word Description
Big-eye Igbo anya ukwu “greedy”
Breechee Igbo Mbùríchì Nri-Igbo nobleman
Door-mouth Igbo ọ́nụ́ ụ́zọ̀ (mouth + door) “doorway”
Chink, chinch Igbo chị́nchị̀ ‘bedbug’
Country ibo Igbo Ị̀gbò Pluchea odorata or Ptisana purpurascens
Akara (Jamaica) Akàrà (Igbo)– bean cake
Another instance is the Jamaican yam celebration, known as ‘Jonkonnu.’ The Njoku Ji or “yam-spirit cult,” Okonko and Ekpe of the Igbo are credited with creating Jonkonnu, a masquerade celebration held in Jamaica. The Ibu Town is also said to be called after the Ibo slaves, according to locals.
According to The Guardian, the Igbo people are even credited with inspiring the pouring of libation.
“Throughout Jamaica’s history, the Igbo have affected Jamaican culture, music, libation, the “ibo” style, idioms, language, and manner of life. Jamaicans are so familiar with Igbo culture that it is normal to see Jamaicans watching Igbo Nollywood films. Some of their rural areas are similar to those of the Igbo people in Eastern Nigeria.”
The freedom-loving Igbo slaves were said to have kept “unwritten plantation regulations” that the plantation owners were obligated to follow.
In terms of spirituality, Igbo culture is credited with influencing Jamaican spirituality through the introduction of Obeah folk magic, while the art or system may have been introduced initially by enslaved Akan people.
There’s Archibald Monteith, born Aneaso, an enslaved Igbo man who was taken to Jamaica after being duped by an African slave trader who published a journal about his origins, and then there’s Olaudah Equiano alias Gustavus Vassa, whose autobiography, “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano” (1789), about the horrors of slavery received fair consideration.
Despite his status as a leading figure in the anti-slavery movement, he worked as an overseer on a Jamaica plantation owned by Dr. Charles Irving. Given that Equiano was an African-born Igbo ex-slave, his 1776 Mosquito Shore (Miskito Coast) project in Jamaica, for which he hired Igbo slaves, is controversial. Equiano is supposed to have learned the Igbo language and employed it in Jamaica to keep social order among his Igbo slaves.
Between 1840 and 1864, Igbo people, along with a majority of Kongo and “Nago” (Yoruba) people, landed on the island as indentured laborers after the abolition of slavery in Jamaica in the 1830s.
Igbo people live in Nigeria’s Igboland, which is separated into two regions along the Niger River’s lower reaches. They are found in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugwu, and Imo states, as well as minor sections of Delta, Rivers, and Benue states. Igbo communities can also be found in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea in small numbers.