This study is an ethnopoetic analysis of Igbo oral funeral poetry with particular reference to Elugwu Ezike. The principal objective of the study is to analyze oral funeral poetry performance of the Elugwu Ezike people with emphasis on the form and structure of Elugwu Ezike dirges, causes of death, themes and significance of oral funeral poetry, funeral rituals and rites in Elugwu Ezike and the impact of Christianity, Islam and western lifestyle on the performance of Elugwu Ezike dirges. An aspect of ethnopoetic theory known as infracultural model in folklore analysis developed by Alembi is used in the analysis of data. The study is primarily approached through oral interview and unstructured questionnaire. A total of sixteen informants were selected randomly from the thirty-eight communities that make up Elugwu Ezike. Recording and tape recording are made first hand during the funeral ceremonies in which these poems occur.Solo- and–response form is the basic structural features in most Elugwu Ezike dirges, there is constant repetition of words and sentences in the dirges, the funeral artists make use of linguistic and paralinguistic features at their disposal to realize the aims of their performance and various imageries are used in the dirges to showcase emotion, events and objects such as loss, death and hunting, lion, kite and lizard, forest and mountain respectively. The findings of the study also revealed that the dirges poetically reiterate the theme of satire, theme of praise for the dead, theme of vulnerability of death and theme of death as a universal phenomenon. Dirges function as a repository of historical knowledge, a tool for social criticism, didacticism and as a medium of mourning and celebrating the life of the deceased. Ndịishi (spirits of the ancestors), witchcraft, charm or poisoning and suicide were identified as the major causes of death in Elugwu Ezike. Christianity, IsIam and Western education have negatively affected the performances of dirges in such a way that Christian music is used in funeral ceremonies in recent times.


Title page
Table of contents

1.1       Background of the study
1.2       Statement of the Problem
1.3       Purpose of the Study
1.4       Research Questions
1.5       Significance of the Study
1.6       Scope and limitation of the Study
1.7       Limitations of the Study

2.0       Review of Related Literature
2.1       Theoretical Framework
2.2       Features of Ethnopoetic Theory
2.3       Empirical Studies
2.4       Summary

3.0       Introduction
3.1       Research Design
3.2       Area of Study
3.3       Sample and Sampling Technique
3.4       Research Instrument
3.5       Method of Data Collection
3.5.1 Library Work
3.5.2 Field Work
3.5.3 Participant Observation
3.5.4 Interview
3.6       Method of Data Analysis

4.0       Categories of Death in Elugwu Ezike
4.1       Themes of Oral Funeral Poetry of Elugwu Ezike
4.2       Significance of Elugwu Ezike Oral Funeral Poetry
4.2.1    Oral funeral poetry as a Repository of Historical Knowledge
4.2.2 Oral Funeral Poetry as a tool for Social Criticism
4.2.3 The Oral Funeral Poetry as a tool for Admonition
4.2.4  Oral Funeral Poetry as a Medium of Mourning and Celebrating the life of the Deceased
4.3. 0 Introduction
4.3.1    Form of Elugwu Ezike Dirges
4.3.2. Structure of Elugwu Ezike Dirges
4.3.3. Rhythm
4.3.4    Figurative Language

5.0 Causes of Death as Seen in Elugwu Ezike Dirges
5.1       Funeral Rites and Rituals in Elugwu Ezike Igbo
5.1.2    Funeral Rites of a Deceased Man
5.1.3    Ịwayị ọọkụ Nẹẹnya Ritual Performance
5.1.4    Ịgba Ụkwụ Nẹ Nkwụ Ritual Performance
5.1.5    Ịgba Ogige Ẹẹnyasi (Ogige Night Performance)
5.1.6    Mmabu Uke Performance
5.1.7    Inatu Ogbo
5.1.8    Akẹrẹoku Ritual Performance
5.1.9    Ịkwọ Ẹka Ụmatụ Ritual Performance
5.1.10  Ịtọ Nri Ritual Performance
5.1.11  Ụgọdụ Ẹta Ritual Performance
5.2   Funeral Rites for Females in Elugwu Ezike
5.3.0    Foreign Influence on the performance of dirges in Elugwu Ezike
5.3.1    Christianity and Islam
5.3.2    Influence of Westernism on the performance of dirges in Elugwu Ezike

6.0       Introduction
6.1       Summary of Research Findings
6.2       Conclusion
6.3       Recommendations of the Study



1.1       Background of the Study

Man has always expressed his feelings, experiences, expectations and dreams through the medium of poetry. Although, there may be no final definition of poetry, all ideas about poetry centre on one thing: man’s display of emotions in a unique language that is entertaining, a centre of beauty through language. Oral poetry is, therefore, the cultural heritage of a people. Poetry may also be described as the song of the heart which touches on and rekindles the very living chords of human experience. Literatures among other things mean the art of language. Literature could be oral or written. Its distribution, composition and performance of oral literature involve words of mouth. Poetry is a method of literary expression which suggests by means of imagery, rhythm and sound. Its words are full of suggestions of unrevealed meaning which will grow out of them under the influence of thought and imagination. Poetry can also be described as the method of clothing anew ideas and objects that are naturally ordinary. In this sense, it becomes a miracle created around commonplace things.

The requirement of social life often imposes forms of linguistic behaviour on individuals or groups of individuals in given situations to which are attached values that appear to govern their continued practice. The study of verbal expressions in such situations is important not only for a clearer understanding of problems of meaning in a language but also for the deeper understanding of a peoples’ life from which their meaning is ultimately derived. In the social life of Elugwu Ezike people, one such situation is the singing of funeral dirges when death occurs.

Death is as old as humanity, and so are some of the rites associated with it. The dirge, which is sometimes referred to as an elegy, funeral laments chant or song has, a history that dates back to ancient times. The dirge is often interchanged with elegy. The Encyclopedia Britannica (1975:844) explained that “in classical literature an elegy was simply a poem written in the elegiac metre and was not restricted as to a subject”. It is further elucidated in the Encyclopedia that even in some modern literature such as German in which the traditional elegiac has been adapted to the language, the term elegy still refers to this metre rather than to the poem’s content. Similarly, Guddon (1999:253) explains that “in classical literature an elegy was any poem composed of elegiac distichs also known as elegiacs, and the subjects were many such as death, war, love and similar themes”. Thus, the two definitions of elegy cited of Encyclopedia and Guddon point to the fact that elegy referr to a specific metre at the beginning. As a result of this, it could be used to compose a poem on any subject matter. A dirge, on the other hand, is explained by Guddon as:
A song of lament, usually of lyrical mood, this name dervies from the beginning of the antiphon of the office of the Dead. Dirge, Domine… Direct O Lord… As a literary genre it comes from the Greek epicedium, which was a mourning song sung over the dead and a threnody sung in memory of the dead. In Roman funeral processions the nenia, a song of praise for the departed was chanted… (1998:227).

Abrams (2005:77) equally asserts: “the dirge is also a versified expression of grief on the occasion of a particular person’s death”. Right from the onset, the dirge is a term that is closely related to death. In the African context, Okpewho (1992:152), Akiraga and Odaga (1982:78) have all defined dirges as funeral songs or chants and these definitions are synonymous with the one given by Guddon and Abrams. The distinction between dirges and elegies is that whereas the composition of dirges is normally occasioned by death, it is not the same with elegies since the latter are sometimes written due to serious meditation on man and his place in the world. Besides this, the dirge is shorter, less formal and is usually composed as a text to be sung whereas the elegy is presented as the utterance of a single person. In this research work, chants and songs used in this work, refer to funeral chants, songs or oral funeral poetry.

Life on this earth is only temporary and once people are no more, they can only be remembered in the hearts of other people due to the positive impact the deceaseds made on their lives by nurturing, and living by some of the principles that most of the dirges poetically reiterate. This is why members of the community are often reminded of their duty to live responsibly while alive. The dirge singer is not only the epitome of verbal creativity among the Elugwu Ezike people but he equally provides some emotional relief to the community on the loss of one of their member. The dirge chanter does this by creating dirges that seek to let the community understand that as painful as death may be, it is an integral part of life. Through verbal creativity, the dirge chanter is able to comment on sensitive issues in less offensive manner for the audience to draw useful morals.

Dirge as a form of oral poetry makes use of language to communicate experience. Funeral dirges, no matter where they are performed, have one thing in common that is, they all express the emotion of loss. Dirge in its broadest form is the lament for the dead. The main function of the funeral dirge remains condolence with the bereaved family and the performing of funeral rituals to please the dead. Failure of a close family member to perform these rituals may.....

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