The Obu: The Heart of Igbo Society

In every Igbo compound, there is a central structure called the Obu, also known as Obi among the Isuama and central Igbo dialects.

Contrary to popular belief, the Obu is not a palace, as most Igbo societies did not have a monarchical structure. Instead, the Obu serves as a gathering place for the people and functions as a marketing hall. It holds hierarchical authority and power that extends to all levels of the community. This means that at the community or town level, there is an obu presided over by the Eze (leader). Similarly, there are obu at the village, kindred, and family levels.

The Obu can be understood as a parlor, meeting hall, or living room within a palace structure. However, it specifically refers to the throne room where the Obi (King) meets with the people.

In every family compound, the head of the family is responsible for the obu. Family members, including extended family members, gather in the obu for family meetings and to honor their ancestors.


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