The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Art from the Ijo Spirit World

by Martha G. Anderson
Alfred University

Zibe bari, ritual to change the birth agreement. Korokorosei, Olodiama clan. Central Ijo artist, Nigeria, 1979. Photo by Martha G. Anderson.

Before acquiring bodies, people appear before Wonyinghi to tell her whether they will be rich or poor, fertile or barren; this contract governs their lives, and even specifies how they will die.  Because of their extreme naiveté before birth, some people choose badly.  This young woman's prenatal agreement prevents her from bearing healthy children, so a diviner has prescribed a ritual called zibe bari to replace it with a more positive one.  In this form of the rite, the young woman holds a basket aloft on a pole; when singing and drumming induce possession, she sways, and offerings spill onto the ground.  Finally, spirits guide her to the spot where she is to pin the pole in the ground.  Relationships people form with spirits while living in Wonyinghibou can also affect their lives on earth; this case also involves a prenatal marriage to a jealous water spirit, who must be appeased with invocations and offerings.