Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I
At the Obi, the Igbo People Sit Around the Elders
The place of Obi – the Baraza, among the Igbo people of Nigeria, is sacred. It is almost like the sanctuary, as the discussion is supposed to be sacred. Each person maintains a given position or status. The elder or the owner of the house sits generally at the centre.
On many occasions (and I do not subscribe to it), women do not sit among the men at the Obi. And when they do, they sit by the side. And in many cases, they sit on low seats (and do not ask me why). Children do not also sit at the Obi, and when they do, they are supposed not to talk. When a child is allowed to sit with the elders (men), he feels privileged. And if he is lucky, he uses the opportunity to instruct himself in the arts of public speaking, and how society functions.
At the Obi, the conversation is generally around tradition, culture, health, the future, and any other thing you can imagine. Among wise elders, no discussion is neutral as in Igbo culture and cosmology, realities interconnect.
The spiritual realm is not in opposition to the physical world. What we do or say in the physical world influences how we relate with both the ancestors and the entire universe. And for this reason, elderly people are very careful in their choices of worlds. They are conscious that the word we say could directly or indirectly hunt the speaker, or even alter realities within our physical world.