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Ibo Spirituality and Marriage Customs On the Eve of Nigerian Independence: the Testimony of Onuora Nzekwu's Wand of Noble Wood

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For many years scholars of African religion have appreciated the potential insights that imaginative literature can provide into religious beliefs and practices in rapidly transforming societies, not least with regard to the confrontation of indigenous religions and missionary Christianity. Generally ignored, however, has been the fiction of Onuora Nzekwu, a talented Ibo novelist who during the 1960s was hailed as one founder of Nigerian letters but who stood in the shadow of Chinua Achebe and a handful of other contemporary literary giants. The present article is a study of enduring commitment to Ibo spiritual and marital traditions and the critique of Roman Catholic missionary endeavours in Nzekwu's first novel, Wand of Noble Wood (1961). It is argued that in this pioneering treatment of these recurrent themes in African literature of that decade, Nzekwu vividly highlighted the quandary in which quasi-Westernised Nigerians found themselves as they sought to come to grips with the confluence of colonial and indigenous values and folkways on the eve of national independence in 1960. Nzekwu did not speak for all Ibo intellectuals of his generation; his portrayal of the weakness of Ibo commitment to the Roman Catholic Church is squarely contradicted by other literary observers, such as T Obinkaram Echewa.

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