40 Americans claim Igbo ancestry, take traditional names in Enugu

An official naming ceremony was conducted for the American contingent at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

40 Americans claim Igbo ancestry, take traditional names in Enugu. [Punch]

Forty students and faculty members from the Morehouse College Glee Club in Atlanta, United States, have taken Igbo names.

This happened at an official naming ceremony on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, where the American contingent also declared their ancestry to the Igbos of the South-East Nigeria, Punch reports.

The event, held at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, saw the students narrated how they traced their Igbo ancestral roots through a reaching DNA tests.

The ceremony was conducted by the traditional ruler of Ibagwa-Aka community in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State, HRH, Igwe Hyacinth Eze, in conjunction with the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo.

Some of the Igbo names given to the Igbo-Americans include Ezuomike, Ogalanya, Odenigwe, Anyim, Ifeanyi, among others.

While expressing happiness over the reunion of the Igbo-Americans with their ancestral brothers, Igwe Eze said he remained optimistic about the spiritual, cultural, and economic exchanges that the reunion would birth, adding that land would be provided for those willing to reside within the community.

In his own speech, the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Enugu State chapter, Prof. Fredrick Eze, noted that the reunion would aide development of Igbo communities.

Meanwhile, the Public Affairs Officer, United States Consulate General, Lagos, Stephen Ibelli, said the club visit to Nigeria was to mark the 50th anniversary of its maiden visit to the country in 1972.

According to Ibeli, the visiting party, in a bid to strengthen US-Nigeria cultural ties through music, arts and film, would tour Abuja, Enugu, and Lagos States before departing for the U.S.

He said, “The Morehouse College Glee Club, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first tour in Nigeria, will offer public concerts in Lagos, Abuja and Enugu. In addition, the group will visit universities and high schools, meet Nigerian students, and explore their historical ties to Nigeria.

“The 1972 visit to Nigeria infused African music into the Glee Club’s tradition and American Choral music in general. Fifty years later, choirs across the United States sing in Nigerian languages, highlighting the long-term impact of that exchange.

“The Morehouse College Glee Club has since learned a variety of songs in Edo, Yorùbá, Hausa, and Igbo, including a piece specifically composed for them by Igwe Laz Ekwueme, famed Nollywood actor and University of Lagos professor.

“During the visit, the Morehouse College Glee Club will carry out a dynamic exchange of musical knowledge with the broad spectrum of the Nigerian society, singing in Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba languages,” Ibeli said in a statement.

Also speaking, U.S. Ambassador, Mary-Beth Leonard, explained that the visit will solidify the long-existing ties between American and Nigerian institutions of higher learning, and further expand the scope of academic and cultural relations between the two countries.

She said, “Cultural exchanges such as the visit of the Morehouse College Glee Club will help contribute to strengthening the bonds of friendship and collaboration through music and arts, offering an opportunity for Nigerian students to learn about academic experiences in the United States.”

However, many of the student members of the Morehouse College Glee Club described their visit as an opportunity to connect with their African roots.

19-year-old Schneider Grandpierre, a junior third-year student studying Music and Computer Science at the Morehouse College said “I love the culture of Nigeria,” while another student on the trip noted that, “It is such an enriching and amazing experience to be able to reconnect with our cultural roots and sing Nigerian music in different languages. I look forward to an extended stay here even after this tour.”

23-year-old John Batey, a Business Administration major and tenor singer for the choral group who expressed his excitement about the visit, said he has been able to trace his roots to Nigeria through a DNA test. “We will be exploring the Nigerian creative and entertainment industry. I am excited about the tour.”

Professor David Morrow, Director of the Morehouse College Glee Club, said the choral group will perform a repertoire of African and American songs particularly African-American spirituals whose roots go back to the West African music traditions.

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