Kola nuts are not only known for its origin to many American and European soft-drinks and its chewing by labourers to diminish hunger and fatigue, but even more for its sacred significance in Igboland.
Attending a kola nut ceremony is almost inevitable for anyone visiting Enugu and is Igbo tradition at its best. Elder agree that once the 5-centimetre nuts are blessed with incantations, the visitors will feel ensured that they are welcome. People are more than willing to explain the ceremony, and where there is no kola nut available, the host will need to do the explanatory apology to his visitors. The kola nut tradition is used for a variety of events, but principally to welcome guests to a village or house.
Breaking of Kola Nut
The ceremony may vary depending on the occasion and people present at the ceremony, but there is a common understanding in the traditional way of breaking them. To illustrate this delicate ceremony, I will take the occasion of welcoming a group of visitors to a village. The host presents a plate with a number of Kola nuts (ranging from two up to sixteen) to the leader of the delegation, who will take the plate and shows it to the most senior member of his entourage. To acknowledge that he has seen the plate, he briefly touches the plate with his right hand, before it is shown to less senior members and so forth till most members have taken a glimpse of the plate. After that, the host gets the plate returned from the visitor and takes one of the kola nuts and gives it to the visitor while saying:
‘Öjï luo ünö okwuo ebe osi bia.’
‘When the Kola nut reaches home, it will tell where it came from.’
This proverb says that the visitor needs to show the kola nut to his people at home as a proof of having visited this village
Igbo Kola Nut Ceremony
Usually, the oldest man among the host audience is asked to bless the kola nuts. He will take one of the nuts in his right hand and makes a blessing, prayer or toast using a proverb, e.g.
‘Ihe dï mma onye n’achö, ö ga-afü ya.’
‘What ever good he is looking for, he will see it.’
Subsequently, the presenter or an appointed person breaks the kola nut with his hands or using a knife. An aid or close relative breaks the remaining nuts. The visitors now explain the purpose of their visit, while the kola parts are distributed to the people, occasionally coming along with palm wine, garden eggs and peanut butter.