What Makes A Human According To The Classical Igbos?

Updated: Feb 16

MMA-ADU (Being of Knowledge, Order and Systems).


Ozuzu na Nka

Mmaadu (Human being) according to Igbo philosophy entails complex streams of information which goes beyond the ordinary understanding of human being as rational animal to a being of discipline, order and interpersonal coordination. In this short introductory native philosophical understanding of human being, we will look into the root networking of the standards that validate one to qualify to be called a human being- a systematic consciousness capable of thinking and coordinated actions.


According to the root words without the prefixes and affixes, 'Ma' basically stands to support the following words: to understand, know, correspond, order, beauty, knife, agreement, extract, trapped, unify, etc. 'Du' likewise supports the following words: to weave, life, advice, push, contact, lead/guide (at higher tonal vocalization), etc.

Also, considering the everyday usage and interaction in Igbo society, the word Mmaadu can also be used to qualify a sound mind, kind actions, useful person, etc. and also can be used in the negative when someone is lawless, wicked, stupid, careless, etc.


Therefore, from the meanings derived from the root words and the examples also acquired from the social usages, Mmaadu according to Igbo standpoint simply suggests a being that knows, understands and acts within the lay down rules, laws, order in systematic harmony with other people and the environment.


Lastly, according to the cultural understanding, only the respect and actions that promote knowledge, progress and harmony within the society that qualifies one to be called a human being (Mmaadu), and anything short than these cooperative actions within the set rules can result to a person being called normally, Ibughi Mmaadu (you are not a human being) or Anu ohia (field/wild beast).



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