Ulo Nta Maazi Okoroji Museum: A Tapestry of Tradition, Justice, and Mystique

Ulo Nta Maazi Okoroji Museum stands as a testament to a bygone era, weaving together a rich tapestry of tradition, justice, and mystique. Situated in Ujari Village, this museum has become the second most visited tourist destination in Arochukwu, after Arochukwu Waterfall. Its historical significance is deeply rooted in the tales of the past, where Maazi Okoroji, a revered figure, left an indelible mark on the region.

Ulo Nta Maazi Okoroji museum

The museum's origins trace back to the 14th century when it was constructed, becoming the embodiment of Maazi Okoroji's influence and power. Declared a national museum in 1972 by the National Commissioner for Museums and Monuments, the Ulo Nta Maazi Okoroji Museum has since been a repository of local artifacts, historical crafts, and ancient structures.

Maazi Okoroji, the museum's founder, wielded its premises not only as a repository of cultural treasures but also as a formidable customary court during the pre-colonial era. This court was a beacon of justice, serving as a place where disputes were settled, and wrongs were righted. However, the museum's significance transcended mere legal matters, extending its influence to the slave trade and even acting as a conduit for those seeking a first-class visa gift for international travel.

Legend has it that a visit to the Okoroji Museum held a mystical power. If Maazi Okoroji rubbed his native clay (Nzu) on your hands, you could defy established rules and travel anywhere without hindrance. The museum became a sanctuary for justice, fairness, and tradition.

However, with this sacred ground came strict rules. Women in their menstruation cycle and those born as twins were forbidden from entering the museum. The consequences of violating these taboos were believed to be severe – a mysterious ailment would befall menstruating women, and strange occurrences would plague the lives of twins. The custodians of the shrine guarded these rules with utmost seriousness.

The museum's history intertwines with the Anglo Aro War, a conflict between the Aros and British colonists. In the aftermath of this war, the invaders attempted to seize the valuables within the Okoroji Museum. Despite their initial struggles to breach its entrance, a Hausa sergeant named John intervened and ordered them to halt the looting. This act of courage is commemorated by the people of Ujari Village.

Notably, it was the British who invaded the museum that later established their museum with the pilfered artifacts. The Okoroji Museum, having withstood gunshots and only succumbed to a carpenter blade, stood as a testament to the resilience of Arochukwu's heritage.

The allure of Ulo Nta Maazi Okoroji Museum extends beyond Nigeria's borders, with a substantial number of visitors hailing from Brazil. These individuals are eager to unravel the cultural and traditional mysteries enshrined within the walls of the museum, reflecting a global fascination with the rich history of Arochukwu.

Tourists who venture into the museum are greeted by a unique set of traditions. Before any proceedings commence, the custodians conduct libations, seeking the blessing of their forefathers for the visitors. Native hot drinks and colanuts are essential components of this ritual.

Twins and menstruating women are respectfully asked to stay outside the museum, respecting the age-old taboos. These rituals provide an immersive experience for visitors, allowing them to witness and partake in the living traditions of the Arochukwu people.

Within the hallowed halls of Ulo Nta Maazi Okoroji Museum lies a treasure trove of artifacts. The collection includes 50 cow skeletons, diverse human skulls, ancient slave chains, and Ego Ayori (Cowries), an ancient form of currency. A prominent exhibit is a door labeled "Ibo Eze Nwaka, Akpu 17 century," originating from the palace of Eze Nwaka Akpu in Orumba North, Ajali. The door serves as a reminder of the victorious conquest by Maazi Okoroji's warriors.

Ibo Eze Nwaka Akpu In Okoroji Museum

The museum's collection tells the story of a confrontation between Maazi Okoroji and Eze Nwaka Akpu. Following a dispute sparked by Okoroji's warning to cease immoral acts, including sleeping with married women and mistreating young girls, the conflict escalated. Eze Nwaka Akpu challenged Okoroji's interference in his kingship, leading to a violent confrontation. Maazi Okoroji's warriors triumphed, bringing back the palace door of Eze Nwaka Akpu as a trophy devouring all the lineage of Eze Nwaka Akpu and all his servants to ensure royalty departs from his lineage, this followed after  Eze Nwaka Akpu ordered the killing of Maazi Okoroji senior brother upon noting that he resides in his community, who he was seeing as a trait to his divide and rule pattern of leadership.

Kpankobo Chain Used For Final Verdict On A Case.

The museum's displays include various implements of justice and authority. The "Kpankobo" chain, designed for stubborn slaves, symbolizes the disciplinary measures employed during those times. An ancient counting stick, "Akpaa," is a reminder of the meticulous record-keeping that Maazi Okoroji undertook, especially concerning borrowed money as he uses those counting sticks to count the due dates of a borrowed loan.

Additionally, a native sword stick, wielded by Maazi Okoroji himself, served as a tool to discipline disobedient individuals. The tales recount the authority that Maazi Okoroji held, where even kings like Jaja of Opopo were spared from being sold into slavery through his intervention.

One captivating tale preserved in the museum involves Jaja of Opopo, a king who faced the prospect of being sold to Portuguese slave traders. Maazi Okoroji intervened, turning him into a servant instead of a commodity. Jaja of Opopo, displaying wisdom and resilience, he served Maazi Okoroji for a while and transited to Opopo land with British slave merchants, he eventually rose to power in Opopo after defeating its rulers. This story highlights the intricacies of power dynamics and the unexpected twists in the lives of those entwined with the Okoroji Museum.

Inside the museum, a traditional pot ("ite") captures the history of brides in the region. It served as a record-keeping vessel for traditional marriage ceremonies, with each bride's drink being poured into the pot for posterity. Moreover, the museum also functions as a recorder of marriages within the community, using the Okwa Isii and Aju mmanyi to symbolize full matrimony.
Chair Of Judgement Constructed With Cowries - Maazi Okoroji Museum

A chair crafted from cowries, the currency of wealth in the region, serves as a symbol of Maazi Okoroji's affluence. The museum houses a seat of judgment adorned with a lion's body, reflecting the gravity and authority associated with Maazi Okoroji's pronouncements.

Pot Of Concortion - Ulo Nta Maazi Okoroji

The Okoroji Museum boasts a pot of concoction, holding a liquid that, when consumed, supposedly enables individuals to speak Igbo fluently for business purpose which enables Maazi Okoroji business associates to trade with him in Igbo for a better understanding of both traders, immediately after the business, you'll not understand nor hear Igbo again. This mystical artifact reveals the pervasive belief in Maazi Okoroji's supernatural abilities, transcending even the boundaries of language.

The museum's collection includes charms utilized for various purposes, reflecting the mystical side of Arochukwu's heritage. Notably, the Ome Ihe Jide Ofor monument is said to move at night, acting as a guardian and revealer of truths, punishing those who oppress the less privileged people.

Ome Ihe Jide Ofor - Ulo Nta Maazi Okoroji Museum

Upon Maazi Okoroji's passing out, the trafition demanded the sacrifice of his first wife and servants to accompany him into the afterlife. However, Maazi Okoroji, disagrees to the taking of human lives, he prefer selling them out for slaves this made him substituted six horses for his burial after he is gone, as he believes that horses behaves like human being. The skulls of these horses are still displayed within the museum, a testament to Okoroji's commitment to his principles even in death.

Seven Horse Skulls For The Burial Of Maazi Okoroji After His Death

Within the museum, visitors can find artistic tributes and artifacts created by individuals as memorials. These pieces reflect the enduring legacy of those who contributed to the rich history and traditions encapsulated within Ulo Nta Maazi Okoroji Museum.

Ulo Nta Maazi Okoroji Museum stands not only as a repository of historical artifacts but as a living testament to the cultural, legal, and mystical heritage of Arochukwu. Through its captivating exhibits and tales, the museum unravels a complex tapestry of tradition, justice, and mystique that continues to draw visitors from far and wide. As the custodians conduct libations and uphold age-old taboos, Ulo Nta Maazi Okoroji Museum remains a sacred space, where the past converges with the present, preserving the essence of Arochukwu's remarkable history.

Maazi Okoroji Monument

Front View, Ulo Nta Maazi Okoroji

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