Port Of Montego Bay in Jamaica, a settlement Igbo’s dominate

Jamaica, a Caribbean Island nation, famed as the birthplace of Reggae Music. It is widely believed the Igbo tribe only existed in the Eastern part of Nigeria. However, there is another tribe in the Caribbean nation.

Igbo people were taken in relatively high numbers to Jamaica as slaves, so it’s no surprise that there’s some Igbo language in the Jamaican language.

They are people mostly populated in the northwestern section of the island especially the ports of Montego Bay.

The “Red Ibo” or “Red Eboe” was used to refer to the Igbo slaves in Jamaica because of their light skin. Igbo slaves were distinguished physically by their fair or “yellow” skin tones, a stereotype that persists to present-day Nigeria. Today, in Jamaica, “red eboe” is used to describe people with light skin tones with African features.

Also, the yam festival, Jonkonnu, in Jamaica, was introduced by the Igbos. In Nigeria, it is simply called the New Yam Festival. Jonkonnu is a masquerade festival held in Jamaica which is attributed to the Njoku Ji or “yam-spirit cult”, Okonko and Ekpe of the Igbo.


“Ilu” in Igbo means proverbs, a part of the language that is very important to the Igbo. Igbo proverbs crossed the Atlantic along with the masses of enslaved Igbo people. Several translated Igbo proverbs survive in Jamaica today because of the Igbo ancestors. Some of these include:

Igbo: “He who will swallow udala seeds must consider the size of his anus”

Jamaican: “Cow must know ‘ow ‘im bottom stay before ‘im swallow abbe [Twi ‘palm nut’] seed”; “Jonkro must know what ‘im a do before ‘im swallow abbe seed.”

Igbo: “Where are the young suckers that will grow when the old banana tree dies?”

Jamaican “When plantain wan’ dead, it shoots [sends out new suckers].”

Igbo: “A man who makes trouble for others is also making one for himself.”

Jamaican: “When you dig a hole/ditch for one, dig two.

Among Igbo cultural items in Jamaica were the Eboe, or Ibo drums popular throughout all of Jamaican music. Food was also influenced, for example, the Igbo word “mba” meaning “yam root” was used to describe a type of yam in Jamaica called “himba”.Igbo and Akan slaves affected drinking culture among the black population in Jamaica, using alcohol in ritual and libation. In Igboland as well as on the Gold Coast, palm wine was used on these occasions and had to be substituted by rum in Jamaica because of the absence of palm wine. Jonkonnu, a parade that is held in many West Indian nations, has been attributed to the Njoku Ji “yam-spirit cult”, Okonko and Ekpe of the Igbo. Several masquerades of the Kalabari and Igbo have a similar appearance to those of Jonkonnu masquerades.


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