2022 Session 39: Brief history of Itsekiri

  • Itsekiri NextGen Project: 2022 Session 39 Report
  • Topic: Brief history of Itsekiri 
  • Date: Saturday 15/10/2022 
  • Volunteers Present: 5
  • Total Number of Attendees: 71
  • Timings: 9:00am – 1:00pm
  • Venue: Former Caravan 4, Aja-Pessu (Pessu Town), Warri
  • Resource Person: Uwala Tedeye


If we don’t tell our story, others will help tell a distorted story about our history. The Itsekiri NextGen team decided to take the participants on a series of Itsekiri history, which will continue in subsequent sessions. 

Session Delivery

The session began with an opening prayer by Itse Mirabel Ukubeyinje followed by the Itsekiri anthem. Afterwards, some live video clips on mentorship were played. Those clips came in late, hence they weren’t played during the last session. 

Uwala Tedeye came up to anchor the main session on Itsekiri history. The question of who was the first king of Warri kingdom was thrown to the participants. They were able to tell that it was Ginuwa I and narrated how he came down from Benin with his entourage.

Then a map of Nigeria by tribe was displayed on the screen to explain how people migrated from Ijebu ode, Owo and Akure down to Ureju, Inorin, Omadino and Ugborodo due to war in those places. This explains the strong affinity between the Ijebu ode and the Itsekiri language. 

Other groups of migrants came into the place now known as Warri kingdom through the creek. Though it wasn’t a kingdom then.  A man name Itsekiri led this group of migrants to Okotomu. He was the one prince Ijijen met with when he arrived in Okotomu with his iroko ark. They accepted prince Ijijen to be their king and pledge their loyalty to him.

With the above, it was clearly shown to the participants how Itsekiri is a hybrid of Bini, Yoruba and Igalla.

A chart of words in English and their meaning in Itsekiri, Igalla , Bini, Yoruba and Portuguese was further used to explain how the Itsekiri language is a fusion of these other languages, hence the similarities in some words.

The participants were amazed to see the close resemblance between some words in the Itsekiri language and the Portuguese language. It was explained to them that the resemblance is so because Itsekiri had contact with the Portuguese, as they stand as middlemen between the Portuguese and other tribes.

The cultural affinity between the Binis and the Itsekiris also shows in marriage, as the bride dresses alike. The Itsekiri call the attire kweke which is a beaded costume worn on the head, shoulder, and hands with wrappers tied on the chest. The Binis use just beaded costumes with red velvet wrappers, while the Itsekiris make use of beads, gold and silver. This is dependent on the preference of the bride, with a belt on the waist to give fit to the wrapper with a choice wrapper to compliment the costume.

Photos of the Portuguese with some Itsekiri chiefs and some elite were displayed to buttress the trade relationship with the duo. Others photos of some beautiful Itsekiri princes and princesses paying homage to the Olu of Warri, and pictures to depict both Yoruba and Igalla traditional attire were also displayed.

While the session was on, some participants penned down some important questions which they asked when it was time for questions. Some questions are;

  • Why was the tribe named after the man Itsekiri?
  • Why do men open their hands wide when greeting the Olu of Warri?
  • Who names the town Warri and why?

Key activities during the session 

A video clip of the fourth series of Ghigho Aghofen was played as the participants watched the visit of the Attah of Igalla to the Olu of Warri palace. In the video, the people from Okotomu Irigbo displayed their rich culture and traditions to the admiration of those present.

Igalla people were present enmass to pay homage to both the Olu of Warri and the Attah of Igalla. Also Yoruba, Bini people danced down to celebrate with the Olu as well as to pay homage.

How else can one define the affinity within these tribes? It’s glaring that they have a common heritage.

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