Imhakhena Leaves Ivhiarua – By Aha Idokpesi Okhaishe N’ Avhianwu
Imhakhena, the son of Anwu, son of Azama, lived peacefully with the children of Arua, his nephews, at Ivhiarua settlement. Imhakhena and family settled at the present day Ivhiukasa in Ivhiarua. This accounts for why Ivhimhakhena (descendants of Imhakhena) to this day make their first stop at Ivhiukasa on arrival at Fugar for the Age-group Naming Ceremony during the puberty (manhood) initiation.
Imhakhena, Mother Aleukoko and the children of Arua all shared a common settlement: Ivhiarua. At home, they ate in common. They led a life of sharing irrespective of the sizes of the extended families. For meals, Mother Aleukoko’s kitchen still remained the meeting point for all her children. Her children’s children also filled their stomachs from her kitchen. So all met here to have a stomach full of whatever was prepared to satisfy their hunger. The children of Arua and Imhakhena’s life together did not however continue indefinitely.
Imhakhena had been both a hunter and a farmer. He was most of the time away from home on a hunting expedition. The vast forests bordering on his farmlands were his hunting fields. Imhakhena was notorious for his long absence from home. He was either working on his farm or atop trees lying in wait for game. He was however never left out in the sharing of meals. His share was always kept whenever he was expected.
At times Imhakhena returned home when he was least expected. At other times he would fail to show up when he was most expected. There was that fateful day when Imhakhena left home in the small hours of the morning and was never at all expected back home. But he did come back to ask for his share of the baked corn (ikpeko or eko-oka) meal – his favourite food -that was reportedly prepared and eaten that day in Mother Aleukoko’s kitchen. He was told that not even a mouthful was left of it. Imhakhena was very bitter about what he termed unfair treatment meted out to him. Under his emotional outburst of anger (typical of a hungry man) he resolved to go back to his farmland where he could be alone and release surplus emotion. This was a measure very drastic in itself and very dreadful in its consequences, Imhakhena left that evening for the farm. And all was no longer the same thereafter.
For several days, Imhakhena was away from home. His brothers, nephews and Mother Aleukoko were worried about him. After so many days of sojourn in the wilds, Imhakhena returned home and was received with joy. But none was half as joyful as Mother Aleukoko who was most worried about her youngest and bosom child. Imhakhena’s brothers hailed him ‘Uvie bh’ eko’ meaning ‘He who cried over baked corn (eko-oka).
Though Imhakhena was home once again, his attitude towards home and all at home changed thereafter. He had begun making covert arrangements to make a home out of his farmlands. He would leave home for the farms only to return very much later than usual. His long absences from home became extraordinary and alarming. Each time he was asked for an explanation of his action, he would answer, ‘Ugbo onua (contracts to read Ugbonua) meaning ‘The farm is a long way away.’ He told them it was becoming increasingly difficult if not extremely impossible for him to be on the road with the same frequency as when his farm was near home. This continued for a long time until he left one day and never returned as he usually did. This time he took all his family with him. All his belongings he had hitherto transferred piecemeal to his farm. Imhakhena had established a settlement, a separate settlement. He was gone: away from his kinsmen and aged mother.
Imhakhena had, however, not broken fraternal ties with his kinsmen. His brothers, nephews and all paid him constant visits, which he returned. They would not call him by any other name, during such meetings, but Ugbonua, teasingly. Anyone leaving home for a visit to Imhakhena would announce, “I go to see ‘Ugbonua'” The village Imhakhena established took the name Ogbona to this day. This had been a name coined from Imhakhena’s nickname: Ugbonua’.
Oreokhiye is the tree that gave Imhakhena a shade and served as a warehouse for his farm and hunting implements during his farming and hunting expeditions. It was by this tree he built his farmstead, which later laid the foundations of Ogbona village. The name Oreokhiye as this monumental tree is known by to this day means ‘He who has come will not go back home (to parent Avhianwu, of course)’. The tree, Oreokhiye, is still standing to this day. It is located at the Ogbona traditional market.
Mother Aleukoko Joins Imhakhena
Mother Aleukoko leaves home
The lone figure directly affected by Imhakhena’s absence from home was their aged mother, Mother Aleukoko. She would rather be with Imhakhena alone than the many hundreds she was then left with. She hated to think that Imhakhena, her youngest child, was away – far away from her. She sorrowed over his absence. Her other children tried to make her see that there was no point grieving over the absence of her last born when she had them around her. She suffered in silence.
Imhakhena’s separation from Mother Aleukoko was however for a short duration. As both fate and luck would have it, Imhakhena was reported ill. This was reported to Mother Aleukoko. Imhakhena’s indisposition had been a very good reason for Mother Aleukoko to leave home and join Imhakhena. She left home, as was expected, to care for her son at the latter’s farm (then a home for Imhakhena).
Mother Aleukoko would not return home even when Imhakhena had been relieved of his illness. Her other children could not do otherwise but to send her belongings. Thus, Mother Aleukoko had joined her youngest child, Imhakhena, at the latter’s farm.
The death of Mother Aleukoko
It happened that Mother Aleukoko herself took ill; and as fate would have it, she joined her ancestors and ancestresses. Mother Aleukoko died in the arms of her youngest son, Imhakhena, with whom she had spent her last days on earth. Imhakhena would not inform his brothers at home of Mother Aleukoko’s death. He feared that he might be forced to part with the remains of the mother who, while she lived, ever longed for and shared his company. He wept. He had damned the consequences when he decided to bury Mother Aleukoko before informing his brothers. Imhakhena did indeed bury Mother Aleukoko at his settlement or, according to his brothers, at his farm.
Mother Aleukoko had been buried by Imhakhena before the arrival at the latter’s settlement of Mother Aleukoko’s other children and children’s children. They had gone to Imhakhena purposely to inquire about the death of Mother Aleukoko and to demand for her corpse. Imhakhena told them that he had buried their mother. He added that it was the wish of Mother Aleukoko to be buried where he (Imhakhena) lived. Egwienabo, Adaeso and others showed their displeasure and denounced Imhakhena’s action in the strongest possible terms for burying their mother without their knowledge and approval. To them Imhakhena’s action could not be justified by any argument.
They next demanded from Imhakhena for their mother’s ukpheume. Imhakhena further raised their emotional temperature when he retorted, “I buried it with our mother.” “That is yours’, Egwienabo thundered; Adaeso echoed every word of “That is yours”, all fuming with rage at the impudence of Imhakhena.
What was said to be Imhakhena’s? One would wonder why the words ‘That is yours’ were echoed by Adaeso in emphatic agreement. Here we have to understand the significance of the ukpheume whose disappearance had stirred anger in the other children of Mother Aleukoko.
Girls who are engaged to be married are initiated and are made to perform certain rites at the temple of Ogbhe on the eve of their bridal. The usual preliminaries to the rites of Ogbhe – an annual marriage festival in Avhianwu – consist in the betrothed nubiles rubbing their skins with Ume (a red dye prepared from camwood) for about five moons before Ogbhe.
Ume – a cosmetic – is usually prepared in a paste form and kept in an earthen vase called ukpheume. This cosmetic has both aesthetic and religious value hence the sacredness of its container. That of Mother Aleukoko was unique, she being the mother of all. Her ukpheume was a unique legacy. Anyone in possession of it has the custody of Ogbhe and its Spiritual Head. The other elder children of Mother Aleukoko very well knew this and so they vowed mute vengeance in the words ‘That is yours’, which they had carried out to the letter.