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Íhé Ńkètá and Òkè: concepts and practice of indigenous cultural heritage management in the Igbo cultural area of south-eastern Nigeria

Stanley Jachike Onyemechalu (Department of Archaeology and Tourism, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria)
J. Kelechi Ugwuanyi (Department of Archaeology and Tourism, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria)

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Article publication date: 29 June 2021

Issue publication date: 1 December 2022

67

Abstract

Purpose

This study explored an alternative understanding of heritage through the lens of the Igbo cultural group in Nigeria. It used the Igbo concept of “Ihe Nketa” or “Oke” to examine the complex relationship between indigeneity, attachment and sustainability in the context of heritage management and conservation.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative approach was used, and ethnographic methods of data collection that include interviews and focus-group discussions (FGD) applied. The interview participants included village chiefs and the elderly (men and women), and the FGD comprised village elders (men and women) and youths. The interview guide contained demographic questions to determine age and occupation, followed by interactive open-ended questions stemming from the study's objectives. The interviews were conducted in the language most preferred by the respondents such as the Igbo language, Nigerian Pidgin English and the English language. The evidence generated was thematically analysed in a descriptive and interpretive manner.

Findings

The study found that while the Igbo understanding of heritage have related meaning with the definitions offered by the United Nations, their approach to heritage conservation takes a different turn through the concepts of “Ihe Nketa” or “Oke,” which recognises the ephemerality of tangible heritage resources with particular focus on the preservation of intangible heritage–knowledge over objects. The Igbo approach describes the framework for the acquisition, use and transfer of heritage resources in the Igbo society.

Originality/value

This study contributes to the understanding of the concept of heritage through the lens of the Igbo of Nigeria. Against the centralised national management approach to heritage, this paper argues that achieving sustainable heritage management in a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria requires the recognition of the principles that conserve(d) and manage(d) heritage among the indigenous/local peoples.

Keywords

Citation

Onyemechalu, S.J. and Ugwuanyi, J.K. (2022), "Íhé Ńkètá and Òkè: concepts and practice of indigenous cultural heritage management in the Igbo cultural area of south-eastern Nigeria", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 609-624. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCHMSD-12-2020-0177

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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