The introduction of Christianity in Nigeria in the fifteenth century by the Portuguese missionaries lead to the disregarding of any traditional religion and practices of the Nigerian society. Anything the people held holy was made to be seen as something lesser and therefore be destroyed.
This act of bulldozing and the teaching of other religions(Christianity) which are not the religion of the ancient Igbo people have convinced modern Nigerians to have an incorrect and faulty thinking about these deities that were once heavily engraved within the society.
In Igbo cosmology, Ikenga(ee-ken-ga), one of the sons of Chukwu(the creator) was believed to be the god of strength, human endeavours, success and achievements. It’s a masculine deity that confers success in farming, trading, hunting, blacksmithing, creative arts and procreation.
This deity is represented by a beast like wooden artefact with two horns(opi) on its head and a sword on its right hand symbolizing “masculine potency”. Because of the difference in culture, the Europeans tagged this deity as an evil offspring of the devil coming to destroy the world with a sword.
Uchenna Onwuekwe’s comic book, titled IKENGA is telling a different story about this deity that was highly revered by his people. Uche- A medical doctor in the day, an illustrator by night: Is from Anambra state where an Ikenga is majorly found and specially owned by Men of high reputation during the pre-colonial era. Using Graphical illustrations and Fantasy as entertainment for millennial Nigerians, this comic is about promoting the African culture.
“My plan is not just to educate but to entertain. Ever since i was a child, I have had this dream to promote African culture through comic books” he told me.
Looking at the scripts, no character actually bears the name ‘Ikenga’. This comic book is about the adventures of Warriors, Hunters, Diviners and masquerades who believed in Ikenga for Magical powers during incantation and fights. it’s an aftermath of the deity’s existence and it’s believers.
What makes it special is its plot. An evil man, Dibia Odumodu, an Arch diviner of the Abali Kingdom obsessed with Alien technology, enforces civilization on his people resulting in unending agony and bloodshed. The Descendants of Ikenga with the help of other deities, diviners, and masquerades summon the deadliest and forbidden magic spells, to stop his evil quest and the extinction of mankind.
No actual release date was provided but Ikenga promises to be a combination of native Igbo rituals and science fiction involving the emergence of a team led by the spirit of Ikenga to end the mission of an evil doctor who with his knowledge about advanced technologies tries to take over the community by making people go against the norm and adopt robots, aliens, hybrids as supposed to their cultural practice.
The Cast of characters ranges from Obiageli, a formidable member of Uli fraternity with the gift of eagle eyes with fast fingers to handle an archer, to Isiguzo, one of Abali kingdom’s vilest fugitives. notorious smuggler that trades on the Afor market day and the character that got fans confused, Jumoke, from the bloodline of Ogun(the Yoruba god of iron) who decided to help her Igbo counterparts.
Consumers of African inspired superheroes comics are having a positive moment in the local and forging markets. Over half are in the United States, the United Kingdom, with an increasing number from Brazil and the Philippines. About 30% come from Africa, according to Jide Martin, founder of Comic Republic.
A few Challenges still contributes to why African themed comic hasn’t reached its full potentials, the lack of funds to create and promote them tops this list. “No matter how good it is, if people don’t know about your work it won’t sell”. Uche said. Nevertheless, he isn’t showing any sign of slowing down and suggests starting a Gofundme campaign to raise funds.