- The United States of America was largely constructed by the forced migration of Igbo people.
- In the 1700s, when tobacco was the primary crop of the colony, there were more Igbo people in Virginia than there were other Africans held in slavery combined.
- The Igbo were part of the group that opened the westward passage by crossing the Cumberland Gap.
The Igbo Village, often referred to as the 1700s West African Farm exhibit, is a physical representation of the contributions made by Igbo people who were enslaved in the Atlantic slave trade to the growth of Virginia and the wider American frontier communities.
The United States of America was largely constructed by the forced migration of Igbo men, women, and children in slavery from various Igboland hinterland sites to North America.
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The bulk of people who traveled to Virginia boarded slave ships at the coastal communities of Brass, Bonny, and Calabar.
Evidently, the historic Cave Temple Complex in Arochukwu serves as a beginning place for Igbo slave voyages. Slaves from Arochukwu merchants were provided to the Bende (later Uzuakoli) market. This served as the origin for slaves that traveled straight from Bonny to Virginia.
Ticha Tourism Study
In 2002, Ticha Akuma-Kalu Njoku created a direct connection between major markets and the ports of departure by recreating the Igbo slave travels’ hinterland routes in Abia State.
He contacted the Abia State administration after seeing the potential of his study for tourism. The governor collaborated with him and the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism workers, and he received some financial help.
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Along with other locations and monuments in Abia State, the study team recorded the cave in Arochukwu.
The Arochukwu Cave
Being a major contributor and consultant for the Igbo Village construction project, he went with a group of cavers from Western Kentucky University and the Hoffman Institute in 2007 to investigate ways to preserve the cave. He also submitted a nomination for it to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Presently, the Arochukwu Cave is included on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, thanks to collaboration with the Nigerian National Commission on Museums and Monuments.
Following his presentation at the 2003 American Folklore Association annual meeting, John Vlach gave him a recommendation to the American Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia.
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At the time, plans were on for a West African exhibit at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia, to go along with the English, Irish, German, and American farms that were already on display.
Ticha joined the advisory board and then worked as the project’s lead consultant for Igbo Farm Village.
Igbo People in Virginia
According to the Frontier Culture, “An Igbo farmstead will symbolise the architectural styles of the regions from which the majority of Virginia’s slaves originated.”
In the 1700s, when tobacco was the primary crop of the colony, there were more Igbo people in Virginia than there were other Africans held in slavery combined.
According to some estimates, forty percent of all Igbo imports to Virginia by 1775 came from the Bight of Biafra.
“Their numbers kept growing to the point where Igbo slave workers replaced the white indentured servants of the tobacco planters in the valley west of the Blue Ridge.”
Among the earliest people to settle were the Igbo. They were part of the group that opened the westward passage by crossing the Cumberland Gap.
Igbo People: The Backbone of Virginian Economy
The Igbo not only created tobacco the backbone of the Virginian economy, but they also supplied the labour in the Black Belt that elevated cotton to the top.
They have persisted in enhancing American culture and nation-building.
Igbo Farmstead (Ulo Ubi Igbo) in Staunton is “a tangible tribute to the Igbo settlers who helped to develop the frontier culture in America as well as in the territorial expansion of the United States,” similar to the English, German, and Irish Farmsteads.
He came to Nigeria in March 2006 with representatives of the Museum to take pictures of Igbo architectural specimens.
The National Commission of Museum and Monuments employees joined the study team while they were in Nigeria, and they visited several villages, compounds, and isolated farming communities to record home styles and construction customs.
For the purpose of gathering construction materials in Nigeria, Mrs. Umebe Onyejekwe of the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments served as their main point of contact and consultant.
The construction materials and items needed to supply the finished display were on location by June 2008.
Ticha initiated conversations throughout the Igbo community residing in the United States. He enlisted the services of Reverend Dr. Stanislaus Maduawuchi Ogbonna, a man skilled in traditional building methods, to aid in the building process, and Dr. Kanayo Odeluga to organise and lead the volunteer effort.
It was a positive reaction. The larger Washington, D.C. region, Florida, Texas, Atlanta, Chicago, the Carolinas, Nashville, Bowling Green, Kentucky, California, and New Jersey were among the volunteer sources.