Society and Culture

The significant of time in Igbo culture

The method of measuring time among the Igbo clearly varies with the economy, the ecology, the ritual system, and the political organization as well as with the traditional Igbo technology. The peasant economic system of a traditional Igbo society “as little need for elaborate scheduling, nor does it always possess the mechanical devices that permit accurate measurement”. Thus, the repetitive patterns of the world of nature in addition to those of human life provide the basic measurement of time. “The idea of recurrence is fundamental in Igbo thought”, according to Isichei.
Short unit of time are variously measured. For example, the traditional Igbo talk of the twinkling of the eye as the shortest unit of time. On some occasions, short time is measured by the time it takes for water to boil; on other occasions it is measured by how long it takes the human sputum to dry up. If an elder, for instance, wants a child to run an errand for him in the shortest possible time, he spits on the floor and then orders the child to go and come back before the sputum dries up. However, in the three instances given, there are no elements of precision. The boiling of water will depend, among other factors, on the amount of heat used; the drying of the sputum would depend on the weather as well as the period of the day. Similarly, some eyes twinkle faster than others. These modes are therefore subjective.

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