The statue of David Nwume and John Uzoka, the two famous Awka blacksmiths who attended the British Empire Exhibition in London, 1924 -1925. While in London, they constructed an iron gate “the Awka Gate” which earned them a prize in the metalwork category. This gate is still in Buckingham Palace till this day.
Sculptural Pieces, according to Prof. Cliff Nwanna, “have life of their own, derived from their special significance and therefore should not be abused and misused but protected and preserved so that they save their purpose.”
Many thanks to this visionary and erudite fellow, an authority in Creative Arts, a Sculpture Specialist, and former Head, Department of Fine and Applied Arts Nnamdi Azikiwe University whose demiurgic fingers made this statue historically palpable.
Donated: In Appreciation Of The Good Gesture Of PROF B.C EGBOKA Towards Awka People Location: The Statue Opposite First Bank, UNIZIK.
We recommend therefore, that every kid in the kindergarten should be able to recite a poem with these names, the youth should strive to keep such great legacy after their names; elders with such great feats should write their own narratives; and then that Government, in the East and most especially of Anambra should name streets or build memorials for John Uzoka and companion.
Thank you Prof. Cliff Nwanna, a great son of Awka for being an artist and a sculptor of an immense muse. For not just knowing and having wisdom, but for professing what is known wisely!
A na-ekiri Agu, a nakwa e kiri onye gburu agu.
A hu Odum, a hu ihe o dudu!
Hence, true, to his assertion on the symbolic significances of sculptural arts, we now feel and are eternally filled with an effective presence of: John Uzoka who was accompanied by David Nwume at the recommendation of George Thomas Baseden, the author of “AMONG THE IBOS OF NIGERIA.”
Ndi Igbo dirii gboo!
Nka na uzu burii onataluchi!!
George Thomas Basden OBE FRGS (31 October 1873–30 December 1944) was Archdeacon of The Niger from 1926 until 1936. He was educated at the CMS College, Islington and Durham University. He was ordained in 1901 and was at Onitsha from 1902 until 1908 He was the Principal at Awka from 1908 until 1926 before his appointment as Archdeacon; and Rector of Jevington afterwards.
Read an excerpt from Basden’s, “AMONG THE IBOS OF NIGERIA” and wonder no more, how water finds its way through the stem of the pumpkin:
“Probably the craft which is the most useful and valuable is that of the blacksmith. It is very remunerative, the more so because it is practised by natives of certain towns only, and these are able to control affairs almost as effectively as a Trade Union, and yet leave every man independent. The Awka smiths practically dominate the situation, and they hold the leading place in the profession throughout the Ibo country and in many places beyond. They travel to such distant parts as Bonny, Calabar, Warri and even Lagos, plying their craft. About two-thirds of the year are spent away from their homes. In this work also, great skill is often displayed, especially when the tools used are taken into consideration. The outfit is primeval ; it consists of a block of wood, fixed in the ground, into which is driven a round iron head, about one and a half inches in diameter, which serves as anvil ; the hammer is simply a piece of iron from twelve to fifteen inches in length and about the same diameter as the anvil. One or two pairs of tongs complete the outfit. The bellows consist of a goat- skin fitted into a clay continuation long enough to reach the centre of the fire. They are manipulated by a boy pumping up and down with two sticks which he works alternately; the fuel used is charcoal prepared from the roots of the iceku (araba) shrub.
An apprentice serves as a blower for a certain period, and after watching his master at his trade, usually begins to practise by making small chains. For this, odd bits of brass can be used up ; they are beaten out into fine wire and then fashioned into links. These chains are much in demand amongst the young bloods of some towns ; they are bound tightly round the legs from the ankle upwards, the length varying according to the purse of the wearer.
The chains are bound very tightly upon the leg, which must be harmful, and they are certainly not ornamental. The art of welding must be mastered in order to join up brass rods into the spiral leg ornaments (nza) worn by unmarried girls. For the massive brass anklets ordinary bar brass is used and each anklet is beaten out of a single piece. The metal is softened by being treated until it is red-hot and it is then laid aside to cool gradually, the process being repeated several times. When sufficiently tractable it is again made red-hot and the smith begins to beat out the edges until he has brought the metal down to the proper thinness, i.e. about one-eighth of an inch. By
that time it is a four-angled shape thus : —
It is now ready for the final bending and the ends are brought round until they overlap, and a complete circle is formed. Upon the upper side patterns of flying frogs, and other creatures are pricked out with a punch and the anklets finished off by being highly burnished. Much technical ability is required in forging these anklets, and a well-made pair will always command a good price. In my early days a pair could be purchased for 15s. With the influx of Europeans the price (to them only) was inflated to £3, but latterly the tendency has been towards a fall in prices and they may now be obtained at from 25s. per pair. (Vide Chap. VIII.)
At one time I followed a regular practice of visiting some of the tiny blacksmiths’ shops and saw some clever work done. On one occasion my visit turned out to be one of those apparently unimportant events which often turn the tide of affairs. I was able to show the smith a simple device whereby he was relieved of the task of gripping his tongs throughout the time his metal was heating. We were in a town never previously visited by Europeans and this little incident did much to establish friendly relations with the people. I had strayed from the party and, seeing the smith’s shop, I entered and sat down to watch. A crowd gathered round and were greatly interested when we started working together, and the confidence of the folk was won. In return for the professional hint received, the blacksmith there and then took a piece of an old cutlass and forged it into an armlet. He duly chased it with a punched pattern and presented it to me. I then watched him making needles ; fine work with such clumsy tools.
In another shop I saw a smith make all the essential parts of the lock of a gun. He manufactured his own taps and dies from pieces of old cutlasses. In this instance, indeed, the man had made every part of the gun except the barrel, the stock and fittings being so well executed that one could scarcely distinguish the result from an English-made article. I inquired whether he could construct a gun completely, and he replied that he could as far as the forging was concerned, but that he knew no method for tempering the barrel, and therefore it was no use his making that part. In any case it could never be anything but a failure, as the only material at his disposal was the ordinary trade bar-iron.
It is for their skill in repairing guns that the smiths are welcomed in all parts of the country. They are quite capable of converting old flintlocks into cap-guns, and, as long as caps are procurable, men were constantly purchasing the old flintlocks at the factories, and then getting them converted. This work was a source of great profit to the smiths, and they stand to lose considerably under the changed condition of affairs brought about by the restrictions placed upon the importation of ammunition.
The smith referred to made me a pair of brass tobacco pipes. The bowls were moulded to represent the faces of men, and were furnished, one with a wood, the other with an iron mouthpiece. Whether a native could venture to smoke a pipe which had an iron mouthpiece I have never ascertained ; up to the present these particular pipes retain their original virginity.
Chiefs, as they attain to the higher degrees, receive the right to carry the insignia of their rank. This takes the form of an iron staff, ornamented with wrought and brass bindings ; occasionally the whole staff is of brass. These are also the outcome of the blacksmiths’ craft.
The smiths forge door furniture, chains, hair ornaments for women, brass and copper bracelets and anklets. A copper bracelet in my possession is the sole remaining relic of one who prepared many meals for us, but who, alas, shortly after passing on the ornament to me, mysteriously disappeared, and was generally reckoned to have been himself cooked and eaten.
In the early days of European occupation, bronze money was not acceptable to the natives, and they were ready to exchange four pennies for a three penny piece. Copper pennies in Nigeria are undoubtedly “filthy lucre,” with an emphasis on the adjective; they are soon coated with palm oil, vegetarian and other objectionable substances. The only men who wanted pennies were smiths, and these came occasionally to exchange silver for coppers; these were afterwards converted into ornaments.
In addition to objects of personal adornment, purchasable only by people of means, the smiths manufacture great quantities of hoes and axes. Practically every person is supplied with the former and most households possess one at least of the latter. The axes are wedge-shaped, the top passing through the head of a wooden club-shaped handle; with it and a cutlass most of the native wood- craft is executed. The blacksmiths also make bullets from bar-iron, pot-leg, or from remnants of brass of different shapes, square, oblong and round…”
Expect full text soon.