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Ogidi Women’s Market Protest of 1914  

Tara Hollies

In March and April of 1914, the women of the Igbo town of Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria staged a massive, multiweek protest of the town’s corrupt warrant chief, an Ogidi indigene named Walter Okafo Amobi, as well as the British colonial administration that he represented. The trouble began when Amobi decided to move the sacred Afo Udo market, which was the possession of the Igbo oracle Udo, away from its hallowed location (about a mile and a half from Trunk A Road, the relatively new colonial highway) to a site much nearer that road and Amobi’s palace. Before moving the market, Amobi did not consult Udo, his priest, or the Ogidi women whose duty it was, as intermediaries of the Igbo earth goddess, to protect marketplaces. The women responded by staging protests at the entrance to Amobi’s palace as well as outside the native court and colonial district officer’s post in the nearby city of Onitsha. The Ogidi women’s market protest of 1914 was one component of a prolonged period of strife between the people of Ogidi and Amobi, which a British colonial official documented in early 1915 as the “Ogidi Palaver.” Afo Udo was a large and popular market held on every Afo day, one of the four days of the Igbo market week, and was regularly attended by traders from within and outside Ogidi. The warrant chief argued that moving the market closer to the recently constructed main road would bring more revenue to the town. Regardless, the people of Ogidi did not trust Amobi due to his consistent maltreatment of them since he was appointed a warrant chief in 1903. By the close of the several-week standoff between Amobi and the women, the market was returned to its original, spirit-sanctioned location, but the colonial authorities failed to acknowledge the coordinated and concerted effort of the town’s women to achieve this end. The colonial record only briefly documents one of the many actions Ogidi’s women carried out, and the rest of the narrative has been reconstructed from local oral histories.

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The History of Islam in Mauritania  

Erin Pettigrew

The study of the long-term history of what has been known since 1960 as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania is possible largely because of inhabitants’ early embrace of Islam in the 8th century. While research on the early pre-Islamic history of the region is limited by the availability of sources to primarily the archaeological, the arrival of Islam through trade networks crossing the Sahara from North Africa meant that Arab merchants and explorers supplied and produced knowledge about the region’s inhabitants, polities, and natural resources that was then written down in Arabic by Muslim chroniclers and historians. Early Muslims were largely Kharijite and Ibadi but the 11th-century Almoravid reformist and educational movement ensured that the region’s Muslims would predominantly follow Sunni Islam as defined by the Maliki school of law and ʿAshari theology. By the time the Almohad empire succeeded the Almoravid in the 12th century, important centers of Islamic scholarship were emerging in major trading towns in the Sahara and along the Senegal River. The expansion of Sufi thought and practice, the arrival of the Arabic-speaking Banu Hassan, and the subsequent development of political entities known as emirates occurred in ensuing centuries and played a part in the genesis of a social structure that valorized the Arabic language, the study of Islam, and claims of descent from the Prophet Muhammad. The arrival of European merchants in the 15th century and the subsequent colonization of the region by the French led to rapid changes in the economic and cultural bases of political authority and social hierarchy, with colonial policy largely valorizing Sufi leaders as political interlocutors and community representatives. Independence from France in 1960 meant the establishment of an Islamic Republic whose laws are based on a mixed legal system of Maliki Islamic and French civil law. The basis of presidential rule is not religious in nature, though presidents have increasingly used a discourse of religion to legitimize their rule in the face of internal political opposition and external threats from extremist groups such as al-Qaʿeda.