The Dividing Line: African Countries and their Caste Systems

Talking to my Aunt about marriage is a common conversation since I have finished my first degree and i’m quickly approaching my 25th birthday. So on that bright Saturday afternoon I asked my Aunt, “So just to clarify, as long as my future spouse is Catholic, Igbo, I’m good, right?”

I expected her to nod solemnly, agreeing with my forethought so we could move onto something more interesting. Instead, my Aunt looked at me and smiled. “My dear, it’s not so simple. They must also not be Osu.”

With that conversation, I learned that the caste system that had brought such international disapproval to India’s doorstep was active, and alive, in many African countries, including my own.

Igbo Nigerians believe the deities owned Osus as living sacrifices, and as a result are outcasts in Ibo society. If a none-Osu marries an Osu, the individual, as well as the entire family, ancestors included, are now cursed as Osu. As a result, families disown children who dare to marry the “untouchables.”

The great irony is that now, Osu are among the most educated, wealthiest Nigerians, but because of these cultural beliefs, Osu do not marry outside of the culture. So, for those who want to build Nigeria, we let divisive traditions push the brightest, most potential parts of us, out without a second thought.

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The Dividing Line: African Countries and their Caste Systems
Talking to my Aunt about marriage is a common conversation since I have finished my first degree and i’m quickly approaching my 25th birthday. So on that bright Saturday afternoon I asked my Aunt, “So just to clarify, as long as my future spouse is Catholic, Igbo, I’m good, right?”
I expected her to nod solemnly, agreeing with my forethought so we could move onto something more interesting. Instead, my Aunt looked at me and smiled. “My dear, it’s not so simple. They must also not be Osu.”
With that conversation, I learned that the caste system that had brought such international disapproval to India’s doorstep was active, and alive, in many African countries, including my own.
Igbo Nigerians believe the deities owned Osus as living sacrifices, and as a result are outcasts in Ibo society. If a none-Osu marries an Osu, the individual, as well as the entire family, ancestors included, are now cursed as Osu. As a result, families disown children who dare to marry the “untouchables.”
The great irony is that now, Osu are among the most educated, wealthiest Nigerians, but because of these cultural beliefs, Osu do not marry outside of the culture. So, for those who want to build Nigeria, we let divisive traditions push the brightest, most potential parts of us, out without a second thought.
continue reading