Who We Are
We are men, women, spouses and children who share a common ancestry or family ties with Afikpo people in southeastern Nigeria. And we are members of AOI, the apex organization for Afikpo people resident in the United States.
We are a group of people committed to preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage and providing humanitarian services to Afikpo people.
Why Afikpo? And why does it matter?
Afikpo is an Igbo speaking town of approximately 750,000 people in south eastern Nigeria. It is the second largest town in Ebonyi State, one of the most recently created states in Nigeria. Many things set Afikpo apart from other towns including:
It is home to one of Africa’s well documented repositories of Igbo ancestral masks – Afikpo masks – thanks in part to the decades-long work of Simon Ottenberg, Professor Emeritius at the University of Seattle in Washington State and Curator at the Seattle Arts Museum.
Afikpo is home to some of Africa’s top traditional dance groups, artists and musicians – some of them are multiple award winners at the national and international levels. One of such artists was honored by the United Nations Education and Science Organization (UNESCO) with a Living Legend lifetime merit award for his contributions to the development of African music and dance.
Afikpo masks/masquerades are celebrated worldwide and featured in major museums and galleries such as the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington DC and the Seattle Arts Museum.
Due to the richness of its cultural heritage, Afikpo is commonly referred to as a Mecca for ancestral arts and culture within the 40 million strong Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria.
Why Does it Matter?
Despite its rich cultural and artistic heritage, Afikpo has a high indigent population. The vast majority of its people are subsistence farmers, petty traders and artists. While some active and retired government workers (less than 10 percent of the population) can expect health benefits during and after their employment, a majority of Afikpo people cannot afford basic medical care during their productive years, and they fare even worse after retirement.
As a result, the mortality rate in Afikpo is frightening. And the high death rate robs many families of breadwinners, compounding the problem. Many of those whose lives are cut short due to lack of access to affordable healthcare are the artists behind celebrated works of art on display at major museums and art galleries.
Members and supporters of AOI have stepped in to fill this void by providing free medical services to those who cannot afford it and by helping to preserve and promote the rich artistic heritage of Afikpo.