Artist Rendering

Obi Obasi - Place of Worship

The word Obasi in its etymology means “in honor of the Supreme Chineke (God)”. It is an Igbo name commonly given to a male child in south eastern Nigeria. In religious terms, Obasi is a word used when referencing a special secluded space of worship or devotion. An Obasi can be found in homes, either in the house, or behind it in most cases. Obi Obasi on the other hand is a specially designed structure or consecrated space where individuals or a group of people such as a congregation come to perform acts of devotion, veneration, or religious study. A building constructed or used for this purpose is called an Obi Obasi. Temples, churches, and mosques are examples of structures created for worship. Natural or topographical features may also serve as places of worship, and are considered holy or sacrosanct.

Religious architecture expresses the religious beliefs, aesthetic choices, and economic and technological capacity of those who create or adapt it, and thus places of worship show great variety depending on time and place.

The Black African Concept of God

Yes, after our ancestors had created an image of Chineke (God the Creator) after their image, and settled for themselves the puzzle of what Chineke looks like, the next riddle to them was: Where is God? Where can we go to meet Him when we want to thank Him? An answer of convenience occurred to them. They carried their God-symbol, which foreign religions in derogation popularly call 'idol,' to a spot and sort of said: "God, our Father, we do not know where you live, but wherever you live, whenever we come here, know that we have come to your house." They placed the “idol” or God-replica at the spot. The spot became to them a hallowed spot, the house of God which they called in Igbo "Arunsi," "Obasi" or "Obi Obasi or "shrine" in English. The church, the mosque, the cathedral, etc. derive from this simple origin. They are merely enlarged and glorified shrines and "Arunsi."

Standing before this God-symbol when they went to Arunsi or shrine, the location of the "Ukpata Nwa Ebe" or God-symbol, to offer their thanks to the Supreme Being, "Chineke" (God the Creator), for his goodness to humanity, our African ancestors raised their hands above their heads, looked skyward, and said (as the lbos would put it): "Obasi Di Elu (Supreme God above), Chineke (God the Creator), Chukwu Obi-Oma (God the Good), biko bia nyere anyi aka (please come down, descend and help us.)." Our African fathers in their supplication to God never, standing before the "Ukpata," "idol," looked downward to the idol and said, "Obasi Di Elu (Supreme God Above), Chineke (God the Creator) Chukwu Obi-oma (God the Good), biko bia nyere anyi aka site na Agbara nkea (please come down, descend and help us through this idol)."

Our fathers were not so naive as to imagine that the God-image they fashioned from wood with their hand and hatchet had thereby acquired intrinsic powers capable of creating them or capable of running any errand as a medium between them and Chineke (God the Creator), and so they never sent it on any message to God. In fact, I consider our 20th century scientists who deny the existence of God but accept the existence of Nature as more naive in their philosophical attitude than our African ancestors.

Scientists in their theory of evolution by which they deny God say that existence began from the solar system and blab blab blab down to the end of their theory. But the scientist crumbles with this theory of evolution when you ask him: "Who, in the first instance, brought the solar system into existence?" He says, "Oh, it's simply natural." Then when you ask the scientist who believes that everything that is must be proved with the test tube and slide in the science laboratory, "Who is this Nature? Don't you think we are saying the same thing in different terms; don't you think it is that your Nature, the first cause, the first principle, that we for want of a better term call Chineke or God, the Creator?" the scientist scratches his head with no answer. Indeed our African ancestors were never so naive in their philosophical attitude as the atheists and agnostics among other races of the world.

At this juncture, one might ask, "What then was the significance of the 'idols' or God-symbols in the God-worship of our African ancestors?" The answer is: The idols merely served the purpose of psychological focussing, or, to put it simply, the "idol" gave them concentration of mind; the location of the idol at a spot to which they want to offer their supplications and sacrifices gave them environmental serenity because where the idols, or, better, the God-replicas were located were hardly disturbed.

And in mysticism, psychological focusing or concentration of the mind and environmental serenity or quietude are necessary if the supplicant to God must suppress his lower self of carnal desires and give reflection to his higher self which is at one and the same level of transmission with God.

All black Africa believed in the existence of the Supreme God, no atheism, no agnosticism - even before the white man came with the Bible or Islam came with the Koran. For Chineke had stood in the Igbo language and culture for God; as Abasi Ke Inyong, Tamuna, Osanobuwa, Olodumare, Ubangiji, Mawu and Katonda had stood in the languages and cultures of the Efiks, lbibios, Ijaws, Binis, Yorubas and Hausas of Nigeria and of the Togos, the Dahomeys, the Bugandans, and Tanzanians before Christianity and Islam invaded their lands with the Bible and the Koran.

As was discussd earlier, our African ancestors in their supplications to God said--in lbo for example--looking skyward with their hands raised above their heads: "Obasi Di Elu (Supreme God above); Chineke (God the Creator); Chukwu Obi-oma (God the Good), biko, bia nyere anyi aka (come down, descend and help us)." They never said, "Come and help us through this idol.

The fact that delineates from this style of supplication is that our African ancestors spoke to their God directly without passing through any medium. It is this fact that we have evaluated and identified in philosophical parlance as Chiism, to correct the notion of the past many centuries that Africa's traditional religion or religious heritage was paganism, animisin, jujuism or polytheism. No race is more monotheistic than the black race. And, as a matter of fact, don't Egyptologists believe that it was a black pharaoh of Egypt, Amenophis IV, who gave the world the concept of monotheism--the concept of Cosmos being a unity? Those who conclude that Africa's traditional religious behavior is polytheistic merely declare their ignorance of black Africa's cosmological concepts and metaphysical system, which departmentalizes the forces of nature and to each department of nature force assigns a spirit to be in charge, without prejudice to his belief that Cosmos is a unity presided over by the first principle, the first cause, the supreme being--God the Creator. The black African departmentalized the forces of nature to make it easier from a psychological point of view, to invoke these forces or attributes of God to serve his or her purposes.