ETHNOPOETIC STUDY OF IGBO ORAL FUNERAL POETRY IN ELUGWU EZIKE, ENUGU STATE, NIGERIA
This study is an ethnopoetic analysis of Igbo oral funeral poetry with particular reference to Elugwu Ezike. The principal objective of the study is to analyze oral funeral poetry performance of the Elugwu Ezike people with emphasis on the form and structure of Elugwu Ezike dirges, causes of death, themes and significance of oral funeral poetry, funeral rituals and rites in Elugwu Ezike and the impact of Christianity, Islam and western lifestyle on the performance of Elugwu Ezike dirges. An aspect of ethnopoetic theory known as infracultural model in folklore analysis developed by Alembi is used in the analysis of data. The study is primarily approached through oral interview and unstructured questionnaire. A total of sixteen informants were selected randomly from the thirty-eight communities that make up Elugwu Ezike. Recording and tape recording are made first hand during the funeral ceremonies in which these poems occur.Solo-and–response form is the basic structural features in most Elugwu Ezike dirges, there is constant repetition of words and sentences in the dirges, the funeral artists make use of linguistic and paralinguistic features at their disposal to realize the aims of their performance and various imageries are used in the dirges to showcase emotion, events and objects such as loss, death and hunting, lion, kite and lizard, forest and mountain respectively. The findings of the study also revealed that the dirges poetically reiterate the theme of satire, theme of praise for the dead, theme of vulnerability of death and theme of death as a universal phenomenon. Dirges function as a repository of historical knowledge, a tool for social criticism, didacticism and as a medium of mourning and celebrating the life of the deceased. Ndịishi (spirits of the ancestors), witchcraft, charm or poisoning and suicide were identified as the major causes of death in Elugwu Ezike. Christianity, IsIam arnd Western education have negatively affected the performances of dirges in such a way that Christian music is used in funeral ceremonies in recent times.