We have often seen in Nigerian movies, weddings and royalties use the horse tail but, ;we cannot say we know why or the history behind this beautiful symbol. The horse tail is peculiarly identified with the Yorubas and the Igbos in Southern Nigeria.
It is called ‘Irukere’ which means tail in yoruba language and ‘Nza’ in Igbo language. The Irukere was famously used by the Yoruba deity Orunmila (deity of wisdom). He uses Irukere when traveling to an occasion. It was a tool of power he used to save people. Irukere was also used in his shrine. It has since been used by Yoruba kings and chiefs as a traditional accessory.
The Nza is an ancient leadership insignia made of horsetails. The Ndi-Igbo leaders of today continue to utilize it. You frequently see the nza feature on modern Igbo native clothing during weddings or used by traditional Igbo dance groups.
The insignia is made of animal hair skin, especially horsetail. The strands of hair, which may be white or black, have a stick within and are fastened by a leather handle or in some cases rubber. An Irukere/Nza measures approximately 20 – 21’’ long to tip. It is decorated with beads of different colors (blue, red, green, burgundy, etc.)
Irukere/Nza is commonly used by royals, the oracle priest, and elite traditional dancers. Irukere is not just a traditional totem, but a symbol of power. It is an adornment for the elders, kings, chiefs, priests, or those who are traditional office holders. And it is also used by the people in their ceremonies.
Today, traditional chiefs, kings, and priests continue to use the horse tail. It seems that our women, especially the Yoruba and Igbo, have developed a fondness for utilizing it whenever they are dressed in their traditional attire.
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