Leisure Recreation and the Arts

As Igbo people's mode of subsistence becomes increasingly enmeshed in the larger regional and world economy, people seem to have less and less free time. Balancing the continuing demands of subsistence agriculture with involvement in trade and other demands of more urbanized or urban-like work lives means that both men and women spend a lot of time earning a living. Compared with many other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Igboland strikes the observer as a very busy, sometimes almost frantically paced, place, though much more so in cities and towns than in rural village communities. Nonetheless, leisure and recreation, particularly time spent socializing with friends and family are important aspects of everyday life.

In rural communities men appear to have more leisure time than women because women must combine extradomestic economic work (which is often at least as intensive as men's) with the primary household duties of childcare, food preparation, sweeping, and washing clothes. Women receive significant assistance in these activities from children of both sexes, and the degree to which women manage to combine domestic chores with "leisure" activities such as socializing, singing, and storytelling is significant. But, overall, women clearly have less pure leisure time than men. Igbo men are wont to say that women spend an inordinate amount of time gossiping, but the truth is that both sexes spend a considerable amount of leisure time talking about other people. Men are more likely to spend leisure time playing games. The board game "draughts" (checkers) is popular and men often play it in the early evening. Boys and younger men frequently play soccer. At very young ages, girls sometimes also play, but by the time children reach adolescence the games are almost always all male. Men are much more likely than women to drink beer at local bars or frequent village palm wine sellers, though not all men drink and a significant portion of Igbos who are "born-again" Christians view drinking negatively. Many women also enjoy alcohol, but women's drinking is less frequent and usually not done in public settings such as bars, though this is changing in urban settings. Like other arenas of Igbo cultural life, leisure activities tend to be sex segregated, with the exception of events like "disco" dances or public cultural performances that are enjoyed by men and women together.

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