Meet Septuagenarian, Thaddeus Ugbor, a renowned blacksmith genius in Awka

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By Ifeanyi Ndukwe, Awka

Legendary author Chinua Achebe in his famous best selling book, “There Was A Country” writes and l quote, “Awka held a soft spot in my heart….and it was known throughout lgboland and beyond for its skilled artisans and blacksmiths…”(page 31).

The above statement comes  to light as this reporter engages a devoted blacksmith genius by name, Thaddeus Ugbor, a Septuagenarian who engages in the art of blacksmithing in Eke Amaenyi market in the heart of Awka town.

Since some of my kitchen utensils required amendment, a tipoff by a neighbour led me to pay a visit to him. The meeting with Mr Ugbor will in turn reignite my love for arts and crafts.

The indigene of Nsukka in Enugu state shares his story beaming all smiles. He regards himself as one who goes an extra mile hence the reason he appealed to his boss and mentor to be  trained on the art of blacksmithing for an extra two years from 1971-1973.

He remembers the sufferings and deaths of his friends and family members during the Nigerian Civil War with nostalgia and took the immediate decision to learn the art and trade of blacksmithing. He claimed that the reason he took the decision was to allow him the ample opportunity to learn every aspects of carvings and productions.

He says, “I learnt the work after the war in 1971. I underwent the training from 1971- 1973. My boss said I should learn for one year, but I insist to learn for extra two years to learn every aspect including any kind of kitchen utensils. In all aspects of tin or zinc work.I learnt the work in Nsukka town.

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When asked how he started life after being trained? Ugbor said he started with 6 apprentices and excelled very well in the popular Nsukka main market.

His words: ‘Relocating to Awka gave me ample opportunities to study the improvised creations and learn new methods of blacksmithing,’

‘l had to revive my skills to learn more things like domestic utensils.’

Today, advancement in age has retarded Mr Thaddeus Ugbor to focus more on amendment and repairs of kitchen utensils rather than creation.

A look at the workshop, one catches a glimpse of metallic, silver and clay raw materials. He makes do with Aluminium pans of any quality, galvanize pipes,a railway iron to support the bending of buckets or pots and hammers.

Though a migrant to the ancient town of Awka, Ugbor prides himself as one of the privileged visitors who have dwelled in Anambra state before it’s creation and enjoyed it’s robust business environment.

However, he shares his regrets for not investing in properties and real estate. According to him, he earlier paid #50 for his shop space. Today, due to high cost of living, he pays #2000 monthly for his shop space at Eke Amaenyi market.

“l didn’t have the investment education. I would have bought lands,’ he said.

Ugbor agrees with the age-long cliche that hardwork and diligence pays.

When asked why he works even at his old age, the father of 6 replies that his children has advised him to quit the artistic work for reason of his old age but he diligently refused to cross his hands and await manna fall from heaven. He believes he is amongst the few to continue the distinct features of blacksmith that makes Awka, a powerhouse of blacksmiths.

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He decried the extinction of Awka blacksmith industry and the insensitive attention of Anambra state government towards the local creative industries. 

Ugbor said he had approached the Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) for an exclusive interview eight years ago and during the course of the interview appealed for interested persons to apply for free training and coaching of the art. This, he believes will help keep the soul of blacksmithing and craftsmanship alive.

However, four persons turned up for the mentorship training but all left for various flimsy excuses. He narrated that the last apprentice, an indigene of Ezzi of Ebonyi absconded after impregnating an only daughter of an Awka based family barely two months of his stay.

It is worthy of note that despite only having a Standard Six certification, Ugbor speaks fluent English, local Awka dialect and his mother tongue, Nsukka seamlessly. Through his meticulous job, he was able to get two of his children to get university degree. Currently, the last child, male is an undergraduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University.

When asked if any of his children are keen on maintaining his legacy, Ugbor narrated that his last child who is in his early 20s had loved to walk in his shoes. However, he is left handed and it made it strenuous and difficult for him to do  some of the iron bending works because its easier for a person who is right-handed. 

Discouraged, the young man opted to learn electronics and electrical repairs which he is practising before gaining admissions into the university.

Due to harsh economic challenges in the nation, Mr Thaddeus Ugbor engages in sales of potty(a special solid chemical mixture used for sealing of holes in pots and aluminiums). 

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He also entertains himself and guests who care with local snuffs. According to him, he doesn’t sell the snuffs for profits but as a token of hospitality to friends and well wishers.

Mr Ugbor’s dream for his 80th birthday is to get private individuals and government agencies to empower him with necessary modern machinery and equipment to reshape his business to standards. 

As a firm believer of, ” Let Love and Unity Lead”, Ugbor agrees that his journey on earth would not be complete up and till he transfers his knowledge to young Nigerian youths who will continue the journey of master craftsmanship and relive the ancient culture of Awka blacksmith industry.

He admonishes youths to avoid the quick wealth syndrome ravaging the society and learn and improve on the skills of blacksmith technology.

Any person who is inspired by the story of Mr Thaddeus Ugbor and wishes to light up the face of his business, or recommend an apprentice can reach him via his mobile number 08133438240 or call the attention of the reporter via WhatsApp 08134587758.

Remember, in agreement of legendary songster, Micheal Jackson, “…make the world a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race..”

Impact value to our society by impacting to Ugbor’s life. Recommend and motivate someone to learn the arts and trade of blacksmith and save our culture from extinction aided by mass civilization.

Thank you for your kindhearted cooperation.

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