Principally, the Okebu indigenes were mixed agriculturalists. They grew a variety of crops and also kept some cows, goats and sheep. In the area of art, they had a reputation as outstanding iron workers. During famines, they migrated to other areas and they were welcomed, protected and valued because of their skills. Even today, one can trace among the Alur, the Kakwa, the Lugbara and the Mad some iron-workers who are Okebu connections. These people have a legend to explain their monopoly of the art of iron working. It says that originally, all the three- the Okebu, the Lendu and the Madi- shared the art of iron working but the Lendu and the Madi lost their skills at a beer party. The story goes that when the three groups were in the middle of the smelting process, they remained to finish off their work before joining the others in taking beer. This precautionary measure enabled them to avoid the accident which befell the Lendu and the Madi when their unattended-to furnace caught fire and their skin bellows destroyed while they were drinking beer. They were very proud of their art of iron making. Most of them doubled the ability of others, be the Lugbara or even the Europeans. Their art of iron working was however destroyed by colonialism. The colonizers insisted on importing iron implements from Europe and discouraged the traditional iron-workers. This has greatly undermined the traditional role of the Okebu smiths who are still active in the area between Arua and Godi. They make small weeding hoes, slashers and knives for sale in their local markets. In zani region of Zaire, they continued to practice their craft ironworking until 1950 when it was also outlawed by the Belgian colonial government.
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