Friday, 31 March 2017

Culture Of Ibi Ukwu (circumcision) in Igbo Land

Ibi Ugwu (male circumcision) is the removal of the foreskin covering the head of a penis. It is an ancient Igbo tradition and practice that has its origin in our traditional religious rites. Most Igbo parents have their sons circumcised for cultural reasons.
In times past, we circumcised both male and female children. But these days, we, Igbos, have stopped female circumcision and genital mutilation of women in virtually all our communities.

For some male newborns, ibi ugwu is done on the 3rd day after birth. While, for others, male ibi ugwu is performed on the 8th day after birth, which incidentally is same as two weeks in Igbo calendar. But, in some Igbo settlements outside the shores of Nigeria, male circumcision is postponed until adulthood as a sign that one is now a man ripe for marriage and the responsibilities of life.

However, we are mainly known (among comity of ethnic tribes and nationalities in Nigeria) for circumcising our sons on the 8th day after birth.

During circumcision in Igbo land, the foreskin of a male penis is freed from the head, and the excess foreskin is clipped off. If done in the newborn period, the procedure takes about five to 10 minutes.

Adult ibi ugwu takes about one hour. Ibi ugwu generally heals in five to seven days.

Our forefathers recommended ibi ugwu to prevent and treat the inability to retract the foreskin of the penis or to treat an infection of the penis in older boys and men.

There is evidence that ibi ugwu has
some health benefits which include:

*A decreased risk of urinary tract infections .

*A reduced risk of some sexually transmitted diseases in men.

*Protection against penile cancer and a reduced risk of cervical cancer in female sex partners.

*Prevention of inflammation of the head of the penis and the foreskin.

*Prevention of the inability to retract the foreskin and to return the foreskin to its original location.

*Ibi ugwu also makes it easier to keep the end of the penis clean.

Like most Igbo cultural procedures, there are risks associated with circumcision. However, this risk is low. 

Problems associated with ibi ugwu include:

*Pain

*Risk of bleeding and infection at the site of the circumcision.

*Irritation of the head of the penis.

*Increased risk of inflammation of the opening of the penis.

*Risk of injury to the penis.

By and large, It is shameful for a male to be uncircumcised in Igbo land.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Ikeji Festival Of Igbo People

The famous Ikeji festival is a long held Igbo tradition passed down through the ancestry of the Arondizuogu clan emanating from Arochukwu in Abia state. It is a festival of the entire Aroh people spread along the Southern part of Igboland.

The Ikeji festival is an annual home coming ceremony and gathering of all Aroh descendants from home and abroad to give thanks to Chukwu for making them see another New Igbo Year as the celebrate the spiritual and cultural significance of ji – the yam.

The event is mainly an eight day festival of merriment and spectacular display of masquerades coming out in their glamour to thrill the ever teeming crowd that converge in Arochukwu to witness the annual occasion. The highpoint of masquerade display during Ikeji festival is usually the performance of Pericoma masquerade, a masquerade known for its jaw-dropping acrobatic displays.

The first four days of the festival, the eke, the oye, the afor and the nkwo days are also named after the four native market days of Igbo culture. On the eke, everybody turns up in the market to buy and stock up their homes in preparation for the next day, oye in which all the livestock bought on the eke are killed and made ready for merriment and feasting on the afor and nkwo respectively. This merriment and feasting spans the remaining four days as visitors and dwellers alike go about from home to home participating in the feast.

The famous Ikeji festival used to be an exclusive Igbo festival but today it is a multi-cultural and has also become a multi-racial event going by the volume of tourists that troop into Igboland for the annual Igbo cultural festival.

Ikeji festival literally transforms the serene scene of Arochukwu village life to a commercial hub driving a swamp of tourists, researchers, fun seekers, 
businesses and corporate brands to one location for eight good days.

With adequate security in place for lives and properties, and the highly hospitable nature of the Aroh people, Ikeji festival has over the years become a festival of international repute and has shown inherent potentials as a income generator in the tourism industry of Igboland.

Each year, the famous Ikeji festival boosts trade, commerce and tourism to Igboland, given the huge interest being expressed by members of the international community in the festival. A great number of Nigerians in Diaspora and foreign visitors never fail to visit Igboland for the big festival which is now gaining international attention.

So, Voila! There it is! I have simply highlighted the economic possibilities and tourism potentials that could be harnessed and developed to make more Igbo people richer during the famous Ikeji festival. Peace!!!

The Origin Of Igba Nkwa

The origin Of Igba Nkwa 
Igba Nkwa, the traditional festival in celebration of the Nsude's legendary exploits in warfare centuries ago. The ceremony is typically performed in remembrance of Uto Nsude, one of the greatest war generals in Igbo history. Igba Nkwa is observed once every two years in Nusde community of Enugu state.

This celebration and remembrance of Uto's glorious past has become a tradition that has survived modernity and defied Christianity and has become one of the greatest celebrations of valour in lgboland. But for government's lack of interest in developing its potentials in tourism, it would have rivaled the popular Zulu war festival in South Africa.

During Igba Nkwa celebration, young men and women will file out with dane guns and machetes, dressed in battle gears — the symbolic essence of Nkwa. For a male son of Igbo extraction, celebrating Nkwa without a gun is like not taking part at all; and as one grows older, one graduates from wooden to dane guns.

The older still, the longer the barrel of the gun. And those who cannot afford to acquire one are hilariously advised to sell their mothers in order to buy one, or otherwise hide under their beds to avoid the shame of facing their peers, empty-handed on that day that valour is celebrated.

Uto Nsude, in his lifetime was reputed to be the greatest warrior in the entire Oshie clan of the present Enugu State in particular and Igboland in general. His exploits in battles and his near superhuman powers were legendary.
He was reputed to have obtained a human head at the age of five, and on his death shortly after in his prime, he had obtained the greatest number of human heads from inter-communal battles. At a period when there were no wars to engage Uto's attention, he resorted to being a mercenary warrior, travelling far and near to help prosecute one war or the other.

In one of those expeditions in the present day Benin City, Uto was said to have fallen into a trench dug by a strange medicine man. He had contracted a strange disease which manifested fully on his return to Nsude, and it was later found out to be ' omelumma' (chicken pox) which could not be cured by the local medicine men.
To suffer from such a disease was a curse and to be afflicted with it was abominable at that period. Despite Uto's standing as the district's major inspiration, he was still subject to the tradition and custom which demanded that those suffering from such cursed diseases are ex-communicated in an isolated place.

He was consequently carried to the wilderness (iwhe egu) in the outskirts of Nsude, the highest point of the Udi hills and around the ' Agu Ajali' where the community has common boundaries with Owa. There, at Akpata Uto he died of chicken pox and as custom demanded, he was not given a ceremonious burial befitting his stature.

Consequently upon his death, many mysterious things happened in Nsude and other nearby towns in Oshie clan that were founded by his siblings, and for the first time, they suffered defeats in inter-communal battles. Native doctors had revealed that Uto was angry at the ignominious way he was buried.

His son, Ugwu also expressed anger that his father who accomplished so much for Nsude and his Oshie kinsmen, was not accorded a ceremonious burial and was in fact being forgotten so soon. Thereupon, the Oshie clan consulted with each other and agreed to accord Uto a befitting funeral ceremony and to repeat it every other year in his honour and in remembrance of his exploits and valour.

Nkwa therefore originated following the death of Uto the warrior and it is celebrated to sustain the memory of his famous conquests. Like all celebrations in Igboland, Nkwa has also assumed a social dimension. On its day, thousands of people troop to Nsude, the cradle of Oshie clan, from all parts of the country to witness the one-day carnival.

Getting ready involves kitting oneself in those traditional costumes and fearful war attires, testing the dane guns and disguising oneself with painting.
Hours later, the jingling noise of the hundreds of iron bells (called ikpo ) worn around the waists, dane guns in the right hands and the gun powder bottle on the left, the celebrants will file out in thousands, chanting war songs and gyrating to the Eke-Uto Square where the famous Ikpa music will be reminding everyone who comes to dance, to ensure he brings along a human head.

In centuries gone by, it was abominable to dance to the Ikpa except you are an accomplished warrior who had obtained a human head from one of the several inter-communal battles. Surprisingly, (in fact, it remains one of the mysteries), despite the dangerous weapons employed during the celebrations, rarely are serious accidents recorded.

Another notable thing about Nkwa is that it has also defied the tendencies of foreign religions, especially Christianity. Even though pockets of critics have tried to label it a pagan tradition, it has continued to attract people from all religious persuasions. Little wonder that of all days in the calendar, Nkwa is celebrated only on (Afor) Sundays, preponderantly in the month of November of every leap year.

*culled from www.obindigbo.com.ng

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Ede-Aroh Festival In Abagana

Two Masquerades in cane flogging contest.
Ede-Aroh festival is an annual festival held at the Afor market square every last Afor market day of the year in which cocoyam is celebrated. To every Abagana person, if sowing and harvesting of yam is the reserve of men, then sowing and harvesting of coco-yam is exclusive to women; balancing the activities of sowing and reaping between the sexes.

During Ede-Aroh festival, women bring portions of their cocoyam yield to Aroh deity in gratitude of Aroh's protection and guide. The cocoyams are prepared and eaten as bond of brotherhood among the people.

In preparing for Ede-Aroh, the Aroh priest is engage in a series of activities designed to make the occasion successful. He sacrifices to the Aroh deity and solicits its protection over the people throughout the duration of the festival. He also implores the gods to grant him the will and health to perform his duties creditably. The masquerades that are organized by the elders visits the Aroh (priest) a night before to find out if Aroh deity has granted his permission so that the festival could be celebrated.

They also give thanks on behalf of the womenfolk and the children of the town to the deity for his protection in the previous years and seen assurance that protection in the previous years and seen assurance that he would continue to do until the next festival. 

Most of the dangerous masquerade appear in the night in order to perform at the Aroh square between 12 mid night and 3am. Some perform in the day time at the same Aroh square while other worship at the Aroh shrine.

During this period, the council of elders is summoned by the priest to the Aroh shrine to ascertain the most appropriate date which should be announce to the public for the ceremony. This is done through divination "igba-afa". It is the responsibility of the diviner to foresee all the ills that might be fall anyone or all and ensure all the necessary ritual are performed for the success of the festival after ascertaining the appropriate date which must fall on an oye market day, this is announced to the public.

Ede-Aroh is a two-day festival in Abagana. For the youths particularly males, Ede Aroh is a period to show manly strength and display their ability to absorb pain and yet overcome struggles of life. The 9 villages that make-up Abagana come out with masquerades who compete against each other in a well-organized cane-flogging contest for two days.

On the first day of the Ede-Aroh, the competition takes place at the popular Omenka (A.k.a Badunka) Square. While, the second day of the contest which is usually bigger is hosted at Aroh Square. 

The cane-flogging contests typically commence by 12noon, and the winning masquerade(s) go home with diverse gifts ranging from cash to cows or rams. Meanwhile, youths from the 9 villages who may not be wearing masquerade costumes also compete amongst themselves.

On the evening of the second day of Ede Aroh festival, the entire community is shutdown as both the old and young troop to Aroh Square to witness a razzmatazz of masquerades and other Igbo cultural nuances.

Sacred Places and Things In Igbo Traditional Religion

In Igbo traditional religion, there are certain places and things that are considered highly sacred. These "sacred" places or things could either be a piece of land, a certain kind of animal, specific water bodies, masquerades etc.

The specific places or things we, Igbos, consider sacred in our traditional religion are relative to particular communities. Here's what I mean; what is considered sacred in Ogidi community may not be held in sacredness at Abakaliki. Hence, we, Igbos, have saying that goes: " Ihe ndi na-eri, ka ndi na-aso, " which literally translates into " what some eat, others consider sacred. "

However, whatsoever a particular Igbo community considers sacred in Igbo traditional religion has a very significant and interesting story behind it which has informed the adoption of that belief. For instance, in Agulu community, crocodiles are considered sacred and should not be hunted for any reason, because Agulu people believe crocodiles were messengers of Chukwu sent to protect the people from attacks emanating from enemy communities.

Now, let us considered some category of things we, Igbos, consider sacred in our traditional religion.

*ANIMALS:
Some animals we regard as sacred in Igbo traditional religion include; tortoise, monkey, python, fish, crocodile etc. As we have noted earlier, it is not every one of these animals that are regarded sacred in every community in Igboland. An animal that may be sacred here may not be sacred there. Let's take Awka community as an example. Igbos who hail from Awka hold the monkey as sacred, because they believe it is an animal that is owned by their traditional deity – Imooka. Whereas, Igbos who hail from Nimo consider the monkey as "ordinary" and rear it as pet or, for commercial purpose.

*TREES:
In every community in Igboland, you are bound to see certain trees that are condoned off with either red or white cloth indicating that members of the community consider such trees sacred. The kinds of trees you'll find condoned off in such a manner could either be ogirisi, ofo, oji, udara, and akpu These kinds of trees have huge significance in Igbo traditional religion. For instance; ogirisi and ofo are highly respected as sacred, because they are used for spiritual purposes such as; taming insanity, offering sacrifices to the gods, sealing judicial decisions, blessing and cursing people.

*MASQUERADES:
All over Igboland, masquerades are considered sacred and holy. They are highly respected, and women are not allowed to enjoy close proximity with them because we, Igbos, in our traditional religion, assume masquerades are visitors from the spiritual world who are sent carry out a mission on earth.

*OSU :
Osu are people who have been considered servants of any of the traditional deities we have in Igboland, and as such, these people are considered as sacred persons who should not be hurt, injured or murdered for any reason. Please note; it is not the individual osu that is revered but the deity he or she belongs to and serves.

*PIECE OF LAND
We, Igbos, in all our communities, have certain places we consider sacred points in line with our general wish. For instance; places considered as shrines or, forests of particular deities are considered sacred places. And, most often, women are not allowed full access to these places.

*WATER BODIES:
In Igbo traditional religion, a sacred water body could be a lake, river or, stream which has been generally accepted as belonging to a specific deity. Such sacred water bodies are points of spiritual activities. For instance; rivers Njaaba in Imo state, Idemmili in Obosi, Ngene in Amawbia, Edem in Ezira,
Agulu lake in Agulu etc are all considered sacred water bodies in Igbo traditional religion.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Traditional Marriage : A Glimpse At Urhobo Culture

THE Urhobo ethnic group of Delta State is one of the five ethnic groups found in the state. Located at the central part of the state with over 100 communities scattered across that zone, most of their folklore says that they are a people whom their ancestors had migrated from Edo State at various times; and further migrated to the various communities, which had formed part of Delta State.

Being descendants of the same ancestors, most of their customs and traditions are similar and in certain areas the same such as the breaking of the kola-nut and the donation of cash to wedge the kola-nut presentation, prayers and blessing pronounced before the sharing of the kola and drinks, payment of bride prize, burial rite e.t.c.

Of all the customs and traditions, the traditional marriage rite is one unique one; generally because of the uniformity as to how the process of taking a wife from that area is carried out.

Naturally, when a suitor no matter where he is from is interested in an Urhobo maiden, he courts her. Once she agrees to marry him, the marriage process has begun. Unlike in some other ethnic traditions where the bride goes to inform the father of the intentions of the groom wanting to announce his intentions formally, in Urhobo culture, she goes to her mother first who is more of her primary custodian.

Then the mother would in turn after getting the necessary information from the daughter, go to the father to inform him of a certain gentleman that is interested in marrying their daughter. The father as he pleases would in turn ask the young man to be invited to see him.

The groom on his first visit would come alone with a bottle gin to be formally identified and on a later date would come again with his parents and with few other close relatives to formally speak on behalf of their son. This is known in Urhobo kingdom as "Ghore-Etse" when translated means to knock.
When coming for this visit, the suitor must come with a bottle of schnapps and with any number of bottles of wine that he can afford. It also important to note that upon every visit, bottle schnapps must accompany any other drink he intends to present.

As with any gathering kola nut is presented by the host and prayers are offered. Then the spokesman for the guests would state their mission and identify their son that is interested in their daughter. The bride would be called upon and informed of the mission of the guests and be asked to give her family the permission to go ahead with the process.

Upon her agreement, the drinks and gifts presented by the suitors family would be accepted and a date is given to the suitor to come and pay homage with drinks and gifts to five important family members of the bride, three from her father's and two from her mother's; And usually the oldest family members.

After this visit, another date would be fixed for the introduction (Evughe). This time around, extended family members would be present. The suitor this time would come with more assorted drinks as he can afford. According to custom, another date is usually fixed for when the groom is to come collect the list of things to bring for the traditional marriage, but in order to save time and reduce the stress, some families would prepare the list before the introduction to hand over to the family of the groom upon request.

The most unique part in this whole process is the presentation of the list. The content of this list in Urhobo land includes the bride prize and some other items. Upon presentation, the both families will go into negotiation. From research, everything on the list is negotiable, apart from the bride prize which is N120, Kerosene for extended family members and cigarette. The others which include money for the father, money for the mother's waist for pushing out the bride during labour, the number of drinks to bring e. t. c. are all negotiable. Some items like the kerosene usually come before the day of traditional marriage which would be shared to the women in bride's extended family.

After all agreements have been made, another date will be given for the groom to come to collect the date for payment of the bride prize and traditional ceremony proper. A negotiable amount is usually paid to get this date. It is worthy of note that the date chosen is usually influenced by the bride and groom.

According to tradition, the bride prize is never to be paid on a market day. However, if the date chosen falls on a market day, the groom is usually asked to pay the bride prize the day before the traditional ceremony of eating and drinking. While paying the bride prize, the money is never paid in the house. Two witnesses from both sides would step outside into the compound and choose a corner for the money to be handed over.

As custom demands, when the money is handed over, the sum of N20 shall be returned to the family of the groom, which means the bride was not sold and she still belongs to her family. So upon death, the woman shall be returned to her father's compound for burial or in a house built by her children in her name, in her village or quarters if she is from the same town as her husband.

Iyeri Festival Of Ughelli People

Among the Urhobo speaking people of Ughelli, the Iyeri festival which is celebrated annually in the month of September, is the most popular amongst the festivals celebrated in the clan.
The origin of the festival according to Chief James Emekpe, dates back to an Ughelli princess named Irivwidide. She was childless but was loved and respected by her people. During her life, she was chief priest of an Ughelli deity called Orevwo, initiated by Ogele, her son Ugheni, the ancestor of the Ughelli people.

According to the tales surrounding her, she usually invoked the powers of her deity, Orevwo in all wars against other people. She was a very great warrior who was very courageous and brave. Though female, she not only planned the wars but also partook in them. Stories have it that she was never defeated in battle.

During such wars, she made use of Orevwo the war deity who at such times turned itself into a deer (Orhea). Whenever an attack was on, the deer would appear in the front of the people directing them on how to go about it. It is also said that it showed signs of either victory or defeat to them. For example, if the deer crossed from the right side of the road to the left in front of them. It meant victory and if it crossed from the left to the right it meant defeat in which case they would withdraw.

Consequently, the deer became a sacred animal in the clan and all the natives were forbidden to kill or eat it. These activities of Idide and Orevwo helped the people in no small measure.
Before her death, the childless Princess requested that on her death, a festival be celebrated annually to immortalize her name. The feature of the festival was to be the washing of the ancestral 'Ihenri' that is the relics of an ancestral shrine made from the horn of big animals, set aside for that purpose.
These relics otherwise known as Ihenri are generally kept by the eldest members of the main family group. She further instructed that on the day of the festival, the Ihenri be collected from their various shrines and taken in a procession to 'Echeode' stream near Otovwodo to be sanctified by washing after which they would be returned and placed at the spot where she was buried.

Thus, the Iyeri festival was born at her death in obedience to her request. The festival is nine days festival.
The first day is marked by general dancing comprising men, women, girls and boys. Usually, it begins at dawn till late in the morning.

Though it is a free dance, sexually abominable acts are excluded. Later in the day, animals are slaughtered and there is exchange of food and other gifts items between the natives. The citizens also pay homage to their Ovie by bringing food and other valuables to him. In fact, it is a period of showing affection and appreciation to one another.

At about 5pm, in the evening, the real event, which is the washing of the Ihenri, takes place. As the bearers of the relics proceed to the stream, the traditional shout of Obe Kpo Vo, Ukpete awhorhe kpete awhorhe rents the air from the excited natives.

At the shrine, the relics are sanctified by invoking the spirits of the gods of the clan and those of the ancestors. Prayers for peace, prosperity and good health are said in the traditional manner. Therefore, the celebrants blowing the horns return with joy and are generally welcomed by an equally joyous crowd who continue dancing till dusk.

On the second day at about 5pm, the Ihenri relics are collected and sent to Orevwo shrine to be worshipped and this time, they are served with pounded yam and soup. They are taken back to their various family shrines where they are formally served by individual family heads.

While the Ovie(king)v serves the frivwivie(clan ancestors), the other family heads serve the ancestral shrines of their fathers. This ceremony is popularly called 'Iye Esemo' or Iyeri Uvo.

The third day is set aside for the worship of spirit of their departed mothers. It is believed by the people that both the spirits of their dead fathers and mothers should be served and adored equally during the period. It is known as 'Iye Iniemo'.
During this period, different dance troupes perform to the admiration of all, especially the royal dance Ema which is used to pay homage to the king.

On the evening of the eight day, the Iwereko people statge a colourful boat regatta known as Umalokun. It is the padding of canoe on the Ughelli River by gaily- dressed celebrants. Apart from the boat regatta, there are series of traditional dance that precedes and ends it.

Early in the morning of the ninth day, the festival is formally brought to a close. There is the bearing of wooden torches through all the streets of each town that make up Ughelli clan and then into the bush. This ceremony is meant to drive back to the abode all spirits that have come to the town for the celebration of the festival. Thus the clan yearly festival is formally closed.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Olobor Festival In Ogwashi Ukwu

''Olobo'' is an indigenous phrase or acronym for masquerade in Ogwashi-uku kingdom, it is a crowd puller of some sort and its existence is as old as Ogwashi-uku Kingdom, it is a highly revered dance that is one of the very best and still well maintained amongst the people of Ogwashi-uku.

The Olobo dance which features the use of cane or wipes by the escort and mask wearer is predominantly a male affair but watched in admiration by men and women, old and young, children and adults alike. The masquerade comes in various colours of rafter palms and very colourful head mask that adds beauty to the face of the mask wearer and to the delight of spectators who giggles at the site of a male masquerade wearing a mask with a female face design and with lipstick to match in famine dance steps signalling the attraction of a male masquerade.

In fact, the beauty and dance movement , including the flogging of both the masquerade and its escort and their ability to endure the pains from the cane remains the unique attraction of spectators.

Because of the high regards and attendant crowd for olobo in Ogwashi-uku kingdom, it became imperative for the Organiser's of Ogwashi-uku carnival to re-introduce the dance into the Carnival with one day set aside solely for the display of olobo masquerade. The Olobor festival was conceived to add more glamour to the beauty of the Ogwashi-uku dance carnival but most of all to sustain its cultural legacy.

Keeping the Heritage alive for generations yet unborn.

THE GREAT OTAMIRI RIVER

THE OTAMIRI RIVER is the major river that washes through the Ihiagwa autonomous community, in the Owerri west Local govt area of Imo State, Nigeria, West Africa. This river runs from Egbu where it has it's major base or Ishi mmiri rather as it is called in the Igbo Language, through to Nekede, Ihiagwa, Eziobodo, Olokwu Umuisi, Mgbirichi, Umuagwo, and finally to Ozuzu in Etche town of Rivers State of Nigeria, where it finally joins the Atlantic Ocean.

This River is of a very great significance to the people of Ihiagwa autonomous community as it serves as a source of water for domestic use and other purposes especially in those olden days before the introduction of pipe borne water today in the community. Beside it's importance as mentioned above, the river serves as a major boundary between the community and it's surrounding communities such as Obinze e.t.c.

In fact the importance of this river cannot be overemphasized even though there have been some speculations over the years by some people that the river has the characteristic of drowning only outsiders. This statement is very wrong. This is because the OTAMIRI RIVER IS A SACRED RIVER, and also named after the community's Chief Deity i.e the OTAMIRI DEITY, which abhors evil. Because this deity abhors evil, it only drowns those that come to the community to perpetrate evil. This is done to cleanse and purge the land of evil in all it's ramifications.

This simply means that the river does not drown outsiders that come to the community with good will and thoughts. Except of-course in the case one has come to the community with evil thoughts or has done something very evil in his or her community and have come to Ihiagwa to seek refuge, then the persons life is in jeopardy if he or she steps into Otamiri river.

*culled from www.ihiagwa.com

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Benin Holidays and Festivals

Benin has a rich and vibrant culture, and a religion which informs the daily lives of many inhabitants. There are several festivals linked to culture and if travelers are in the right place at the right time, they would be privileged to experience. The Benin holiday called Voodoo Day happens countrywide in January and is quite the sight, while the Quintessence Film Festival in Ouidah in the same month is a hit with cinema-lovers.

Voodoo Day

Voodoo Day happens on January 10 every year and is viewed by the people of Benin in the same vein of importance as the Christian Christmas or the Muslim Eid. This public holiday attracts believers from all over West Africa and the world to celebrate the unique and often misunderstood Voodoo religion. There are several ceremonies, the most controversial of which is the sacrifice where a priest rips a chicken's neck off with his teeth. While not for the squeamish, this is quite something quite unique to witness in Benin.

Quintessence Film Festival

An annual film festival held in Ouidah, the Quintessence Festival is simply a celebration of local and international cinema that takes place in early January. Most of the films are in French with English subtitles. There is also a special selection of African films, of which the organizers are especially proud.

Gelede Festival

Taking place during the dry season between March and May, Gelede is a festival which honors mothers in the community and to pay respect to their female elders. One of the more vibrant festivals in Benin, choreographed dances, singing, music, and drumming are loved by all. The men don large masks and walk around to amuse the women. The city of Cové is especially known for its public displays during the period.

Waba Festival

The Waba festival is a recent initiative in order to facilitate and promote collaborative work between the visual artists in Benin. Held from June 5 to 9 in the galleries in Porto Novo and Cotonou, the event showcases works from around the country. The hope is to popularize art and start a more passionate dialogue between all sections of society about the role that art plays. Exhibitions are open to the public and are well worth a visit.

International Festival of the Dahomean Cultures

One of the last festivals of the year, the Dahomean Cultures runs for 10 days in December and is tasked with highlighting and celebrating the cultural diversity of Benin. Taking place in Abomey, the event showcases traditional songs, dances, folklore, and stories of the ancient Dahomey Kingdom and the many groups around the country.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

SAKI AS THE SOURCE OF RIVER OGUN

River Ogun, which literarily means (the River of Medicine) flows through three States namely Oyo, Ogun and Lagos before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. When people see the magnitude, essence and the symbolic nature of the River at the present day Ogun State they may conclude albeit erroneously that the River essentially had its source from the State. However, Ogun River, which the present day Ogun State is named after had its source at a remote place which is some few kilometers outside Saki. History has it that the River according to local historians emanates from the consequence of the royal squabble between Okere Akinbekun the first Monarch and his wife Ekunfumi. 

He had warned his wife not to make any attempt for whatever reason to enter the room where his charms are kept. In the same manner the wife had warned the King not to use her big bursts to abuse her no matter the offence she must have committed. One day the King went out on his usual hunting expedition but left his bow and arrow outside the house. On noticing that it was about to rain, the wife took the items into the "forbidden room" where the King's charms were kept.

The King arrived later and noticed that the arrow and the bow he left outside were no longer there His Majesty made enquiries from the wife. The wife then told him that he had kept them in the room when she noticed that it was about to rain.

The King was very displeased and he rained abuses on his wife by making specific references to her big bursts in what seems to be retaliation. Dissatisfied with her husband's remarks she packed her things including the pot with which she used to prepare the local herbs for her child and left the palace.

When the King could not find her he sent some emissaries to look for her and bring her back to the palace. At a point the King's men eventually found her outside the town but she refused to listen to their pleas. As she was about to escape from the King's emissaries, she fell down, the clay pot she carried also fell with the water in the pot gushing out continuously to become a pool of water, which later turned out to be the source of River Ogun located in Saki East Local Government Area. As a mark of recognition of the circumstances that led to the source of River, one its tributaries at a location close to Iseyin was named Ibukere or Ibu Okere (meaning the pool of Okere) which the Oba retains the ownership till today. A further reading on the mystery of Ogun River is contained in the lucid account given in the Yoruba drama book entitled: Ekunfunmi Ayaba Okere written by Sesan Onibode (the Aare Isembaye of Sakiland).


Saturday, 25 March 2017

ODU IHIAGWA FESTIVAL

Ihiagwa Autonomous Community is one of the communities in what is traditionally known as Oratta Clan, which now encompasses Owerri West, Owerri North and Owerri Municipal Local Government Areas of Imo State. Ihiagwa is located after Nekede Community in the South West of the Capital City and bounded on the East by Amaeze Obibi Ezena, West by Obinze, North by Nekede and on the South by Eziobodo and Okolochi.

Regalia

Odu Ihiagwa is a yearly festival, unique to the people of Ihiagwa. The festival predates the first Christian Missionary activity in Ihiagwa. Odu Ihiagwa is only a socio-cultural celebration that has no link to any deity, shrine or fetish practices. It marks the beginning of new yam harvest. ODU IHIAGWA Festival is heralded by a very short but remarkable period referred to as Onunu the period marks the end of farming season. During the Onunu period which lasts for four days,
nobody in Ihiagwa goes to the farm and indigenes of Ihiagwa stay at home to take stock of the year's farming activities, clean up the household and prepare to usher in the harvesting season which is marked by the ODU FESTIVAL. ODU festival comes up two weeks and four days after Onunu.

The uniqueness of the ODU Ihiagwa FESTIVAL lies in the fact that it sets out the calendar for the Harvest and New Yam festival for Ihiagwa and other neighbouring communities in the then Oratta clan. Ihiagwa is traditionally referred to as AGUZIE Afor because of the community's role and function of determining the yearly farming Season and festival calendar for communities in and around Oratta Clan. This traditional pace setting role is not shared with any other community in Oratta Clan. It is a role demonstrated yearly when the OHA Ihiagwa pays homage to OTAMIRI deity and returns with the information and directives guiding the activities of the people for the year.

ODU IHIAGWA is celebrated by the rolling out of the "NKWA" a traditional dance only performed by the people of Nshi-Ato-Iriegbe who are the custodians of the tradition. The "NKWA" drum is as old as the community itself and the dance is only performed at ODU Festival.

"NKWA" instruments which comprises of ;

(1) The big drum which is about 1.2m high with diameter of about .45m beaten by Umu-Agu's family in Iriamogu village.

(2) The small drum of about .4m high and diameter of .18m is beaten by Umu-Anoruo family in Iriamogu village.

(3) The wooden gong which is about .45m in length is beaten by Umu-Igbakiri also in Iriamogu village.

It is danced to, by only four people from selected families, one each from Nkaramoche and Ibuzor village, while Okoma and Iheshilam kindreds in Iriamogu village will produce the remaining two dancers. This dance is for the eldest male from each group appointed by tradition to dance to Nkwa.

The Nkwa dance is regarded as sacrosanct and cannot be performed by a person with blemish or of any known socially unworthy character. It is not a war dance like the Ogbudu. You cannot dance to Nkwa with blood stain on your hands. Persons who are deemed worthy to perform the NKWA dance are usually highly esteemed and respected on account of their assumed purity.

During the ODU IHIAGWA FESTIVAL the oldest male members of other Ihiagwa villages join the oldest male from Iriamogu village to pray for the community and declare the emergence of the new yam season for IHIAGWA and other communities around Owerri.

The period of ODU IHIAGWA is regarded as a very peaceful time when no body is expected to pick a quarrel or engage in physical fight with his brother or neighbour, no matter the height of provocation. In olden days the penalties or consequences of desecrating the Odu period can be very severe not only on the offender but on the family also.

ODU IHIAGWA FESTIVAL promotes peace, brotherhood and respect amongst members of the communities. Notwithstanding the indigenous factor, visitors and foreigners are often invited by families to partake in the observance of the ODU IHIAGWA Festivals and enjoy the rich culture, tradition and hospitality of the IHIAGWA PEOPLE.

During the ODU IHIAGWA celebrations, Elders, Traditional Rulers and other Heads from neighbouring communities visit Ihiagwa as a show of respect and traditional acknowledgement of IHIAGWA as the AGUZIE AFOR. The ODU Festival is not a pagan or fetish festival. It accommodates both traditional worshipers and Christians. It has no fetish content but is has deep immense cultural significance. Ihiagwa people embraced Christianity over 100 years ago but still celebrate ODU without double standards.

*culled from www.ihiagwa.com

Sunday, 19 March 2017

IYIN EKITI : A BEAUTY OF MODERNITY

Iyin-Ekiti, the capital town of the just approved Araromi Local Council Development Area of Ekiti State, is a town with a rich history of courage, hospitality, diligence and love. From time immemorial, the town has demonstrated a knack for excellence for what she stands for. Her citizens all over the world have proved beyond all doubts that Iyin is a force to be reckoned with in all spheres of life – be it academic, politics, core professions (medicine, law, engineering, oil and gas among others).

Iyin personifies decency, respect for legitimate institutions and persons, hard-work, superlative support for communal-driven development and issues of morality. Her cultural balancing with modernity is exemplary. Iyin is physically attractive. She stands out as a modern town with beautiful layout, probably the only traditional town with that touch of modernity across the country. She is also a tourist haven with the following:

HILL BASED TOURIST CENTRES

1. Esa cave –       Tungba village

2. Agbo Oku

3. Okudi ridge – okesale atijo/akunlesan

4. Abanijorin ridge –       Tungba Village

5. Tungba rock/ofin rocks

6. Elemi rocks – Tungba Village

7. Ile rocks – Ile farm

8. Uta odo – Uta Odo

9. Orunro rocks – Omonro

10. Okeriri chain of hills- Okeriri

11. Okeesu – Igede road

12. Ijoro cave

13. Igimorikori

14. Ose Meji takotako

WATER BASED TOURIST CENTRES

1. Etemuru water and the likes

2. Okeere lake

3. Awedele river

4. Malomo/sobo rivulets

5. Orunro river

6. Egbudu lake

7. Elemi river/odo anuu/tungba 
wetlands

8. Ofin river

9. Osun lake

10. Urara river wetland/other eriri wetlands

11. Anun stream

HERITAGE SITES

1. Esa cave spots/artifacts/earthworks

2. Epa Uposo

3. Okudi shrine

4. Okere kneel pedestral

5. Upepe orabeun

6. Upara opa oodun

7. Ege opaoodun – Oketoro and Iro

8. Ifa-uji (source)

9. Udele – Okesale

ECOTOURISM ACTIVITIES

1. Okudi festival

2. Oro una

3. Oro olua

4. Opa oodun

5. Oju oloko

6. Udi iraa

7. Arin tita

8. Ugbo gbigbo game

9. Ayo tita – game

10. Olokun festival

11. Odokoroso – Iro and Ibedoyin

12. Agada dance

13. Bata dance

Ojede (21 different types) etc
Iyin, oh Iyin, the beloved.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Kerala the land of festivals and carnival

Christmas and New Year in Kochi are the big time for festivals

KERALA, INDIA: Festivals in Kerala are true celebrations in God's Own Country; occasions when grandeur prevails over the characteristic simplicity of the Kerala lifestyle. Besides being occasions for merry-making, festivals of Kerala have traditionally been preservers of the art and culture of this land. 

Whether religious or social, traditional or modern, a festival here is never complete without an art event which would range from the 2000-year-old Kutiyattam to stage shows.

Christmas is one of the biggest festival in Kerala, and the highlight of New Year festival is at Kochi, with the famous Cochin Carnival and Lighting of Papanai. The New Year is welcomed at Kochi, by lighting a huge Santa-like figure called Papanai to bid adieu to former year and light to welcome New Year. This is followed by a gala party with dance and music till morning.

Festival dates are decided in accordance with the Malayalam calendar and the local traditions and customs. There can be changes in the dates. Browse Festival Calendar to know more about specialties and dates.

Chettikulangara Bharani:

One of the most vibrant festivals of Kerala, the Chettikulangara Bharani offers visuals and showcases the cultural of the state. An annual event held at the Chettikulangara Temple during the Malayalam month of Kumbham (February-March), the festival is dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathy.

Attukal Pongala:

Pongala is the largest crowd of women in the state, is celebrated at Attukal Bhagavathi Temple in Kerala's capital city of Thiruvananthapuram. The festival entered the Guinness records for being the largest single gathering of women for a religious activity. Only women are allowed to participate in the ritual.

Paripally Gajamela:

The event witnesses parading of as many as up to 50 elephants. Further, a host of cultural programmes are staged as part of this event on the temple premises. The elephants are paraded on the last day of the ten-day festival.

Kottangkulangara Chamayavilakku

A gender bender of a festival where men cross dress, the Kottangkulangara celebrated at the Kottangkulangara Devi Temple in Kollam stands apart from the rest of the festivals in Kerala with this unique flavour. This novel event is part of a special temple ritual during the festival. Men dressed up in women's attire bearing traditional lamps will swarm the premises of the temple. They will then move as a procession towards the temple. This unique festival attracts hordes of crowds each year.

Alpashi Utsavam:

The temple in the capital city of Kerala is famous for fascinating stories and legends associated with it and attracts tourists from near and far. Alpasi festival usually falls in October or November. The most fascinating part of the festival is the holy bath in the sea. The procession comprises decorated elephants.

Rajiv Gandhi Boat Race

Rajiv Gandhi Boat Race at Pulinkunnu, Alappuzha. The event is a memorial to the former prime minister. Festival highlights: Colourful water procession Water floats Boat races.

culled from www.kinggoya.com

Friday, 17 March 2017

UDIROKO FESTIVAL

On August 29, 2015, the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe celebrated his yearly Udiroko festival. This by tradition is the Ado –Ekiti indigenes New Year day. It is an age long culture that dated back to the history of Ado-Ekiti. Udiroko is a celebration of the supernatural powers of conquest of Ewi. The first Ewi, Awamaro, migrated from Benin and settled at Ado-Ekiti. After his settlement, he embarked on wars of conquest to expand his kingdom. Most of these wars were successful.

At these time. Ewi was not only a king; he was also a supreme military leader who leads his army to war. However, when his kingdom became very large, the administrative and cultural demands of his office as king no longer afforded him time to embark on military expeditions anymore.

He therefore delegated his military responsibilities to the senior commanders of his army who thereafter became traditional war chiefs known as Elegbes. The war chiefs have the duty to report regularly, every successful exploit to the Ewi. On every occasion of this report, they present the products of their exploits like captured slaves, farm products, weapons of war etc, to the Ewi.

Ewi usually hold this kind of court under an Iroko tree in the palace where every Ado indigene will come and celebrate the successful exploit with him with dancing and prayers. The indigenes will say to the king "wa segun ota, wa reyin odi", which means "you will conquer your enemies and those who rise against you".

The Ewi in return will seat on the stool of the first Ewi known as Owa Uwa, and pray for the people very early in the morning the following day. This is called "Eredun". Owa Uwa is very significant place to the people. It is the inner chamber believed to have been occupied by the first Ewi. That is where very important decisions about the town are made. It is a place where you do not dare to tell lies on oath, and more importantly, it is a place where Ado people believe that any prayers said by the Ewi in the sacred Owa Uwa will receive immediate answers from God.

Over a period of time, successive Ewis centralize this conquest celebration into an annual festival on "Olorunborun" day, a day that all Ado indigenes wake up in the morning to make sacrifices and prayers to the creator. At the evening, they all gathered at the palace and the Ewi from the ancestral throne, Owa Uwa will pray for them.
The king will thereafter announce to the people the programmes and events for the New Year. It was this that then transformed into "Odun Udi Iroko" (Festival under the Iroko).

Udiroko is the abbreviation of the name of the festival. All the war chiefs, other traditional and honourary chiefs, the Efas (traditional police), Eyesorun and Oloris (a procession of the wife of the reigning Ewi and wives of past Obas alive), the Princes and Princesses, groups or their representatives, and foreigners and indigenes alike, in their groups dance and pay homage to Ewii as he sits majestically on his throne!! It is always a beauty to behold.
This year's Udiroko was particularly colourful as the governor of the state; Ayodele Fayose led senior government officials to pay homage to the Ewi. It is significant because this singular act has lifted the Udiroko to higher pedestal, giving it a national recognition. It was beamed life on several television stations.

The importance is not lost on the indigenes which recognize it as another victory for the Ewi. Less than ten years ago, this particular governor was going to depose the same Ewi for political reasons.
Women, both young and old nakedly paraded the streets to protest the acts of brigandage of the governor. For the same person to now prostrate before the King in total submission is victory indeed. As in the olden days, Ewi of Ado –Ekiti still retains his "supernatural power of conquest".

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Igogo Festival In Owo

Six hundred years ago, Olowo, the King, fell in love with Orensen, a very beautiful woman. Unfortunately for the King, she was a goddess who could not live with a human. She was forbidden to see women pounding spices, draw water, or throw a bundle of wood to the ground.

Because of his love for the goddess, and in order to marry her, the King promised her that his other wives, in front of her would follow these same restrictions. After several years, the King's wives became jealous and revolted. They did everything they were not supposed to do in front of the goddess, who then cast a spell upon the entire kingdom. The goddess promised that people of Owo, would die of famine or sickness if the King and his chiefs did not celebrate every year a ceremony in her honor. The drums should beg her pardon and sing her praises. One also had to offer her a sacrifice of a man and a woman.

This ceremony, IGOGO, [IGOGO FESTIVAL] still exists, but the human beings have been replaced by a sheep and a goat.
This is an annual festival in Owo which lasts a total of 17 days featuring a number of ceremonies including the blessing and release of new yams. The festival is in commemoration of the king's wife who turned into a tree while being pursued by the king's slave to return to the palace after her rival violated her taboos in her presence.

The Olowo, usually during this festival dresses in Coral Beaded Crown and in addition plaits his hair like a woman. It could be seen here that Owo has some traditional linkage with Benin.
The Olowo leads his people including the Chief Priest and the male youths from Iloro quarters to dance round the whole town. During this 17 days period of celebration, drumming is banned in Owo and instead, metal gongs (Agogo) are used. This was where the name 'IGOGO' was coined.

The Igogo festival which comes up in September annually is a cultural display of the culture of the people with its main aim as to align youths with the cultural norm of the land.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

8 Powerful Masquerades In Yoruba Land

A Dancing Masquerade 
In Nigeria, masquerades appear during festivals, ceremonies or rituals. They dance, sing and recite incantations. Many of the masquerades are youths with strength to make dance moves and jumps. Some performs unexplainable actions like somersaulting, spitting fire from the mouth. They are mostly known to flog people. This act is rooted in the culture and a cultural heritage practiced by the tribes in Nigeria. 
Masquerades are different from each other in terms of functions, structures and festivals. A masquerade that will come out during the harvest period is different from the one that will display during the carnivals or during the death of a king.

This is not new to us, as it is part of our tradition that is recognized by the society and passed down from one generation to another. In Nigeria, some families are known to be masqueraders and some even bear a name related to masquerades. Masquerades are known to have spiritual powers, magic and charms. The masks and clothes worn by the masquerades are seen as totem- sacred objects which should not be touched by an ordinary being. There is another belief that they represent the ancestors.

Here is a list of some of the various masquerades in South-Western Nigeria;

Eyo:

The "Eyo" which originates from Lagos is a special kind of masquerade that only shows its dancing prowess during the Eyo Festival. The "Eyo" are dressed in white apparels with a hat and hold a traditional iconic staff known as "Opambata", they represent the spirits of the dead, and are referred to in Yoruba as "agogoro Eyo" literally known as "tall Eyo". Legend says the "Eyo"came as a result of the need to protect a deity from the activities of hooligans who wanted to destroy or steal it.

Alapansanpa Masquerade

Also known for his visit to Olubadan's palace June every year, in and outside Ibadan, the Alapansanpa masquerade was used in the past to fight and win many wars . It is said that if Alapasanpa doesn't go to the Olubadan's Palace, there will be no be peace and prosperity in the land and that means the Olubadan is a bad person.

Atipako Masquerade

Atipako is known as a 'load-carrying' masquerade that is accompanied by women. The ancestral rites is chiefed by a community or family elder referred to as 'Alaagba'. Atipako masquerade always carries stones, mortar and pestle on his head. This portrays its significance for blessing the masses and the land. It comes out annually in June and spiritually cleanses the community.

Agemo:

Agemo is celebrated among the Ijebu people. The festival is a week-long event marked with great festivities, traditional routines and an important feature which is the presence of the "Agemo"masquerades. The "Agemo" group file out one after the other to showcase their skills and perform magical tricks while the drummers beat their drums and songs are rendered to entertain people.

Egungun:

Egungun is otherwise known as masked ancestors of the Yoruba land which assures the people that the dead are among the living. The festival is set off when the Chief priest of the Egugun Masquerades invokes the spirit of the ancestors ,this act is known as "Alapi", it is done when the Egugun masquerade and worshippers dance , drum and are now possessed by the ancestral spirit. The Egungun masquerade is dressed in colourful regalia with a whip ,which is used to flog anyone in the way of the spirits.

Oladunwo

Oladunwo is very popular in Okemesi, Ekiti State. It is usually present during the Egungun festival of the Okemesi people. Oladunwo is generally believed by Okemesi people to have saved and protected them during the Yoruba inter-ethnic wars especially during the "Ekiti Paraapo" (an alliance with the Ijesha people) war.

Obadimeji Masquerade

Obadimeji masquerade is worshiped by the Opayinka, Opadiran and Ojesanmi family in Ibadan. History says that any member of the family that abandons the family tradition of worshipping the masquerade will be in trouble for the rest of his life. Its costume is usually sown with materials like red lace, damask, and other types of unique materials except white.

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