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I was a child when my grandmothers told me some stories about interesting festivals and traditions of my town. Awka-Etiti is a town located in Idemili South, of Anambra state, Nigeria. It's a land of enterprise. Endowed with vibrant, wealthy men and women. Awka-Etiti people are mainly business tycoons. Export and import. Many of them are skillfully talented, knowledgeable in their respective field of occupation.
In the 1980s, after dinner, and our evening prayers, my grandmother would usher us to sleep with her numerous stories. The one that never leave my memory was the traditional beliefs and practices of Awka-Etiti.
The question I asked myself each time I remembered my grannies stories was, Why did some traditions die? I will give you the answer in my next article. I wondered how some interesting festivals died and buried in a shallow grave, by those who would've handed them over to us.
Peradventure, those who will raise the dry bone will get to understand some day and do what is necessary. Follow me, let me give you details of those buried traditions of my town.
Awka -Etiti is in Idemili South Local Government Area Anambra State, Nigeria.
1. Odunke Festival ; a captivating festival of my town that was celebrated last in 1955.
According to my grandmother, Odunke festival is one of the festivals that had no religious principle. Rather it was a jamboree involving procession, music, dancing, and masquerade displays with grand ceremony, feasting, as well as a display of material wealth and social status,
You will now comprehend the reason, Odunke festival refused to fly away from my memory, sometimes, my granny will demonstrate some dance step maidens danced during this fascinating festival.
Odunke was a festival that comes up every seven years for men and every five years for women. The festival did not fall into the annual cycle. It was not a mandatory that odunke must be held after elapse of the minimum time intervals. The decision to perform an odunke depended on the prevailing economic and political situation of our town.
The Preliminary to the main festival would commence several months in advance of the festival. A special music called Opi-Efi music will be played on two huge drums accompanied by two long flutes(the Opi). These Opi flutes could be heard over a very long distance, and required a lot of soundness to play.
Anyone found dancing to the melody of this special Opi Efi music will slaughter one cow or horse during the Odunke festival proper. Every eke market day, the Opi Efi music will play until the Odunke festival was over.
Odunke festival delicacies
Anyone who danced to the music and failed to slaughter a cow will be ostracized. Such abominable act could only be reverted by special purification. The Priest from Nri will administer purification sacrifices on him. Consequently, anyone who dance to the Opi Efi music must be very sure of his financial status.
On eke market day for the celebration, Those celebrants will process with their cows. The cows will be exhibited in the market. Their families would go dancing to the tune of the Opi Efi in eke market square according to seniority. A display of different side attractions was what made it more memorable. Masquerade dance and acrobatic also increase the tempo.
The festival is a show of affluence. Many delicious delicacies like:
- pounded cassava with bitter leave (onugbu) soup
- ugba with roasted yam, specially(ji abana)
- ona with ncha, pounded yam with dry fish (azunku) soup
- Vegetable soup ofe abuba, oke ofe,
- bead fruit (ukwa)
- melon skin (anyu)with yam
- Our famous rice with palm kernel soup(ofeakwu), are the festival ground refreshments.
At the end, the meat of the slaughtered animals get shared according to native law and custom among the celebrating families and guest. The skull of the cow preserved by the celebrant and hung at the entrance to the family.
2. Age grade association
Age grade is a group of men and women born within a given span of time, with a range in age of members varying from three to six years. They are part of a sociopolitical group of people in my town. Initiation of a group into the system is a sign that the group is mature to participate in matters affecting the social, economic and political development of the town.
How it functions;
It creates an awareness of love and good togetherness among men and women belonging to the same age span.
It constitutes an indispensable tool of government and hence forming a vital component of administrative machinery for sustaining the well-being of many Igbo societies.
Likewise, it serves as an instrument or vehicles for identifying men and women born within a specific period of time.
Initiations into age grade system;
The initiation of a new age grade system always has been a memorable event. The day of this event is one that aspirants have been anxiously looking forward to, a day they will be fully recognized as taxable and responsible adults. And a day of days for them.
Two or three days to the ceremony are joyful moments and entertainment of different descriptions. Before the actual initiation, An age grade in potency, invites and presents the youngest age grade in the town with eight kola nuts and some drinks. After which they declare their initiation and seek to know conditions for initiation into the age grade.
3. Recreation under moon light ( Egwu Onwa)
The moonlight is an exciting tradition. In the dry months when the moonlight is bright, clear and appreciated. Many social activities lined up for entertainment and enjoyment.
Activities feature in the forms of songs, music, and dances, with each activity designed to impart maximum happiness to participants.
Moon light play (Egwu Onwa) is staged usually at big village squares having much loose sand to reduce body pains and injury due to impacts sustained on dry ground. Boys and girls, Who make up more than 95% of the population, interact in various ways between themselves. But in my town it was under the udara tree, or entrance to the main gate.
The hours of 8:30pm and 4:00am, at udara tree, is full of extreme moments of happiness during moonlight shows.At the later part of every night, children from other centers converge to udara tree for various fun and games.
4. Farming/ livestock;
During the colonial era, Awka Etiti people were mainly farmers. They farm around their residential surroundings. Their chief agricultural products were yam, coco-yam, and cassava. Livestock farming including rearing of goats, sheep, cattle, and hens. It were vigorously pursued on a fairly large scale. Palm produce formed an essential economic activity, sometimes disposed by way of exchange for other items.
5. Construction of Obi;
Obi, a domicile for the head of a household, is an oblong steepling roofed with grass thatch. It is an open house erected at a convenient place within the part of the main compound where visitors stay and entertained.
The obi generally is the usual place of a call by male visitors to a household. It is provided with facilities for preserving staff (ofo), animal skin bag (akpa nwa-efi), and other such items of traditional significance. Nzu(white chalk), oji(kola nut), drinks and other light refreshments take place at obi.
It's a resting place for the head of a household after a days' chore. Obi, especially the Nze na Ozo is decorated in different ways as people love beautiful and impressive environments in those years.
Obi has a section where skulls of cow, goat, ram and other animals killed over the years artistically stocked in rows for general appreciation by the visitor. Thereby displaying achievements in terms of number of animals killed at the obi by the head of household. Every other day, Obi gets scrubbed with red earth artistically mixed with other colors to give the house a sophisticated appearance.
6. Construction of Mkpuke;
Mkpuke is a small house within the women's sections of residential compound. It's constructed in form of obi. The Mkpuke is made up of different compartments as follows;
ogbolodo an open space
ngodongo a private resting place
ofe oku a fire place
ime uno a private room
mgbuluno a compartment specially decorated for visitors to admire
nkpo okuko resting room for fowls at night.
7. Ozo title taking
There are some custom practices in Ozo chieftains title that do not occur anymore. The Ozo title is still existing. Many of its procedures had been Christianized that it does not seem to be custom any longer.
During the time of our fore fathers, before you take an ozo title, you must perform all it requires. It is an indication that you are competent and invariably qualified to the task. I may say fortunately for the new generation Ozo aspirants, the stress, and hide-and-seek aspects are now a myth.
Those practices are:
- Iwa ozo dressing way for ozo aspirant
- iru-ozo facial make-ups
- iti mkpu ozo the awareness cry
- iru omu decoration with palm frond
- izu afia ozo market outing
- ina nni the feast.
8. Veneration of gods (Ilo Mmuo)
In the time of our fore fathers, they believe in God, meaning(chi-ukwu). Most of the way they venerated to God were idolatrous. They have seasonal festival of Ilo muo during which they operate on fetish regulations.
They believe in feminine spirit, under the disguise of natural elements (python) Eke. It's a taboo to kill python in Awka-Etiti, as a child I was told that if you kill Eke you will mourn it as you will mourn your relative put on white clothes. Eke was goddess for them. This festival usually comes before the new yam festival.
During this festival they make offering of cock to their goddess. This tradition was abhorrent and sacrilegious. Really, it was idol worship. Its disappearance isn't something to worry about.
9. Local Hunting (Igba Ota)
This is another festival made for men alone. Our fore fathers ventured in hunting. On the day of festival. Anyone on the age grade will carry a local gun, put on a local hunting hat on his head. They proceed to the village square, shooting. It was a joyful festival for the youth.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Chinyere Okoye