Home African communication systems 11 BOTTOM-UP COMMUNICATION-A SURVEY OF FESTIVALS IN NIGERIA

BOTTOM-UP COMMUNICATION-A SURVEY OF FESTIVALS IN NIGERIA

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1.0 INTRODUCTION

This unit focuses on festivals as a form extra-mundane bottom-up communication. So, it will extensively discuss festival as an example of bottom-up extra-mundane communication.

2.0 OBJECTIVES

At the end of this unit of study, should be able to:Define Festivals

  1. Discuss the features of festivals 
  2. Discuss the significance of festivals 
  3. Discuss festivals as examples of extra-mundane bottom-up communication, identify their featurestheir features and significance 

3.0 MAIN CONTENT

3.1 Festivals as an Example of Extra-Mundane Bottum-Up Communication

Definition and Types: Festivals are good examples of bottom-up communication in Africa. Festivals remain a very veritable celebration in many parts of Africa. They are not mere entertainment, but also serve as means of communication. There are mainly two types of festival –cultural and religious.

Features: They are tied to the culture of a people and predominant among the rural and peripheral population and many of the celebrations are connected to farming and rural development. Although, it is a traditional channel of communication, the scale of usage is absolutely important; users must be part of  the culture; must understand and empathise with the people to be able to use it most effectively. So, usage should emphasise the traditional networks of relationships.

Significance: They signal times of planting and harvesting crops. They may also give hints on crops tending. They provide occasion for disseminating information. For instance, modern techniques for yam propagation and storage to minimise post harvest losses. So, modern development issues can be incorporated into traditional festivals and ceremonies particularly for as long as the ideas to be injected will not depart basically from the inherent ideas of such festivals.

3.2 Examples of Festivals and Their Significance Global

Festivals of the Dead in the World: Most cultures have at least some ways of remembering the dead, whether through the spirits of relatives or the deaths of gods. Remembering the dead is done almost worldwide. Festivals set aside to remember the dead is the sacred duty to remember those gone before. According to a Latvian artist, Skujina (2006), drawing from Mexico to, Egypt (emphasis mine) and ancient Rome, states that it is “not just a formal occasion – it’s a chance to visit, if only for a few days, our own concept of mortality.”
Buttressing his assertion that the festival is worldwide, Skujina (2006) account of some festivals for the dead and their significance are presented below.

Egypt [Africa](emphasis mine)- Festival of Isis and Osiris — Throughout ancient Egypt (and later the Greek and Roman Empires) the end of October and first of November were dedicated to the mysteries of Osiris and Isis.

The festivities included one of the world’s first passion plays, which enacted the life and death of the god Osiris at the hands of his brother Set. It also included the long search for the pieces of his dismembered body by his wife Isis, and his eventual resurrection at her hands…. South South (Nigeria)

The Riverine area of Nigeria has a lot of cultures and traditions that are very appreciable in the eyes of both the indigenes and the visiting foreigners who visit the area for either commercial purposes or pleasure. Lots of thanks are given to some ancestors of the area, who established these to make sure that their successors enjoy their stay in the area. Among these pleasurable and valuable traditions are the elegant masquerade festivals, which add glamour to the lives of indigenes both at home and Diasporas. No wonder, people come back to their various homes from distant land and countries to acknowledge the grandeur experienced during the festivals. Some of these festivals are the Ofuruma Masquerade Festival in the gas- rich Opobo town in Rivers State, the Asi Oge

Festival in Ekeremor community of Ekeremor local government area of Bayelsa State, the New Yam Festival of the people of Bekwara community of Bekwara local government area of Cross River State, and the Iguee festival of the Benin Kingdom.

The Ofuruma Masquerade Festival in South Southern Nigeria: The Ofuruma masquerade festival is one of the numerous festivals in Opobo town. This masquerade festival is celebrated annually, and it takes place on the 1st of January. Usually idiophone instrument such as the gong, the wooden drums, the pot drum, to mention a few, are used to play along some of the native songs of the town. Also membronophone and aerophone instruments are used to accompany these idiophone instruments.

The Ofuruma masquerade is one, which imitates sharks. The obvious water surrounding the land makes it necessary for the indigenes of Opobo town to become fishermen who sometimes encounter enormous sharks, while fishing. As a result, when the time comes for the masquerade to display for its audience, the masquerade will imitate the shark, which does not turn its neck when swimming or looking for its prey. The masquerade is seen at the shiri. The shiri is simply referred to as the square or the arena where the audience are entertained. The masquerade is seen chasing people from one place to another as it acts like a Shark. This behavioral act is done just to create fun. Usually, dignitaries in the land, ranging from the chiefs in council to the king of the town known as the Amanyanabo, put on white cloths. The essence of the white cloth signifies peace. They also put on their wrappers made from George material. The chiefs also put on their bowler hats, while the Amanyanabo puts on his crown. There are lots of drinking and merry-making while the epochal masquerade festival is celebrated.

The Ofuruma Masquerade Festival ends when the Amanyanabo stand on the podium to take the benediction, and to announce to the people, that they should look forward to having another entertaining Ofuruma masquerade festival in the coming year.

The New Yam Festival of Bekwara Local Government of Cross River State in South Southern Nigeria: The New Yam Festival of Bekwara Local Government of Cross River State is marked to celebrate the rich harvesting of yams, harvested by the people of Bekwara Local Government Area of Cross River State. This festival is celebrated on the first Saturday of September every year.

On the day of the festival, people go to their various farms and plantations to harvest their new yams. Tradition demands that no one is expected to keep any new yam in his or her yam barn until the new yam festival is celebrated. This is because it is believed that the gods of the land must bless the yams before they can be stored to ensure a good harvest in the up coming year.

Age group dance is the most interesting part of all the activities that take place during the New Yam Festival. Various age groups come out to present the various types of dances they have. In the process, they are given gifts in form of cash. They do not only dance at the square, but they also dance at the market place. Such acts are repeatedly done until it is the turn of the last age group.

While the dances are going on, some of the women in the area prepare some tubers of yam for the participants to eat. There are lots of foods, and after the participants must have finished eating, the community head comes out to thank all the community members, and promise them that the next edition of the event would be more interesting than the just concluded one. Everyone, except the elders is asked to leave. The elders are asked to stay behind so that they can discuss issues about the development of the community. After the discussion with the community head, they say the closing prayer, and go to their respective homes.

Iguee Festival of The Benin Kingdom, Edo State: The people of Bini Kingdom in the Western part of Nigerian celebrate the Iguee festival by making an offering to Uhunmwuen the head, and Ehi his second half-the spiritual self that guides and protect the temporal self. The Oba and some Chiefs are also involved in Agwe (festival) when the Oba and the Chiefs break the fast they perform a ceremony called, UGIE ERHA OBA-A (honouring the Oba’s ancestors). This is followed by the real Iguee-worshipping the reigning Oba which takes place openly and rounded off with Ugie Edohia and Ugie Ewere three days after. The Enoges and traditional ruler in the ancient kingdom, fixes their own dates in their respective kingdoms after Ugie Ewere.

Between 1897-1914 when the British invaded Bini kingdom and Oba Ovonramwen was deported to Calabar, Chief Agho Obaseki, the right hand man of Oba during this period converted to Christianity which caused him not to celebrate the Iguee festival in 1916-1917. The influential epidemic struck in 1918 in the aftermath of the World War 1. Thousands of Edo speaking people died, and they blamed it on the non-observance of Iguee festival. Till date, the Binis have the belief that the observance of the festival keeps them alive and protected.

South Eastern (Nigeria)

Igwekala Masquerade Festival: Igwekala is a masquerade festival that takes place in Ubowalla, Emekuku in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State. Just like other masquerade, Igwekala has its own specific time that it appears. It comes out every four years and the smaller ones come out every December.
Igwekala is regarded as the biggest masquerade in Ubowalla. Before Igwekala festival, there used to be selection of people (older men) who are capable enough to coordinate the festival and the selection is usually made by kindred.

The appearance of Igwekala is usually on Nkwo market. It is always important that everyone in the village attends. As a matter of fact, there used to be a lot of preparation because people admire Igwekala so much more than any other masquerade. They believed that Igwekala is associated with the gods of the land. So old and young people are usually keen to participate by following Igwekala around on the festival day singing, wrestling and dancing. However, one thing about Igwekala is that young people are not eligible to be among the team of coordinators. The age limit is 40 years and above.

Since Igwekala is an advanced masquerade festival. It is believed to have the support of the gods who are solidly behind it. Nevertheless, we have other smaller masquerades that come out from time to time to showcase their own style during festive periods such as Christmas and New Year. These smaller masquerades also draw people’s attention but not as much as Igwekala – maybe because, they are mainly for fun and generation of funds for the young people in the community.
The team that coordinates Igwekala has a specific point of meeting for some incisions, sacrifice and initiations before the day of the festival. They usually separate themselves from the people of the town for three weeks in order to prepare for the festival. When Igwekala appears, it is seen with a very big head made up of wood, glasses (mirror) and some other fetish elements like palm frond, dead fowls and other traditional leaves which also have their significance to the festival.

Igwekala is usually full of strength because it has to go round the whole village before going back to its abode. Often times, the member of the Igwekala team throws raw eggs at Igwekala ’s face on the day of the festival and this signifies added strength, when it is observed that he is getting tired. Igwekala is a cult and as such has its rules and regulations governing its members. After the whole festival, Igwekala goes back to a river called Okitankwo from where it is believed to have originated.

The festival comes up once in a year and it is traced back to 3000 years ago when our forefathers formulated the customs and traditions of the land. Basically all these stories were not written rather they were transferred verbally from one generation to another by remembered history.

New Yam Festival in Eastern Nigeria: In Eastern Nigeria, the New Yam Festival, which involves an announcement by the priest of Amdioha (the god of thunder) around July/August that the ceremony will commence in 24 days time, is a common knowledge in Nigeria. The festival is meant for the people to thank their gods for the blessings received and ask for more favours. During the intervening period, the shrine is cleared and decorated, sons and daughters from far and near are notified and everybody is expected to come for the festival with new yams and plenty of palm wine. All these are collected at Amadioha shrine where the food is also prepared, after which the feast will begin in honour of Amadioha (Oparaocha, 1998:147-148).

It may even involve the dedication of children. According to Oparaocha (1998:148), food, chicken and jars of palm wine brought by parents and relatives along with the child are presented to Amadioha thus:

Our father Amdioha, we have thanked you for the productivity of crops and animals, for increase in procreation, and above all, in the gift of this child. We request you for more so that we may bring you presents. We make request for life, health and wealth

Chi (a god) Festival in Eastern Nigeria It was told that the descendants of our land worshipped a god called Chi. Chi is a highly respected god and they appease him daily with their sacrifices in quest for peace and production especially of farm products. There was also a chief priest called Dibia (i.e. a native doctor in Igbo language) who at one point is consulted for various occasions about the sacrifices to be made to the god. The Dibia in return gets answers from the god on the requests of the people.

There are always monthly activities that involve everyone in the village. The people are usually expected to offer up some scarifies to show their appreciation to the god of the land. This festival comes up every first week of January and one tenth of all which are gathered from each farm is usually brought to the shrine as a sacrifice while the yearly appreciation is done as a very big festival which is called IKEJI (meaning power of the farmland production of YAM). It is compulsory that every member of each family and relations must come back home to the village to show total appreciation to the god while those that are not able to come, either for one reason or the other, are expected to observe it where ever they are.

During this festival, colorful ceremonial activities are usually on display especially on the first day when you find people bringing in so many goodies to the shrine happily, and going back to their various houses to celebrate with their loved ones. This festival is done within a period of seven (7) working days and various things like masquerades which are there to stand as our ancestors who have come to celebrate with them and this actually signifies that the god (Chi) is pleased to be in their midst. Masquerades like Ekpo, Onyekwele, Ajibusu (rafia) and Iyaagba Oku usually have different kinds of cloths with different colours on them. Api Eko has a baby face and Adaniwa has a girl’s face, beautifully made and carved with strong wood). This is tradition and so, it is locally made. Musical equipment like gongs (twin gong), Ekwe, Ikoro (a wooden gong) and others that bring good sound are used to accompany songs while dancers are expected to perform along at the festival. The members of the community are also expected to express themselves by dancing to the tunes. At the market square there are displays of various magical powers by the masquerades. Such displays are used to determine the strength that each of them possesses. Interested groups and individuals that are not indigenes are always invited to witness and partake in the whole festival.

Izu Ahia Nwatete Festival in Eastern Nigeria: This is an eye-witness account. Izu Ahia Nwatete is a popular cultural festival in Awo-Idemili in Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State. It is next to Iri-Iji (new yam festival), which is, also a popular festival in Igbo land. Izu Ahia Nwatete literary means marketing the baby’s babies.
Izu ahia nwatete is a sacred festival done on Eke day (local Sunday). It has been in practice since the ancient times. It is a festival, which has been passed from generations to generations.
A chief priest (dibia) who mans the shrine, called obi duru, consults the gods of the land, which now fixes a particular month or period in which the festival will be held. It also decides the traditional requirements and what it will take for the festival to hold for that period.

This is a festival for unmarried ladies, who are ripe for marriages. This is to afford these young ladies the opportunity of showcasing their God-given attributes, talents and structures to the eligible young men (married or unmarried). People come from far and near to witness this ceremony at the popular Eke Awo, venue of the festival.

Despite the calls to abolish the festival from some quarters as a result of Christianity, the festival remains and will continue to hold.This is because the elders of the land believe that Izu-ahia nwatete is a festival, which promotes unity, cooperation and even showcases the culture of the land to the outside communities. It also provides investment opportunities as businessmen from other states come to do businesses.

This is not to say that it is only young men that do attend the event. In fact, this is one festival for which everybody in the community looks forward to hold. On the day of Izu ahia nwatete festival, homes are left empty, as everybody both young and old would take his or her seat at the venue.

The festival is been preceded by a 21-gun-salute. This is to officially commence the activity of slaughtering of a goat by the head of families of various homes, because of the belief that children are children of the entire land. The homes of the participants and the non-participants are involved. After this is done, the blood of the goats will be collected and taken to the shrine, which is called obi where it will be buried in the ground.
After consultations with the gods, the chief priest declares the festival open. At this juncture, people would go to their various homes and start preparing foods and drinks. The food is mostly pounded yam with native soup.

The night of the festival is always a very busy one, as foods are been prepared, the ladies will be very busy doing some rehearsals and also doing make ups.

As early as 5.00am the following day, another 21-gun-salutes would be sounded, after which all food, drinks and kolanuts are placed at the front of various compounds, where people assigned to pick them would collect, gather them together and proceed to the venue of the event.

When this is done, the ladies would start marching and dancing from their houses straight to the venue. At the venue, the chief priest blesses all the items brought, after which the king would declare the festival open with another 7-gun-salute.

As people eat, drink and watch, the ladies would be slugging it out, engaging in various rigorous dancing steps and every other entertainment exercises they can present. This is to enable them showcase themselves before the eligible young men present.

There are periodic intervals where the ladies would go to a closet, take some refreshments, change their various fabrics, rest a while and then come out again to continue.

Nmawu (masquerades) would also be present to provide other side attractions. These are very entertaining as people are in a happy mood. Even people from other communities are always present to enjoy this great festival.

At exactly 6.00pm, the king would rise from his seat, take some kolanuts, a cup of palm wine, says a short prayer to appease the gods of the land. He then declares the festival closed. At the end, there would be warm embraces by the people after which everybody would disperse to his or her home happily.

Izu ahia nwatete is a very memorable festival, as it always leaves very sweet memories on the minds of the people. After the festival, things take very dramatic shape at various homes. This is because many ladies would have left their fathers’ homes and gone to their husbands’ places.

The Ofala festival in Eastern Nigeria: The “Ofala” is a festival celebrated in some parts of Igbo land. This festival is celebrated to usher in New Year (i.e. January of every year). This is to remind the inhabitants that they have entered a new year. At the same time, the festival is used to celebrate the ascension to the throne of chief.

In Enugu-Ukwu in Anambra State, according to Chief Okechukwu Igbenegbu of the town, the festival entails appeasing of deities by the chief and members of his cabinet. He stated that during the period, as tradition demands, the chief is confined to the bush for three weeks and does not eat anything prepared by any woman, not even the wife, who is forbidden to see him during this period. He stays in the bush until the eve of the three-week period.

He is brought out in the midnight and a huge fire is made, which the king clad in his regalia, jumps over. The significance of this means, the chief has successfully gone to the bush to communicate with the gods and ancestors. Immediately after this, drumming and dancing would start for about 30 minutes. Thereafter, the chief narrates the history of the town, how the town came to existence, some past events, notable sons who are no more with them but have contributed immensely to the development of the town.

During this festival, notable dignitaries are invited to grace the occasion. On the last day of the festival, the chief gives traditional titles to illustrious sons and daughters of the town who have in various ways contributed to the development of the town. The festival comes to a close amid drumming, dancing, and merry-making. Of course the masquerades are not left out as they entertain during the occasion.

It is worthy of note that only recognized chiefs by the State Governments in Ibo land can perform such festival as the “Ofala” festival.

Festivals in Delta State

Festivals in Delta State in South South Nigeria: Delta State is blessed with rich cultural heritages. One of the ways through which the rich cultural heritage is expressed is through festivals. Among many festivals celebrated in Delta state are “Iche-ulo” festival, “Iwu” festival, “Ine” festival and “Okuworu” festival. These festivals are discussed below.

Iwu festival: ‘’Iwu’’ festival in Ogwashi-Uku, Aniocha south local government area of Delta State, is a yearly festival. It is synonymous with the people of Azungwu Quarters of Ogwashi-Uku because the chief priest who is called “Ihene” of Obida, the god resides there. The festival takes place from the 27th of July to early August, lasting for about eight days. Iwu is a type of yam. Therefore the festival heralds the beginning of eating of new yam.
The first four days of the festival is known as “Isime-Iwu” which literally means to put the yam on the fire to boil. On that day, about 4pm, the town announcer does his job and all the other traditional priests called “ndi Ihene”, about six of them from other parts of the town assemble in the chief priest’s hut (Ogwa) to prepare him for the rest of the festival. They drink and dance while smearing the chief priest with the blood of goats and cocks. The chief priest sits, resting his feet on a heavy black rock believed to have been planted by the god of Iwu festival. His only attire is a piece of woven white cloth less than a yard (“Akwa ocha”). From his seat he pours libation and throws bits of kolanuts to the gods who are believed to be present. The chief priest does not dance, drink nor stand throughout this preparation and the preparation attracts spectators from all parts of the village even some neigbouring villages and towns.

At midnight when everywhere is quiet, the chief priest leaves the hut of preparation to go into the inner shrine, where it is believed he can talk with the god (“Obida”) and see his ancestors. In this dark room, under towering Oaks and Iroko trees, the chief priest spends four days in seclusion and fasting from food and drink. He does not entertain any visitor, not even any member of his family. The other priests go into seclusion and without food but theirs are mild, as they can once in a while attend to the elders of the town who come for prayers to the gods through them. The whole period of four days of seclusion without food for the chief priest and his assistants (ndi-Ihene) is known as “Okpukpu”.

During this period also, the whole Azungwu quarters where this festival is performed goes into serious and absolute quietness and curfew is also imposed. No hooting by vehicles, no shouting, no loud talking, no crying for the dead, no fighting and even no splitting of fire wood. The entire village from Ngwu tree which Azungwu quarters, the area after which the festival is named, are adorned

with palm fronds, placing them on the roadsides, thereby making the road and paths look ardoned and more beautiful. Also at various points in the village, check points are mounted to ward-off offenders whose punishments of fines range from life he-goats, cocks, chickens, kola-nut, white native chalks, pots of oil to flogging and being banned from going to the farm or stream.

On the completion of the four days of seclusion, the fines are collected or when the person refuses to pay, especially for his/her religious beliefs, punishments like sickness, death, etc, are meted on the offender. The next morning as early as 7.00 am the chief priest brings down the pot of Iwu yam. He emerges from the place of seclusion and he is met by his assistant priests, four in number, with chalk all over his face and then moves into the circle of elders. A very high pitch of noise is raised, the curfew and other hard rules are then automatically lifted. An orchestra of native instruments- wooden drums of various sizes (‘’Egede’’), wooden and metal gongs (“Agogo”), large and small bamboo flutes (“Ofili”) and bass drums (“Ududu”) already start to play. Everywhere in the village especially the festival arena goes agog with noise and the noise is usually deafening. People dance with joy moving towards the festival area (“Ogbo Obodo”) giving gifts of money and animals to the chief priest and his assistants. This is done to celebrate the fact that he is no longer in the spirit world. After some time, everyone retires to prepare for the festival proper.

At about 4:00pm the festival arena (“Ogbo Obodo”) becomes jam packed again with people dancing and jubilating. The assistant priests emerge, each in a new costume. Dressed in flowing white skirt with beaded red blouse, jingles around their ankles, powdered with native white chalk from elbow to the wrist, three ox-coloured beads tied round their wrists and blood of an unknown animal rubbed across their eyes to the ears. White eagle feathers tucked behind their heads, sticking to a short stump of hair on the middle of the head left there since they were ordained as an “Ohene”. Each has a servant (Enem”) who bears a wooden tray filled with powdered native chalk (“Okwa Nzu”) with which they bless the people with. This is done by sprinkling the powder on the people.

The chief priest’s appearance is greeted with harder tunes of music and dancing. He is dressed differently from the others. His blouse (“Izazu”) is made from the fur of animals with small jingles (“Ikpo”) which are little oval-shaped mirrors all over the blouse, the length dropping a little below his knee above his shinning skirt (“Mbulukwu”). His headgear (“Ebe”) is made from ostrich feathers. To his left hand he holds a small trumpet made of elephant tusk (“Otulaka”) which he blows at intervals while he uses his right hand to sprinkle powdered white native chalk (Nzu) which he collects from the bearer of the tray (Okwa Nzu). It is believed that whoever the white chalk touches is blessed and protected by the gods. At around 4.00pm, the music and dancing stops and the chief priest and his assistants retire to their various huts (“Ogwa”) to pray to Obida, the god of Iwu festival.

While this jubilation and dancing on, a group of youths from the village, between 13 and 18 years of age, set off very early in the morning when the Iwu yam is brought down from the fire to Obida stream. They tie a small white woven cloth (“Npe”) round their waist just to cover their nudity, from their knees down is covered with native chalk beaten together with some herbs and barks of special trees (“Ogbasike”) to enable them run far tirelessly. They hold small canes (‘’Itali Ezeube’’) to ward-off the spirit of any other challenging god on their way and an empty can to collect pebbles from the steam of Obida. It is believed that on their return anyone that collects a pebble from them is prevented from attack from witches and wizards, accidents of all sorts, armed robbery attacks and also attract promotion at work and business. Their leader has in one hand a red box of concoctions and messages (“Otite”) to deposit at the foot of the hill from which the stream rises.

On return, just on time when the second phase of the festival kicks-off about 4.00pm they also stage their dance and the whole village is happy that their prayers have been answered and that all the youths returned (none was sized by Obida). Then the other youths of the village (boys and girls alike) join and they dance in a group to various chiefs in the company of the chief priest and his assistant. The chief priest receives gifts like chicken and other materials from the chiefs. Finally, before proceeding to the palace of the Obi of Ogwashi-uku to represent the success of the festival, the chief priest, his assistants and the youth converge at the foot of “Ngwu” tree after which the “Azungwu” quarters is named. It means at the back of Ngwu tree, which is also a god but a smaller god than Obida. They pour libation and pray to the god of Ngwu, guardian of the Azungwu quarters. The Obi accepts their message with joy and also presents gifts of sometimes fowls, goats and drinks to the priests (Ndi-Ihene) and the youth of the town too.

Once the chief priest and his assistant priests retire, there is usually a very heavy rain. It is believed that the rain takes the message and concoctions deposited at the foot of the hill of Obida by the youths’ leader. After which the chief priest starts his journey to a neighbouring village known as “Abor Ogwashi”, where he is awaited to be received for them to commence their new yam festival. And if they do not get it for that year there would not be new yam festival for them.

Ine festival: The “Ine” festival has its roots in Isele-Mkpitime in Aniocha-north local government area of Delta State. The festival is likened to the new yam festival of other villages, but with a little difference.

The “Ine” festival is an annual event, and it normally holds between the end of August and the beginning of September. This is always the rainy season. The principal actors in the “Ine” festival are the Obi (The head of the town), the council of title holders called the “Okpalas”, the elderly women councils and the leaders of the young men in the town. Before the festival begins, a certain level of preparedness is achieved. First, the whole village is kept clean and decorated with many colorful flowers and objects. This action denotes that there is going to be a festival in the town.

The festival is held at a place called “Abu-ano”. This is a central area in the town. It is a very large area that can accommodate many people. Everyone appears at this place wearing white clothes. The elders of the town along with every member of the village gather there in the morning, between 9am and 10am, waiting for the Obi to arrive. As he arrives, he pays homage and worships the deity called “Mkpitime”. After paying homage and worshiping the deity, he cuts one of the cooked yams brought by the elders of the town. This signifies that the yam is now okay to be eaten. Twenty-one gunshots immediately follow the cutting of the yam and then the celebration follows. The young men in the town continue the festival for a period of seven days. The festival continues with every family cooking food, especially pounded yam, Egusi soup and sharing with their neigbours.

The significance of the festival is that it marks the point from when the new yam can be eaten by the people of the town, especially the title chiefs. By tradition, the title chiefs are not allowed to eat yam without going through this process. The second significance is that it is at this point that the Obi, along with his council of chiefs, worship the idol of the town (“Mkpitme”), who is believed to be responsible for the increase of farm produce of the people of the village.

“Ulo” festival: The “Ulo” festival is celebrated in Asaba, Delta State. It can also be called “Ichu-ulo” festival. The festival is over a hundred years old. It was initiated by the forefathers and titled men of the village known as the “Okaku”. The first ever Ichu-ulo festival was held in the early 40s.

The festival is an annual event and it comes up at the middle of April every year. Before a date is fixed for the festival, the little children in the village are expected to gather at the village square under the moonlight, singing and dancing in honour of the Ulo festival. On the particular day the date of the festival is to be chosen, all the titled men from the five quarters of the town would come together and discuss the date to be fixed for the festival. The day chosen for the festival must be one of the “Orie” market days. The festival always last for five days and by custom, it starts from “Orie” to Orie” (the four market days are “Orie”, “Afor”, “Nkwo” and “Eke”).

“ORIE” MARKET DAY: The festival begins with the young boys of different age groups dressed in white clothes with local drums made specifically for the occasion, singing and dancing from the market square to the whole five quarters. The young boys and their friends from other towns and villages would dance from morning till the end of that day which leads to the “Afor” day.

DAY 2 (“AFOR” MARKET DAY): On the Afor market day, all the elderly men of the town would start their own part of the celebration dressed in white George cloth, which signifies purity. The elders’ wives cook for everybody in their quarters, and the particular food for the festival is pounded yam and any other kinds of soup like Banga soup or Pepper soup.

DAY 3 (“NKWO” MARKET DAY): The Nkwo market day is the third day corresponding to mid period of the festival. This day is for the elderly women in the town. They come together, dressed in new white clothes and beautiful wrappers known as “Abada”. Because it is the mid period of the festival, it is given to the elderly women. The elderly women are visited by the young women of the town and they are entertained with food, drinks and all other things. The mood is always joyous. This leads to the next day.

DAY 4 (THE “EKE” MARKET DAY): This day is particularly for the titled men and elderly women. They are:

  1. “Okaku” – (town heads for men)
  2. “Onowu” – (Elderly men)
  3. “Tsama Akue” – (The oldest woman in the town) 
  4. “Odua” – (The eldest man from each quarter of the town)
  5. “Onuwe” – (Elderly women)
  6. “Okita” 

These titled men and elderly women come together and celebrate the festival amongst themselves eating, drinking, dancing and worshipping the gods of the land.

DAY 5 (“ORIE” MARKET DAY): This is the final day of the festival. The titled men from the five quarters of the town come together at the town square and consult the gods of the land through the chief priest. They do this by pouring libation and also praising him for a successful festival. On this particular day, the women are not allowed to come out until the consultation with the gods is finished. This is between 11:30am and 6:00am of the next day.
The festival signifies that the town is at peace, that their harvest is rich and blessed by the gods of their land. The festival symbolizes togetherness. It is a time of celebration where blessings from the gods are poured on the people.

Okuworu Festival: The “Okuworu” festival originated about a hundred years ago in Ekpan community in Warri, Delta State. It is one of the most cherished festivals celebrated in the community.

The “Okuworu” festival is an annual event. It usually takes place every August, this is always during the rainy season. The festival lasts twenty-one days. History has it that the “Okuworu” which is a masquerade, has a mother and seven children that normally comes out with him. They come out every market day, which is every nine days interval, during the period of the festival, according to the traditions of the people of this community. They all dress in different and very expensive attires made of George clothes, African carving and paintings.

One the first and second market days, the Okuworu and his seven children go about to different places, different people within the community and prophesy to the inhabitants of the village after which they are given money in a white bowl they carry with them.

On the third and last day of his visit that year, the Okuworu, his mother and seven children would leave their shrine in Ekpan and go to other parts of the community like “Effunrun”, “Jedo”, “Gbokoda”, “Eje-eba”, etc, to pray for them and tell them what the gods of the land want them to do and also purify everywhere before they leave each place.

People in the community and outside the community, who have come from far and near cook different kinds of foods like Banga soup and pounded yam, pepper soup, etc, for their visitors and for anybody that wants to eat.the people entertain anybody that come their way.

After, going about praying and prophesing, the Okuworu masquerade, his mother, and children would all go back to their shrine. At the entrance of the shrine, the priest and the drum beaters would be at the right hand of the shrine singing praises and pouring encomiums on the Okuworu masquerade, his mother and their seven children while at the left hand side, the villagers and visitors from far and near would all form a big circle waiting for their final blessings.

Finally, the children of the Okuworu masquerade would start coming out of the shrine, from the last born to the first. Afterwards, his mother claps and sings different victorious songs. In the evening the villagers and people from far and near would all go to the river to thank the Okuworu masquerade, his mother and seven children for answered prayers and bid them farewell till the next year.

Festivals in South Western Nigeria

The south-western part of Nigeria, populated by the Yoruba ethnic group comprises of six states: Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun and Oyo. There is a miscellany of festivals celebrated in these states. Eyo, Agba, Okoshi, Igunnuko and Jegi in Lagos State; Oro cult in Osun State; Ogun, Orosun, Gbegingo and Egbin-ile in Ondo State; Ogoye and Ogun in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State; and Diedie-lomodenu-dagba, Owonifaari, Yagbonyaja, Egun-otan-poro and Agemo in Ogun State. Below are some festivals selected across the different states.

The “Ifa Oracle Festival” among the Yorubas: “Ifa” festival is observed among the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The festival is observed among the Idol worshipers of Yoruba land. There is a day set aside for this festival and the various priests loyal to the “Ifa” are informed through beating of a special drum. The festival usually starts on a market day. On that day, pounded yam and egusi Soup are prepared and sprinkled on the oracle house, which is located in an obscure part of the town.

During this period all “Ifa priests dressed in white, assemble and dance reciting some incantations through the streets of the town amid drumming and merry making. In fact, a lot of money from the public are collected for the priests by their followers.

This festival takes a whole week and on each day, the priests consult the oracle for progress of their faithfuls. On the 5th day a special ceremony is held for every family in the town or village who wants to know what is in store for them in the year. This ceremony is called “Ibo” and those who consult the “Ifa” oracle are told what is in store for them now and in future. The person concerned is told of some rituals to be done to avert it.

On the last day of this festival, worshippers “Ifa” gather at the shrine and discuss problems facing some of their members. Here disciplinary actions are taken against offenders of the oracle. From here the priests and their followers once again dance through the town or village signaling the end of the festival amidst drumming and dancing.

Agba Festival in Oto Area of Lagos State: ‘Agba’ is a name used to describe different things in Yoruba land. ‘Agba’ could mean a drum used in the fraternity house, ‘Agba eran’ that is a she goat that has been delivering for long, or ‘Agba’

which in English means ‘Canon’. All these are different from the ‘Agba’ Cult. It is a traditional festival among the people of Oto.

The Agba festival began when a man called ‘Olofin’, who had been exiled to ‘Ibini’ (Benin) to serve a punishment on the accusation of murdering ‘Aina Olopon’ with whom he had fought over the ownership of a landed property in the Ido area, was later repatriated to Lagos. On his return, he allocated his land and other properties to his children among whom was the ‘Oloto’. The area given to Oloto is known as ‘Ido’ where the Agba shrine is situated. Thus, the Agba was part of his allocation.

The ‘Agba’ Cult ceremony follows some processes in carrying out its activities. The processes are conducted by the priests of the Agba Cult. The priests act as intermediaries between the people and the deity. They priest is the person in touch between the object of worship and people. These priests are descendants of ‘Olofin’ the father of ‘Oloto’ and they are three namely: Adagba, Ajana-imole and Amojutoro.
The Adagba is the overall head of the Agba Cult in Oto. His duties are to perform sacrifices and lead the drum beating that signals the beginning of the Agba Cult.

The Ajana-imole is responsible for leading the Agba cult out of its shrine. He possesses knowledge of the cult followers defined. Thus, he is required to deliver their (Agba followers) messages to the deity.

The Amojutoro is the assistant to the Adagba on chores like watching over the Agba shrine and assisting in performing other activities.

Without the presence of these three, the cult festival cannot take place. The absence or demise of any amongst them must be quickly replaced. At the shrine, specifically, the spot where libation is poured, certain traditional items must be present, Items such as ‘aso funfun’ (white cloth), ‘ere oni’ (crocodile statute), ‘ijoko’ (paddle) and ‘idere’ (bait for catching fish). Also present at the spot are eight holes (four on the right, four on the left), a calabash filled with water and another filled with kolanut.
Announcement for the start of the festival is preceded by inspection of ‘iyo’ (it is on the sea). If this is present on the sea, then it is a signal which means the period of the festival is near, hence they consult the ‘ifa’ (oracle) on the selection of the day to begin the festival. Once the ‘ifa’ gives a day, town announcers are dispatched to inform the residents of Oto, its environs and the Oba of Lagos will also be sent an emissary to inform him of the selected day for the festival which will be nine days from that time. The festival lasts for seven days, out of which the first, third and fourth are the most important.

On the first day, inspection of the sea for ‘iyo’ is carried out by the priest. If the sign is seen, or present, the Oloto is informed to come and wash his feet and offer prayers. At 4pm the Oloto would leave the ‘iga’ claded in white robe and white cap. At the front of the ‘iga’, he will pour water on the floor twice and then use alcoholic drink for prayer before proceeding to the shrine with the people to pray before leaving for the sea. At the sea, the Oba of Lagos will be at the Lagos-island end of the sea, while the Oloto will be at his own side (the Oto end of the sea). Once he begins to wash his feet in the water, the Oba of Lagos will begin to do same. This is done three times after which obeisance is paid to the deities. When this is done, they return to the shrine, specifically to the spot. On arrival at the spot of Agba Cult, water would be poured on the Oloto’s feet to signify the return of the Oloto and all that followed him to the sea. After this, prayer is offered for all the sons and daughters of Oto and Nigeria in general.

On the second day, drinking, eating and entertainment take place. While on the third day, food is served in abundance. The ‘Aworo’ (priest) would pray for protection and development of the town.

The fourth day is the most interesting day, because all sons and daughters of Oto are expected to be present. This is the day for making sacrifice to the (oju eegun). All descendants of previous Olotos are expected to be present. Each family among the descendants brings two cocks, drinks (alcoholic), kolanuts (abafa), bitter kola and alligator pepper. These are added to the white ram which would be used for the sacrifice. It is placed on the spot of worship after which the Oloto begins to pray for Oto in general using specific items. After offering prayers with water and kolanut, the priest (Aworo) would drop the kolanut several times and ‘eji-ogbe’ will appear which means all offerings and prayers have been accepted by the deities. Once this is complete, the white ram and a cock from each of the descendant’s family are slaughtered and their blood poured onto the spot of worship. Palm oil is poured out and the other cocks from each family are slaughtered and sprinkled onto the white cloth at the entrance to the shrine. After the prayers, lots of Kolanuts are eaten by family members. Eating, drinking and dancing are used to round-off.

The fifth, sixth and seventh days are just for festivities (eating and drinking). On the seventh day, (the last day) disputes are settled among the citizens of Oto.

The Eyo Festival in Lagos-Island: The ‘Eyo’ festival is also known as the ‘Adamu-Orisa’ Play. It is a festival that takes place in Lagos-Island Local Government Area of Lagos State referred to as ‘Eko’.

The ‘Eyo’ (Adamu-Orisa) play originated from Iperu-Ijebu in Ogun State. It came to Lagos as a result of the marriage that took place between a Lagos prince and an Ijebu princess. At the ceremony, the ‘Eyo’ play was used to entertain the bridegroom, this they (the bridegroom’s family) enjoyed and requested the bride’s family to allow them to go to Lagos with both the bride and the ‘Eyo’. Their request was granted and ever since the Eyo play has been performed in Lagos.

The Eyo festival is performed as a rite of passage for a dead Oba or chief or an important personality in the country. It is also used to welcome important and highly influential personalities into the country.

The (Adamu Orisa) Eyo makes use of ‘aga’ (hat) made of plywood and cloth, ‘opa-n-bata’ (the staff) made of palm tree with designs on it, ‘iboju eyo’ (cloth) used for covering the face, ‘aropale’ (the white robe). These ‘Eyo’ are of different types, some are called the ‘eyo orisa’ and they include:

  1. The ‘Adamu Orisa’ group, the leader and foremost of them all; established in 1852
  2. ‘Laba Ekun’ established in the 1900’s
  3. ‘Eyo Oniko’ established in the 1900’s
  4. ‘Eyo Ologede’ established in the 1900’s
  5. ‘Eyo Agere 
  6. Other Eyo either belong to chiefs. 

The activities that precede the Eyo play begins eight days before the Eyo play itself. On the first day, a selected site is decorated with lots of traditional clothes adorning the site with a coloured stick representing a dead person. This place is referred to as ‘IMOKU’. The children of the deceased would be there to welcome them.

On the second day, the ‘IMOKU’ is opened for all to see and pay homage to the dead. On third day which is a Sunday, the five leading groups among the Eyo that are referred to as ‘eyo orisa’ begins to come out thus signifying the unofficial beginning of the play. This lasts till Thursday and on the next day which is a Friday, the eyo alakete pupa (laba-Ekun) would build the ‘agodo’ with the whole group. Here also, sacrifices as offering to the deity are made in secrecy.

Items such as kolanut, ‘Atare’ (alligator pepper) ‘Orogbo’ (bitter kola) and white ram are used as sacrificial materials. The white ram when killed is consumed among the partakers of the sacrifice and the blood would be poured on his spot in the ‘agodo’ (shrine) as a form of libation and offering to the deity. After these, prayers are held for successful outing of the group.

On the outing day before the different eyo groups begin to troop out, the Oba of Lagos would be the first person to come out with ‘adamu orisa’ and ‘alakete pupa’ (laba-ekun) hats, he dances around for people to see thus signifying the commencement of the play. When the Oba takes his seat among theguests, the procession of Eyo begins with the ‘eyo orisa’ ably led by the ‘Adamu orisa’, ‘laba ekun’, ‘Oniko’, ‘Ologede’ and lastly ‘eyo Angere’. These groups are followed by other eyo like ‘onitolo’, ‘faji’, ‘sasore’, ‘Angere’ and so on.

Activities such as dancing and the singing of ‘Aro’ like:

  1. Ataba tibi atibi taba,
  2. Agun oniko osha Apena
  3. Agogoro Eyo 
  4. Mo yo fun e 
  5. Mo yo fun ra mi 

Translated means:

(What a tall or imposing Eyo! I rejoice with you, I rejoice with myself).
Any time that the Eyo festival is approaching, we have groups of people known as (Awon Amu Opa Jade) the staff bearers where we have ‘Eyo Adimu’, ‘Eyo Ikolaba’, ‘Eyo Oniko’, ‘Eyo Ologede’ and ‘Eyo Agere’. The staff bearers go out with their staff (opanbata).

On different days to announcing the date of the forth coming Adamu Orisa play, they will move from their shine to the Oba’s palace, the palaces of the white cap chiefs, and the house of titled chiefs; other prominent personage in the community. These people move in line, (in procession) along the street, while the members of the public should honour the staff bearers outing. Also the staff bearers should not molest or beat any member of the public

On the festival day, the Eyo has to converge out of their own shrine then move to the main shrine (Agodo) according to the order of seniority and the masquerades also move to where the families are seated or where the coffin is displayed (IMOKU) and make the staff incantation (Ika-opa) so the members of the family of the deceased person for whom the play is being staged cannot think of any greater honour indigenous to Lagos than that accorded by the play.

Agemo Festival in Ogun State: Agemo is a festival among the people of Ijebu-Ode, a community in Ijebu-Ode local government of Ogun –State. According to history, Agemos are just like masquerades and had been part of their history of Ijebu land. Agemo is said to have come with the first Awujale of Ijebu-land from Egypt to settle in Ijebu-Ode, after the Awujale had settled down, each Agemo left to settle down in different villages which surround Ijebu-Ode.
Before the commencement of Agemo festival which usually takes place in the first week of July, the oracle would be consulted to ascertain the duration of the festival in a particular year. ‘Abo odun’, would last for three or seven days while ‘Ako odun’ would last for nine or fourteen days. Oro festival would commence in different villages of these Agemos for any number of days the oracle had appointed and later in Ijebu-Ode for the same number of days. After these, the Agemos who are sixteen in number would dance in their various court yards known as (Agbala) and then start to prepare for the festival.

On the very day they would arrive at Ijebu-Ode, a priest who is popularly known as ‘Asokute’ of Awujale, would leave his house to trek to the shrine of Obanta at Itoro in Ijebu-Ode, while the king himself with his chief excluding Iyalode (a female chief) would trek to the same venue at twelve o’clock in the afternoon. The Awujale would come to the shrine with a ram, kolanut, gin and some amount of money. The asokute would pray for the awujale for a successful and peaceful agemo festival and to appease the deity of the land. Immediately after leaving this shrine, the awujale would proceed to ‘Ipebi’ (the traditional palace/shrine where the awujale was traditionally installed) where gbedu drummers would be waiting for him. The Awujale would dance to the gbedu special dance nine different times.

The first three, the second three, women in the palace and the surrounding are allowed to watch and pray but the last three steps, women would have to vacate the scene because by this time a signal would have been sent to the Awujale that all the agemos are at the different entrances to Ijebu-Ode and that they are all ready to come in. Of important note is that at various levels of this festival, women are given little or no chance at all to watch the agemo because there is the belief that women cannot keep secrets. After all the agemos, sixteen in number, with three traditionally believed to be their helpers would assemble in a street called Ita-Alapo in Ijebu-Ode and then move in procession to Ijebu-Ode for their first traditional dance.

On their first night in Imosan, a form of ritual would be performed by each one of them (wo lo fi obi kanle) this according to history was to pray for peace in the land and to prophesy. In all these processes women are forbidden to watch them because they go along with their traditional load/regalia (‘Eru’). The second day they would dance in a court yard known as (Agbala) in that village and kill a cow that had earlier been given to them by Awujale as a gift for the year. Women are allowed to watch this to a limit. The third day, they would all come back to Ijebu-Ode and rest till the sixth day in case it is a seven day duration. During the resting period, they all have a house to stay in Ijebu-Ode on different streets; people go to them for prayers, consultation and divination.

On the sixth day of their arrival at Ijebu-Ode, they would perform a similar ritual (as performed in Imosan) (fifi obi kanle). Important note is that whether three, seven, nine or fourteen days duration, the day they perform this particular ritual in Ijebu-Ode, they have to dance in a courtyard known as (Agbala) also in Ijebu-Ode and their traditional load/regalia leaves Ijebu-Ode the following day. The last day which is the seventh day, the leader among the Agemos would go and dance for the Awujale and come back to dance in the courtyard and others would follow suit. All these are for public viewing after the seven days. A special two days is for the Awujale and all the Agemos. The first day, the agemos and awujale would go to Ikoju this according to history is for praying for the Awujale and his family for long life and peace in the land. The second day, they would all go to Ilope this is to thank the Awujale for hosting them. The Agemo can then go back to their various communities/villages for merry making to a successful outing and festival.

4.0 CONCLUSION

Through festivals like the ones discussed above, the people of Africa foster a sense of unity among themselves and also the ability to express themselves culturally. One thing peculiar with these festivals is the strong belief the people have in the indispensable roles played by the gods of their land. Some of these festivals have lasted for generations which shows that Africans, through their own means of communication have the ability to not only develop a tradition, but also to perpetuate the tradition from generation to generation.

5.0 SUMMARY

This unit discussed the bottom-up group of extra-mundane communication, using festivals as examples. It drew from the various geo-politacal zones in Nigeria. It highlighted their significance and feedback mechanism. As scholars of communication, the various examples discussed would help you to explore your culture and document some examples.

Self Assessment Exercise

i. List the types of extra-mundane bottom-up groups outlined by this author.

6.0 TUTOR – MARKED ASSIGNMENT

i. Explore your culture and write on at least two festivals.

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