…As community celebrates Nwafor Festival
From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Ogidi people in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State have celebrated their annual Nwafor Festival to mark the end of the planting season in their community.
The festival, which lasted for four Igbo market days and mainly celebrated by the menfolks, was also used to initiate young boys into the masquerade of the community to demonstrate their coming of age.
However, this year’s festival took another dimension as some boys numbering over 500 publicly renounced cultism and pledged to henceforth be of good behaviour.
The repentant cultists converged on the community town hall where they marched through major streets and roads of the community with placards, condemning cultism and its effects on their town.
President-General of Ogidi Union, Chief Jideofor Chuka Onubuogu said the festival signifies the end of every farming season, appeasing the gods and glorifying God for a good planting season, adding that it was a time of merriment and jubilation mainly for the natives.
“It is a four-market-day programme and then the final day, small masquerade called Umumuo will take over the villages. But before then, the programme started with appeasing the gods through the traditional handlers who go to our shrines and do the normal sacrifices we do to them which is done by those who worship the gods to thank them for a job well done. Then, those who worship God will go to churches for thanksgiving for good planting season.
“The youths will do their initiation, it is the time the young boys were initiated into the masquerade clan (Ikpoani). The boys were initiated at the eve of Nwafor festival day. For you to be a full-fledged Ogidi man you must pass through the initiation process. We have the heads of shrines who have the traditional rights to conduct the initiation, it is not just anybody does that but those the shrines permitted to do the initiation. Those that were initiated brought their fowls, wine drinks, little money, they were led by their own brothers who had already been initiated to the arena, they slept over to the initiation ground until the following morning before they left. It is a yearly event and they must do it as an Ogidi indigene, it is compulsory.
“On the festival day, the masqueraders herald the entire villages. The masquerade come out from antholes, we give the masquerades palmwine in their holes and after a while they will come out, there are people that follow them; our masquerade is not the type that block roads to collect money because that is why we are insisting it will never happen. The masquerade flogs and other boys can flogs but not everybody can flog. It is those that are qualified to flog and it should be only in the leg not above the legs. You don’t fight when you are being flogged, they will hand over the cane to you to flog back, it’s fun and happiness. It is an old tradition in Ogidi community we all grew up to meet.
“Women have no role to play in Nwafor festival, it is for menfolks, both the young and the old. The women are there to cook for us and then stay indoors to watch the show, though traditionally we have ‘Nne Muo’ we have old women who are men already traditionally, those ones are exempted from all those level of womanhood. They have qualified to be masquerade because they pass through the initiation process the young boys pass through, they are special strong women in our community,” Onubuogu said.
Traditional ruler of Ogidi, Igwe Alex Onyido (Ezechuamagha) said Nwafor festival was a period of rest after the farming season.
“In those days, farmers after cultivating their crops will come home to rest. It is an annual event in Ogidi, it is as important as Christmas to Ogidi people as no indigene of Ogidi stays outside, they all return home during the festival. So, it is the period our ancestors celebrate their victory after the farming season, then they wait until time of harvest, which is done in September. It is a period of joy, merriment and we invite our friends across the world to come and celebrate with us.
“It is from Friday to Sunday, even though we have initiation days during which those who are not initiated will be initiated into the masquerade manhood.
“My advice is that we should keep Nwafor festival as our heritage and our culture, we should improve on it in a modern way and that is why we want to build a cultural centre in order to display our culture, our masquerade to bring back our full culture. Nwafor is something that will help us not to forget our culture and we should keep it up.”