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IKEJI FESTIVAL OF ARONDIZUOGU


Encyclopedia » Traditions/Culture » Festivals
Imo

Arondizuogu is situated in the western part of Okigwe town in Ideato Local Government Area of Imo state. It is bounded to the North by Akokwa town and to the South by Omuobum. The east is occupied by Umualoma in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra state. It lies close to the equator having its Longitude between 7o, 26 t, 7o 30 t and its latitude is between 5o 275 and 5o30 N.

Ikeji festival which is known as the most popular festival in Imo state has four version of its Origin/history.

First, Dikeji a warrior from Arochukwu went to war to recover some occupied places in Ujalli. There he conquered the people and instead of loosing/ looting the place, his captive Eze Nwaka (also referred to as Ike) vouched for an annual celebration of his defeat in the presence of the gods of ujali annually with fifty men and women. But later he stopped the celebration and refused to continue with the tribute, this angered Dikeji who came and cut off his head and took it to Arochukwu where the event was been celebrated as “Ikeji Ugwo”, (the straight that owes a debt) the celebration started in Ujalli from where it is now shifted to Arochukwu and gradually to all the rest of Aro colonies including Arondizuogu with time the name Ikeji Ugwo became shortened to “Ikeji festival”.

The second version has it that Izuogu the founder of Arondizuogu on One of his commercial trips from Arochukwu was kidnapped and he left home without his traditional “Omu” which is (palm frond) because he was to visit his woman lover, the Omu is the symbol of protection for any Aro man (in order not to incur the wrath of Ibim-Ukpabi the Long juju of Arochukwu every Aro man travels with his Omu), when they kidnapped Izuogu and interrogated him, he told them that he was from Aro, when queried further on the source of his power and wisdom, he told them that “Ike-jim-Aga Mba” which means the power that leads me through towns and villages unharmed. While still their hostage, one Afor market day, there appeared three masked figure which were believed to have come from Abam They liberated Izuogu and after the liberation they started the celebration as “Ike Jim Aga” which was later called Ikeji festival.

The third version has it that the festival was derived from slave trade. The Aros were popular then because of their wisdom and might with the traditional “Omu” (palm frond) Any Aro man is free to go to anywhere during the slave trade period but without Omu he could incur the danger of being sold into slavery. Any Aro man sold to slavery were identified by the secret word “Aka Ike Jim” meaning strong hands are holding me, on hearing that the merchants would immediately release the victim or else they will incur the wrath of Ibini Ukpabi the long juju of Arochukwu. Aros who were slaughtered during slave trade where remembered in the occasion as “Aka Ike Jim” a feast like the Passover feast of the Israelites that was later called Ikeji.

The fouth version was of the view that the story on the Origin of Ikeji was widely accepted as it is connected with New Yam festival celebration. Since yam is the main celebration of Ikeji, it cannot be unconnected with Yam. In traditional Arondizuogu society only men plant yam. The Aros take some of their names and titles after yam, such names are as follows:

Ugoji- the eagle yam

Ezeji – the king yam

Ikeji – the strength yam

Umeji – the loveth yam

Okparaji – the son of yam

The feast was derived from “Ji Isi” which is the uprooting of the first tubers in the soil during the second harvesting season. Ikeji also mean the method of preserving Yam by tying it on the stakes in the barn. With also these, they believe that Ikeji has its root and origin in yam.

Ikeji festival could not have been celebrated today if it were not a practical handover pattern. Aro man is a strong believer and worshipper of God- “chukwu”. They depict it by their respect to Ndichies and elders as people close to chukwu. Aro man believes and is convinced in all knowing, seeing, loving care and guidance of his ancestors (Ndichies).this respect for chukwu through Ndichies resulted in a ritual like form called Ikeji festival.

PERIOD/PROCESS OF CELEBRATION

Ikeji festival is a feast celebrated by almost all Aros in Igbo land especially Arochukwu, Arondizuogu and Aro Ajalli. In Arondizuogu it is celebrated every April each year often falling alongside Easter. It is a festival that signifies the myth and power of the Aros all over Igbo Land especially during the slave trade era. It was their victories and achievement that motivated them into celebrating this festival and popularly is referred to as Ikeji which means the power that holds yam. Ikeji appears to be like a relay race that holds meaning from the past, runs through the present and it is geared towards the future and is one of the secrets held by the Aros to keep influence over the rest of Igbo people.

Certain preparations are done to commemorate Ikeji festival before its celebration proper. After harvest experience each year, Aro man has a way of giving thanks and praise to “chukwu” God. It involves a lot of purchase of food stuff and provision for making sacrifices and offerings. The festival celebration is preceded by “Eke” market (the only market for the whole Arondizuogu) and the market is popularly referred to as “Eke Odu Ikeji”. Animals ranging from goat and fowl are bought as well as yams, salt, oil, pepper etc in readiness for the Ikeji feast .They believe that all the items sold on the market day are provided by ancestors.

The second day which is “Orie day” is popularly known as “Orie Ogbugbu” a day set aside for all sacrifices to the ancestors in thanksgiving and seeking for their blessing and protection during the festival. They make the sacrifices in order to balance the gap between him and chukwu.

On the “Afor” day which is the day of the main festival celebration, where women exhibit their cooking talent, different types of foods are prepared in each family home, people eat and drink as much as they like. All the masquerades from the villages in Arondizuogu assemble at the village square to perform on that day. They call it “Agbaa-Anaa Ogu” meaning anything can happen. They also thank the spirits for the protection of everyone throughout the period of the festival celebration and also blessings are sought for, till the coming feast.

FEATURES OF THE FESTIVAL

  1.  Incitation into the Mmonwu society: The incitation is often expensive, it takes place in the month of September and is been conducted by elders. The Ekulu Mmonwu society is constituted by the elders and they always prepares themselves for the annual celebration and life time ceremony for the youths.  During the preparation they abstain from any type of sexual relationship, injustice and lies. While most of them also abstain from themselves from food cooked by woman. From the above, the elders also fast and pray for those to be initiated so that they will be true patriots who would enhance the spirit of the Aro man-ship.
  2.  Masquerading or “Oso Mmonwo”: This is the most interesting part of the festival; it takes place in two days on Afor and Nkwo market days. It is the greatest period of masquerade performance in Arondizuogu. On that day people move around in the whole town in search of masquerade for their entertainment. The masquerade perform during the festival each with its own function, first is the “Mgbadike” father of the masked spirit, “Aburuja” the mother of masked spirit and their son “Ojionu” others  are “Okwo mma azuzu”. The masquerades are accompanied by flute player (Onye Oja) who transmits spiritual messages to the masked spirits. Also accompanied by the masquerade is the praise singer called “Okwo mkpokpo” he does not use instrument for role except his excellent voice.
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  4. Sacrifices before the festival: Aro man makes sacrifices in order to balance the gap between him and chukwu, the father of a family or the eldest men in the kindred is normally entrusted with the responsibility of promoting the rites of Ikeji. He gathers all Ndichies in form of carved symbolic scared woods and pours liberation on them while calling upon all the ancestors of the kindred to come and accept kola.

 

Ikeji festival holds a lot of potentials for the burgeoning tourism industry. Tourists are welcome to visit these festival and they have rich culture of hospitality. The festival is attractive, well organized and it varies from the nature and that forms an amalgam of attraction for the visiting tourist.

encyclopedia.logbaby.com

Updated 1 Year ago
 

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