IRI JI OHURU New Yam Festival

New Yam Festival

Culture, a way of life of a group of people exhibited in their behaviours, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them which are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. A Festival is said to be a performance that takes place annually, which is occasionally organized in the same place, time or season. It comprises dancing, music, eating and drinking.

Iri ji ohuru, also known as New Yam Festival as it is called by the Igbos, is an annual event that is held in high esteem and celebrated by the Igbo speaking tribe in West Africa, mainly Nigerians, it is placed with great importance than that Christmas day where dancing, drinking, and merrymaking is paramount. This cultural practice is held between July and August, towards the end of the rainy season to mark the end of harvest and the beginning of a new work cycle.

During the festival, natives from different clans and cities around the world come together, beautifully dressed and happy, as the essence of tradition eludes them and the reason for the season bounds them heartily with love and joy. Most times this occasion being fun-filled is never expected to come to an end due to the joy many gain from being a part of it. King of Crops (yam) as they call it, can not be eaten after yearly harvest without giving thanks to Chukwu (God) for an awesome farming season.

According to a popular myth about this festival, “It was said that during a severe famine, Igbo (from whom the tribe takes its name, was told that he must sacrifice his son, Ahiajoku, and his daughter, Ada, in order to save his other children. After they were killed, their flesh was cut into pieces and buried in several different mounds. A few days later, yams sprouted from the flesh of Ahiajoku, while cocoyams sprouted from the flesh of Ada. Igbo and his other children survived the famine by eating them. The spirit of Ahiajoku became the God of Yam. The myth of Ahiajoku is reenacted during the New Yam Festival each year. Each householder places four or eight new yams on the ground near a shrine. After saying some prayers, he cuts small portions off each end of the yams to symbolize the sacrifice of Ahiajoku. The yams are then cooked with palm oil, water, and chicken to make a dish that symbolizes the body and blood of Ahiajoku. The Igbo people consider the yam to be so sacred that at one time, anyone caught stealing it would be put to death. Today, such thieves are banished.”

People appear gorgeously and beautifully dressed for this event, putting on breathe taking smiles with their very best on the display. Men are usually dressed in Isiagu (Igbo attire) of various colours, ranging from gold and red patterns. It is worn over a plain trouser or Wrapper with accessories such as beads, a staff, horsewhips or hand fans and a matching cap. The women are seen clad with wrapper tired around their chest, with beautiful beads decorating their hair and lying peacefully on their necks. Young maidens appear wonderfully adorned with beautiful beads on their finely plaited hair, on their necks and waist respectively. Nice wrappers are wrapped around their waist and a matching piece around their bosom, with colourful paintings designed on their dazzling bodies, a wonderful sight that cannot be overlooked.

Public shows such as; Cultural dance, masquerade parades and wrestling matches by different age groups as well as grades, are performed. Mouthwatering meals of pounded yam, steaming pots of egusi, oha, and bitter leaf soups are not excluded. Roasted yams with palm oil, meat, garden eggs, kola nuts hot drinks and freshly tapped palm wines are also served, making the festival memorable.

Princess Love Onuorah

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