Nigeria is a blessed country with hundreds of diverse ethnic groups that share both individual and collective cultures. As diverse as these groups are, certain festivals annually unite them and keep all differences aside. One of these many celebratory festival is the ‘Iwa ji’ festival which is commonly known as the ‘New yam eating festival.’ Iwa ji which is also referred to as ‘Emume iri ji ohuru’ or ‘Ife ji oku’ is a coalescing factor within various communities in Igbo land.  The iwa ji festival is commonly practiced among the Igbos of the south eastern Nigeria and holds annually between the months of August and October.

The New Yam Festival is a celebration depicting the prominence of yam in the life of Igbo people and it symbolises the end of a harvest period and the beginning of another planting season. In Igbo society, the culture of cutting, iwa; and eating, iri; of the first yam is performed by the oldest man in the community or the Eze, King. In the evening before the day set aside for the festival, all old yams harvested during the previous season are either discarded or eaten. Since the iwa ji symbolizes the beginning of a new season, it is expedient that all yam eaten has to be fresh and tasty.

The iwa ji festival is culturally rooted in ancient Igbos who were agrarians and also measured their wealth through the sizes of their yam barns and numbers of yam tubers owned. Though the duration of the festivals vary, as some last for days while others can last for a week or month, the festival is always kicked off with the roasting of a full yam, done by the chief, and then sacrificed to the yam or earth god, Ohajoku as an appreciation for the good harvest. Thereafter, the celebration can then roll into full fun gear. To cook the tubers of yam for a New Yam Festival, the women make use of Fresh Palm Oil, Salt, Utazi, Pepper, Onions, Crayfish, among others.  Afterwards, Two special delicacies which include Boiled White Yam (with its tubers) coupled with its red oily sauce; and Yam Porridge (Ji-awayi) is then prepared for the men to eat.

During the Iwa ji festivals, the guest are entertained with the Royal Dance, Igba-Eze Dance, Cultural Dance, Masquerade Parade & Dance and melodious musical rendition by various groups in the community. While the festival is ongoing, children partake in a ritual body wash which basically prepares them to partake in the eating and celebrating of the iwa ji. The cultures showcased during the new yam festival over the years has been witnessed and studied by both tourist and sociologist. The festival has withstood the test of time and it is still being celebrated by many irrespective of education, religion and modernization.

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