Cultural Delight | Nigerian Festivals
Festivals are so colorful and in a country like Nigeria where there are a lot of tribes it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we have numerous festivals in the country. While some haven’t happened in a while because of security challenges or lack of funding, quite a number of them still occur. The festivals mostly celebrate their culture, deities, wars, a new season and much more. While some of the festivals don’t have huge followings anymore due to the influence of Christianity and Islam and some believing they are now archaic or old school, there are still beautiful nonetheless.
- Argungu Festival usually held in February, it celebrates the end of years of feuding between the Kebbi Kingdom and the Sokoto Caliphate. It’s 4 days of festivities which ends with a fishing competition and a grand prize of $7,500. The festivals include agriculture, craft exhibitions and a boxing/wrestling match. This festival attracts people from different countries and all over Nigeria and did alot to improve the socio-economic situation of the area. Unfortunately safety concerns put a halt to it but the Emir of Argungu has declared it will hold next year and plans have already started to ensure it does.
- Fancy masquerades running around with hats and staffs dancing the day away,? Then Eyo Festival is the one for you. Celebrated in Lagos and sometimes known as the ‘Adamu Orisa Play’, the Eyo Festival when bringing in a new king and bidding farewell to the soul of the previous one. During the festival, Tinubu Square is closed so as to allow easy access from Idumota to Iga-Idungaran Palace (the main residence of the Oba of Lagos). The masquerades are to represent the spirits of the dead (hence the white outfit). There is no specific month set aside for it as it mostly takes place when a reigning king passes away. At the festival, hats cannot be worn; shuku, okadas (motorcycles), smoking and the wearing of sandals are not allowed. If you err, you’ll be sure to get a beating from the masquerades.
- Yams are apparently the first crops to be harvested and to celebrate the end of the rainy season and to show that harvest season has officially ended, the Igbo celebrate New Yam Festival also known as Iwa Ji. It reinforces how important yams are to the Igbo culture and beliefs. Before the festival, the old yams are consumed as once the festival is celebrated, a new work cycle begins. On the day of the festival, only yam is served or meals made from yam. The festival can either be a day or a week long affair. In the morning, the Igwe or the eldest man offers the new yam to their ancestors, the gods and God thanking them for protection, surplus and their kindness. He eats the first yam as the middle man and then everyone is free to eat and share to friends. Other aspects of the festival includes cultural dances, parades and much more. It is an important festival to Igbo folks both home and abroad.
- Osun Festival celebrates the goddess Osun and is held in August after the rains. People from near and far, home and abroad all troop to the sacred shrine and pay homage to her for protecting them and giving the women children. It lasts for 2 weeks and starts of with a cleanse of the town Iwopopo. After 3 days, a 500 year old, 16 point lamp is lit. This is called ‘olojomerindinlogun‘. The crowns of all the kings are then gathered together and blessed by the arugba, yeye osun, a comitte of priestesses and the sitting Ataoja of Osogbo town. This is called ‘Iboriade‘. The arugba is the most important person as she then leads the procession to the Osun River. She carries a calabash on her head and must be a virgin. Her calabash is said to contain sacrifices and she is also seen as a goddess and people cast their problems on her to plead for them. Suzanne Wenger also helped in making this festival famous and it sees millions of people especially North Americans come to partake.
- For every Fulani man, he must go through a rite of passage known as Sharo or Shaadi. During this festival, the Fulani men are escorted bare chested by women and then flogged. They must survive the flogging to prove they are men. If they are able to do this, they are also allowed to get married. This festival is usually carried out in the market place and the person doing the flogging is usually of the same age, size and weight of the individual hes flogging. It is usually done twice, during the dry season and Id El Kabir. Dances and performances are also carried out during the performances.
What other interesting festivals are you aware of? Have you attended any in Nigeria? Let us know in the comments section.