Home News Ibagwa-Nike New Yam Festival Goes International Next Year

Ibagwa-Nike New Yam Festival Goes International Next Year


By Pedro Iyiola,

On Aug. 16 this year, the people of Ibagwa-Nike community in Enugu State celebrated their New Yam Festival with foreign and local tourists saying it depicted the people’s peaceful nature and their culture at its best.

The tourists told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in interviews in Ibagwa-Nike that the event was thrilling and had the message of peace one could take home.

But one thing stands out amid the thrills and splendour of the event which is not only a festival observed by virtually every Igbo town, but a unifying factor among them.

Apparently, these aspects impressed the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) which has proposed internationalising the festival.

The New Yam Festival is an annual celebration among the Igbos of Eastern Nigeria and is usually held to thank God for the gift of life and a successful planting season. It is held between August and October with the date determined by each community..

The festivity is marked with breaking of kolanuts to offer prayers to God by the traditional ruler of the community and later the slicing and consumption of roasted yam tubers with palm oil, musical rendition by various groups, traditional dances and masquerade displays.

The splendour that goes with the celebration often attracted tourists and guests from other towns who are invited by their friends to share in their joy.

These potential of the festival, which includes promotion of the rich cultural heritage of the Igbo people and their peaceful nature, no doubt, attracted the authorities of NICO to partner with the Ibagwa-Nike town in this year’s celebration.

The Enugu State Head of NICO, Mr Nnaemeka Nwajagu, told NAN that the agency was pleased to have partnered with the community’s monarch, His Royal Highness, Igwe (Dr) Emmanuel Ugwu in celebrating the festival.

Nwajagu extolled the virtues of the traditional ruler, saying that he is man that has divine wisdom.

“When we (NICO), came to Enugu last three years, we paid him a courtesy visit and it was then he realised that we are the only government agency he could work with to showcase the cultural activities of the town.

“He then, requested us to partner with him in order for the federal government to have its presence in the town’s celebration of their unique cultural heritage.

“So far, we gave him special and professional advice which he followed, hence, the success we are witnessing today,’’ he said.
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Nwajagu disclosed that the agency would take advantage of the forthcoming “Ofala’’ festival (anniversary celebration of the ascension to the throne) of the traditional to further project the rich heritage of the kingdom and Enugu State in general.

“I want to tell you that by next year, the new yam festival is going to be adopted by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

“UNESCO contributes to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.

“NICO has done everything — researched and documented it and submitted it to UNESCO.

“So, by next year this festival is going to become one of the international festivals. It is no longer going to be just a South-Eastern activity.

“Therefore, as it’s being celebrated in Nigeria, it would also be celebrated in other countries where you have Igbo people living in the

On the significance of the festival, the traditional ruler of the kingdom told NAN that the people were indeed grateful to God for sparing their lives and for fruitful harvest and are manifesting that through the celebration.

“New Yam festival is regarded to be a traditional thing in the culture of Igboland but more importantly it has spiritual connotations.

“The mystical nature of yam is that you sow the head in the ground but God will take that; it will die, and another will sprout and produce a yam in the size that only God determines.

“It is God’s grace that we were able to plant, harvest and still be alive to eat the new yam because no human can boost of being the
creator those four mystical elements of air, water, earth and sun which help in the production of yam and sustains life.

“So, what we celebrate is that gift which we cannot afford to give to ourselves but which God has given to us through the mystical relationship of the four elements,’’ he said.

For the kindom’s Palace Secretary, Chief Jude Okwo, “it is a gracious moment that we are celebrating our annual New Yam festival and I am so happy about it. It is God’s blessing to us.

“This year’s festival is very commendable, it’s bigger than the previous years and this shows that we are growing annually.

“You have seen the various awards and recognition that have been given to our traditional ruler, so, it is a moment of affability. So we thank God’’.

One of the foreigners at the celebration, Mr Per Staffsen, a tourist from the Netherlands told NAN: “I am very honoured to be at this celebration to mark a successful planting season.

“I have never really taken part in a festival like this, and I can say it’s a very impressive and robust event.

“You don’t get this sort of festival or masquerade displays in any other part of the world’’.

Staffsen, who is also the Vice President, International Association of World Peace Advocates (IAWPA), said though it wasn’t his first time
in Nigeria, he found the people of Ibagwa-Nike peaceful.

“They and indeed the people of Nigeria are peace-loving and that is one message I will take home.’’

Also, Amb. Emmanuel Nweke, the spokesman for IAWPA, said that it had been very fantastic, adding that he loved the culture which he described as dynamic.

“I now have a very good knowledge about this African culture. You can see what happened at the playground, different masquerades came to display.

“They were not too hash to the people as against what I have seen in other societies; here masquerades have been very accommodating to both indigenes and non-indigenes,’’ Nweke said

Popular Nollywood actor, Nkem Owoh, a.k.a. “Osuofia’’, said that “this is not my first coming to Ibagwa-Nike.

“The festival is one of the most traditional, the most grounded tradition that we have — `Iriji or Iwaji’.

“So, anybody who wants to have a first-hand information on the foundation of the Igbo people’s culture must recognise Iwaji festival in Igboland’’.

Actor and movie producer Charles Awurum said: “It is always good to see the culture of other people so as to know how they live.

“When you move to see the culture of other people, you are happy; you marry it with your own culture and see if there are differences or areas you would love to adopt’’. (NANFEATURES)

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