The Annual "Igbatu Oba Ji Yam Festival" Of Owerri-West - A Cultural Event Extraordinaire
By Iheme Kelechi 5 months ago
The annual "Igbatu Oba Ji Yam Festival of the people of Owerri-West, in Imo State, is one event that always attract dignitaries, government officials and tourists.
During this epoch making cultural event, guests are led by the 21 traditional rulers of the communities that make up Owerri-West Local Government Area of Imo State to the makeshift "yam barn" which will be located somewhere within the festival arena.
Dressed in their stunning royal apparels, the 21 traditional rulers of the communities in Owerri-West LGA are expected to mill around the yam barn like bees around the honey pot, waiting for the Chairman, Council of Ndi Eze in Owerri-West, to reach for the two long sticks crossed to form an ‘X’ shape, which stand always at the entrance of the barn, to separate them and this mark the opening of the yam barn. This particular task of the Chairman, Council of Ndi-Eze Owerri-West always draw thunderous applause from the crowd. That will be the atmosphere at the venue.
The festival, as old as the communities that make up the area, celebrates the unlocking of the yam barns before the commencement of a new farming season. It’s the official opening of the entrance to the yam barn or open warehouse where the harvested yams are stored for safekeeping until the next planting season.
The festival, is usually celebrated in the month of February or March, though it may be shifted to a later date should the need arise.
Interestingly, following the successful outing of previous years editions, which was organised by the Presidents-General of the 21 communities, the traditional rulers as custodians of culture and tradition of the people no longer wait to make excuses for the next festival, hence they are always at forefront to headline the symbolic marking of Igbatu Oba Ji festival nowRelated: Ahiajoku Lecture: Prof. Michael Echeruo Rubbishes Igbo-Jewish Link In Ogueri Mba 2019 Presentation
Indeed, it is always a colourful ceremony, that showcases the enterprising spirit of the Owerri people. At the event, the communities are expected to wear their best cultural clothings, then take turns to showcase their cultural dances and skills, with the Omenimo dance troupe leading the way.
The Igbatu Oba Ji is a celebration that depicts the prominence of yam in the socio-cultural life of our people. Reputed to be a uniting factor for the people, the festival naturally evoke fond memories of greatness through hard work. Yam is the main agricultural crop of the Igbo and also the staple food of the people.
Royal fathers from different communities, government officials, politicians, community leaders, friends and residents always look up for the next festival to throng the venue in their tens of thousands.
Hospitality and friendship of the people will be on display as visitors will be treated to uncommon scenes, including the royal dances and the traditional unveiling of the yam barn. The traditional rulers equally add colour and glamour to the event with their unique dresses and sundry dance steps.
Indeed, every "Igbatu Oba Ji Yam Festival" of Owerri-West LGA in Imo State is always a time to relish.
One of the highlights of the festival is the welcoming of guests by the traditional rulers who will be accompanied by their wives and presentation of kola nut and subsequent visit to the yam barn to open it and perhaps, signal the beginning of the new planting season.
According to research, the essence of the festival is to showcase the culture and tradition of the people in terms of their agricultural activities to the world.
According to an indigene of the area, “Our cultural festivals are veritable platforms for us to propagate or project our values, identity, beliefs, social and economic interests as a people,” he said.