Culture they say is an embodiment of peoples way of life. It is a transitional historical fact, passed from one generation to another. People without cultural heritages are considered doomed in life as culture is an intrinsic factor that defines your personality, identity and perception. Thus, culture is crucially considered as the nucleus of human existence.
Inview of this, Igbo race which predominately occupies the South Eastern region of Nigeria in the present dispensation, is seen as a conquered race as advent of Christianity and Western civilization seems to have eroded them most of their cultural heritages. The ethnic group itself dwells in cultural confusion as they allowed Westernization to rob them most of their cultural identity like Igbu awa cultural Fiesta.
Last Saturday, despite the heavy down pour, Dr. Michael Chineme Anyaeze, a Consultant Urinological Surgeon of Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, the Traditional Prime Minister of Umuezike Umuezeala –Ama autonomous Community in Ehime Mbano Council area of Imo State redefined and hosted the 10th Foremost Igbu awa cultural fiesta, a unifying cultural heritage that have been unfortunately allowed to go into extinction by many communities in Igbo land. In those days when men were men, this is one cultural identity that every Igbo Community must celebrate four days after their New Year festival. The festival which must be done on Eke market day is to mark the end of the New Year festival.
This is one cultural fiesta that offers the people, an opportunity to unity and reconciles every aggrieved family member. It is a festival which its bedrock borders on the need for men as leaders of families to be humble and give adequate respect to womanhood, considering the fact that no matter how strong a man is, he must be weak the moment he sleeps in between the laps of a woman.
During the festival, Dr. Anyaeze who is popularly known as Ikoro Okigwe really justified that he is a cultural ambassador as all the stages involved in Igba-Awa was clinically exhibited with cultural finesse starting with the traditional presentation of Kola nut in Ibari awa by eminent cultural personalities in attendance to the delivering of the 2019 Awa lecture with the theme: God’s Revelation Through Man.
One of the highlights of the Festival was when Dr. Anyaeze the head of the family led the other dignitaries with bare hands catch some crabs and put in side the big pot already on fire for the awa yam hot pepper soup with the crabs as special delicacy while the wife was in charge of the cooking.
The lesson of the crab in hot pot is that the crab by their nature swims rivers and oceans unhurt, but always get killed in a woman’s pot of soup, Just as men despite their feats in life always fail weak on the laps of women. Therefore, in all things men must be humble, respectful and loving to their wives and families, and never underestimate the power of women.
While waiting for the special yam pepper soup to be done, they all moved to another hut for the eating of awa oil bean delicacy and dilute it with fresh palm wine (nkwu-elu) no raffia wine (mmanya ngwu) is taking on awa day. The drink is taking with a calabash made cup called in local parlance as mpi and everybody drinks from the same keg as a sign of unity and love. Another significant thing is that after drinking the fresh palm wine, each person with the dreg that remains in his cup will pour libation to the ancestors as a mark of respect and sanctifications of the land.
Truly, this is a festival of special stages and interestingly in each of the stage it is wholistic in participation as the participants move to the burn fire arena. It is a period of rainy season and cold weather and above all the day is fast spent, the people sits round the burn fire to cushion cold and knowledgeable fairy stories will be told by mainly the elders.
The stories often have a link with their historical experiences as a community or individual as men who have passed through the universities of life.
According to Dr. Anyaeze “the knowledge driven from such stories are geared towards propelling the younger ones in facing the vicissitudes of life. It also guides them to be acquainted with their history, which they are and what should be their aspiration.”
It was after the burn fire that the festival again kick started with lots of cultural dances, wrestling contest, display of several local dishes and entertainment galore as everybody feels at home and happy.
For HRH Eze Aloysius Onyekachi Ksm, the traditional ruler of Ezeala Umuezeala –Ama ancient kingdom, “it is Umuezeala that tells the entire Mbano ancient nation, the right time for the new yam festival in August each year.”
Eze Onyekachi informed that the autonomous community is blessed in yam production and for years now, it has the annual blessing of producing the biggest yam ever uprooted in the entire Ehime Mbano and its environ.
According to him “Igbu awa is part of our cultural heritages from our ancestors, exhibited to round-off the celebration of the new yam festival and to appease the gods of the land then, but today Christianity have changed the system and we now believe in going to God’s altar for appreciation and thanksgiving.
The yam brought by the elders of the family are assembled and in the evening the women will cook the yam with live crabs put by the men when done everybody will eat from the same pot as a sort of family re-union and brings reconciliation. All the people taking part in the burn fire will eat yam crab pepper soup”.
The Royal father also informed that the month of August each year is considered a holy month in Igbo tradition while September which is the month of Igbu-awa is a month of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness.
Eze Onyekachi further disclosed that few days before Igbu-awa, that children within the community moves round the community doing minimal jobs and dancing so that yam and other food items will be given to them which they will donate during the festival. While lamenting on the dangers associated with the extinction of some good Igbo cultural heritages, he enjoined the ethnic group on the need to be alert in the protection and promotion of their remaining cultural identities.
In his contributions, HRH Eze Oliver Ohanwe, the Obi Gburugburu of Ihim autonomous community in Isiala Mbano Council area of Imo State who is also the Chairman,Okigwe Elder Forum described Igbu-awa as a veritable culture Igbo race while liking any society without culture to a broken home.
Eze Ohanweh who expressed gratitude to the chief host for being a cultural ambassador noted that every food and drinks used for the festival was harnessed from the chief host farms.
He enjoined the federal government as well as the other tiers of government to give agriculture and promotion of the peoples cultural identify a face lift.
The foremost traditional ruler while insisting that Igbu awa cultural fiesta is also a day of sober reflections among families noted that Igbo as a race is under serious cultural and survival threat and must seek ways to up turn the threats.
Similarly, Chief Jude Anyaeze, a community leader in Umuanyaeze kindred of Umuezealama autonomous community in Ehime Mbano Council area of Imo State noted that Igbu awa offers most grand children the opportunity to know their maternal homes and patriotically contributes in its development.