It sounds bizzare, but true. It is also not fettish, but a traditional belief held over-time. OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU writes on how a masquerade festival in Anambra community correlates with fertility.
To some it may sound fettish, a myth or dogma, but many believe it and it seems to be working for them. Thus a popular saying that another man’s food could be another man’s poison holds water here. This could be why young couples, pregnant women, men, the old and young people of Nando in Anambra East local government area of Anambra state were in joyous mood on May 23, 2020 while celebrating the month that gives them male children, ensures fruitfulness and bountiful harvest.
The day was bright with a friendly sunshine. Fresh air breezed in and out of Nando, an agrarian community as her people marked their masquerade festival also known as ‘Igu Aro’ or ‘New Year’. The month is sometimes referred to as ‘Onwa Nge’ (the month of rainfall or first month of the year).
Onwa Nge, probably drew from the Lunar Calendar that ushers in the planting season in Nando. In the community, it’s culturally wrong to farm any crop be it mechanised, subsistence or garden before the event. Although one may not be physically prosecuted for going contrary to the tradition, but according to their traditional myth, God knows how best to pay defaulters accordingly in the agrarian community. Hence, majority, if not all, abide by it.
Blueprint also learnt that in the course of this celebration or month, every couple desiring a male child, children of any sex specification beget them. So also are those praying for spouses, fruitfulness, bountiful harvest or progress in any areas of their lives, endeavour, discipline or profession. As a result, natives of Nando, in-laws and children, friends and well wishers usually travel from far and beyond to actively participate in the masquerade festival.
The celebration, a carnival of sort honours by even birds sing life to green vegetation, while sounds of Ogene (metal gong), oja (flutes) and other modern and ancient dancing troupes and masquerades entertain the crowd of listening airs and viewers. Others adding glamour to the event were youths mostly men exchanging pleasantries by hitting each other with agba (stick), the affluence and the poor drinking from the same source or eating local delicacies from the same plates.
Even a mild raindrop that interferes while the event is on that day became a blessing in disguise as the people defied it by going about their festivities and it bowed to the sun immediately.
Officiated by Igwe Onukwube Udemezue of Oragu Ubarunisioye, Nando, the event draws crowd; some clad with white or red regalia depicting purity and spirituality, others in other colourful attires as they march to special locations and round the village square with special dancing steps. Elders and chief priests pray for the entire community at the end.
Officiating priest speaks
According to Mr Chukwujioke Akansi, Eze Ani (The priest in charge of land), the exercise usually falls within April or May annually. “Anyone who cultivates this time shall reap bountiful harvest. We plant yam, cassava and others. We have not done that although the state or federal government may have flagged off planting season. Ours start immediately this celebration is concluded.
“Again, any of our women who gives birth this month is going to deliver a male child. Those searching for fruits of the womb are usually blessed according to their desires. That is why you are seeing this mammoth crowd. This is too small compared to what we used to experience every year. The lockdown and boundary closure due to COVID-19 prevented a lot of us from returning home. Most of the people you’re seen here are those living within Anambra state,” Akansi explained.
The traditional ruler of Nando, Regent Chinedu Nwakonuche, who disclosed that the event does not discriminate against people across religious inclinations, described it as a unifying factor to Christians and African traditionalists owing to its significance and impacts in the society.
Nwakonuche averred that “We usually celebrate it on Nkwo Market day which is our market day in Nando. Ubahu Isioye and Akamanato Nando are empowered to officiate the activities. There is no one who celebrates it with purity and faith that would not get whatever he or she asks of God. That is why it is unique and special to all.”
The Chief Priest, Igwe Onukwube Udemezue, while officiating the celebration, said it was a tradition and cultural festivity which would never be stamped out by anyone, modernism or westernisation.
“This has been in existence before I was born. No one can tell how it started exactly because it is older than all. It is an Igbo tradition. Whoever upholds it shall enjoy longer life and prosperity. It is cultural not fetish. Africans would move forward when they respect culture and tradition, “ Udemezue added.
An indigene’s perspective
Contributing, Hon Christopher Nwakor, the former president general of Nando Progressive Union, said that Christians were not against it because it hasnt any form of fetishness.
“I wouldn’t be here if it has any form of evil attached to it. I have been an advocate of abolishment of any culture that is anti human. As a young person, I wouldn’t want anything wrong to happen to my people. We can’t set a bad precedence to our children because our fathers did not do that to us.
“This is why you’re seeing me eating and drinking with my age groups and mates. We are lovely. Whoever comes for this celebration in good faith shall be rewarded immensely. I know someone whose wife was barren for years but they became parents after being prayed for in this kind occasion. I also know many people who recorded turn-around in their businesses after this,” Nwakor added.
He said they were working towards making it a tourism attraction event that would also attract people from all continents of the world.
“We had planned to start that this year but coronavirus came. We agreed that everyone must come home with at least a visitor. We are still going to achieve that in the future starting from next year. I am begging everyone to embrace African culture. The Europe who brought Christianity to us have theirs which they still uphold till date. We can’t run away from ours. But we must continuously refine to remove any aspect that is evil,” he further submitted.