Culture is the beliefs, values, behaviours and material objects that constitutes a people’s way of life. Every nation, country, community or society has cultures which differentiates them from another.
The Iwa-akwa festival is one of the beautiful Igbo cultured which is been celebrated every 3years interval and it is usually done choosing a date in the last week of December or first week of January depending on the community.
The Iwa-akwa festival is a cultural heritage of the people of Okigwe senatorial district of Imo State, mainly celebrated by the Mbanos’, Obowos’ Etiti etc. Although other communities does it such as Mbaise, Orlu, Abia state and some parts of Enugu though with a different name. This is one of the beautiful cultures that has refused to die despite the claims of Christianity which has wiped other beautiful cultures. It also attracts so many tourists both from within and outside Nigeria.
The Iwa-akwa festival is a ceremony where young men who are between the ages of 26 to 33years of age are been initiated into manhood and given the opportunities to make their contributions in social cultural and political affairs of the community. In this stage of life they can now sit with elders, wine, dine, discuss issues as it affects the community and suggests solutions, they also contribute financially as the case may be.
There are five (5) processes of been initiated into the manhood and they are been discussed below.
1Age Grade Selection process
This is usually the beginning of the iwa-akwa process, it is the first stage of the process. In this stage the people who have reached the age for the next Iwa-akwa are been selected. The Selection process starts with a particular age bracket usually 3years (e.g 1988,1989,1990 etc)
The people who falls into this age bracket will come together and form an age grade union with a name and a slogan which will be chosen after a random suggestions and voting. The name and slogan chosen are usually names which defines success and or progress.
Elections are done to choose executives who will pilot the affairs of the group from that day to the D-day (I.e. Iwa-akwa festival day). The executives will now sit down decides the attire or uniform they will wear or be recognised , with their name and year of Iwa-akwa festival written on it.
This executives exercise the rights to call for meetings from time to time and pass across informations to members incase of any new developments. They also make sure every member contributes financially and if there is any defaulters, they penalise the person based on set down rules and regulations.
2ICHU – OGBOR
This is usually a period between the age grade selection process to the time their immediate seniors will do their own Iwa-akwa festival. Within this period, they prepare themselves to make sure their immediate seniors have a successful events by preparing themselves financially, mentally, physically or psychologically for the Iwa-akwa festival.
3ATA – NKUME
The Ata-Nkume is a part of the iwa-akwa preparation which is only done once in a family lifetime by the first son. It is a right only meant for the first son to perform.
In the Ata-Nkume, which can be done at anytime but must be either few weeks or months before the iwa-akwa festival, the first son goes to his Maternal home with palm wine, Kola and other things as tradition require, to inform his Maternal people that their daughter’s first son has reached the age of becoming a full grown man in the society and also using the same medium to invite them to the Iwa-akwa festival. During this gathering in his Maternal home, a big party is usually organised where everybody eats, drinks and wish him well in life through their prayers and word of mouth.
4SHOWING THE ACT OF RESPECT TO THEIR IMMEDIATE SENIORS.
This stage usually come few days before the Iwa-akwa festival. During this stage the immediate seniors will assembly their immediate junior who have reached the age and about to participate in the Iwa-akwa festival few days from that day. After assembling them to a particular location, all the seniors will began to display some acts of seniority. This act ranges from sending then unnecessary errands, flogging them, asking them to clean their shoes, serving them drinks or foods etc..
This stage is very fun and interesting to watch or witness.
On the day of the Iwa-akwa all the young men who are participating in the festival will tie wrappers across the entrance into their compound with a bamboo stick holding the wrapper at the two-edged. As time is approaching for the event which starts with a procession, the immediate seniors will come and pull the tied wrappers down which signifies authority to proceed and join the manhood and any house they refuse to pull down their wrappers means that such person will not participate though it is rare for this to occur unless such person erred in so many ways which could either be not paying his dues or not giving due respect to the elders.
After the wrappers have been pulled down, the participant will come out of their houses to form a line wearing beautiful traditional attires, some dress like kings, senators, kings, chiefs, etc with a big wrapper crossed round their neck or tied to their waist with either the mother, sister , girlfriend or wife holding the tail of the wrapper at one end to prevent it from touching the ground.
The Iwa-akwa ceremony starts with a procession of all the candidates who have attained and satisfied the requirements to become a full grown man. It starts from all the villages that makes up the community with the most senior village leading the procession and moving with their individual music bands playing as they proceeds to the community square where the king and his cabinet are waiting patiently for their arrivals, to address , bless and officially proclaiming and welcoming them into manhood.
After this, the candidates who have now been initiated into the manhood will now be carried by somebody on the shoulder dancing like a victorious warrior and singing “Dede anyi awara akwa eeee.. Dede anyi awara akwa eeee…” (I.e. our big brother is now a full grown man).
After the blessings and the concluding rights might have been observed, the King now orders them while dismissing the event to go, rejoice and be a responsible citizen, after which the king leaves with his cabinet.
The Ojukwu bomb is blown, a sign showing that the event has been concluded and the participants can now go home and entertain their guests.
Every participants will now proceed to their various homes to see their guests and entertain them. During the entertainment, the newly initiate are seen dancing as the DJ plays his musics and their guests spraying money on them.