REVUE: Ighele Age Group Festival Thrills In Uneme Akpama
Festivals have become binding links amongst Nigerian communities which western artificial formats can never uproot. This is in spite of invasions of foreign cultures, as long as the various communities are focused on their ways of life.
Masquerades specifically enhance this aspect, which is defined through songs, patterns of performances and costume productions.
The Unema Akpama in Akoko Edo Local Government Council Area of Edo State have kept this ageless commitment going for years through its Ighele Age Group Festival held every 15 years during which the celebrants make colourful and varied costumes produced under guarded secrets in the forest.
Each celebrant, under the supervision of elders, produce individual costumes for their masquerades patterned on designs of their choices, utilizing materials available within their surroundings. Dyed raffia in colours of choice basically form sthe outfits which make them very light in weight.
The facial masks are carved from equally lightwood: the paintings differentiate individualistic choices. The Ighele Age Group Festival create an astonishing turn-out of members of Unema Akpama community wherein songs and instrumentation unfold an inexplicable beautiful atmosphere during which food, drinks of assorted types are consumed, but with air of absolute immunity.
Expectedly, the countless masquerades are controlled by the elders, as they come out in turns into the square to perform before the elders and the village head, His Highness, Allen Benson Odiko, who is based in Lagos.
On how he runs the affairs of his community while based outside, he chuckled and said, “My people are one family. The elders sustain the daily affairs and as I don’t have to live on their contributions to run my palace, there’s no vacuum between us.
We are mostly farmers and this ceremony has established a permanent continuity in the governance of the community”. Masquerades are sprayed with money while on stage with a deafening ovation of songs and dexterous level of instrumentation that creates a frenzied atmosphere.
The village masquerades are heralded onto the square to perform and this marks the outing. They then file out on a single line into the dressing location to pull off the costumes.
They troop back to join their folks while the drinking and eating continues. A poster openly displayed on the mud wall of one of the buildings prompted an exchange with one of the elders sipping from a glass of locally brewed drink the stances of the parties around them. * Abudah, a journalist, documentalists and founder of Afenmai Heritage and Cultural Studies, wrote in from Benin City, Edo State
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