Ikeji Festival in Arochukwu: A Rich Cultural Tradition

Uche emmanuel chigozie


The Ikeji Festival in Arochukwu is a celebration deeply rooted in the history and culture of the Aro Kingdom. It marks the transition from the farming season to the harvest and is a time for Aros to come together in unity and celebration. This vibrant festival, which spans 17 days in the month of September each year, holds great significance and offers a unique insight into Arochukwu's customs and traditions.

The Ikeji Period:

During the Ikeji month, Aros are expected to adhere strictly to their cultural norms, ethics, and traditions. It is a period of reverence and thanksgiving, where burials, mourning gatherings, violence, civil disobedience, and public protests are strictly prohibited. Death during this time is seen as a bad omen and is treated with solemnity. The Ikeji period is dedicated to rectitude, entertainment, charity, philanthropy, and recreation.

Celebrating Arochukwu Tradition:

The Ikeji Festival provides a platform to celebrate and showcase Arochukwu tradition and culture in its purest form. It serves as a hub for entertainment, tourism, and cultural reunions, with delegations from Aro settlements across Igbo land and beyond participating. The festival includes seminars, lectures on Aro cultures, visits to historic cultural sites, libation ceremonies, kola-nut exchanges, and homage to Aro traditional institutions. Traditional dances, masquerades, and diverse cultural displays are also featured.

Communion with Ancestors and Peace-building:

Ikeji is a time for Aros to commune with their ancestors, fostering reconciliation, peace-building, conflict resolution, and self-help development projects. The influx of visitors and tourists into Arochukwu during this period contributes to the cultural vibrancy of the festival. Families come together, friendships are formed, and business boundaries expand.

The 2016 Ikeji Festival:

The 2016 Ikeji Festival aimed to revive and strengthen Aro culture, addressing the growing threat to Nigerian culture and values from imported Western lifestyles. The theme, "Our Culture, Our Identity, Our Pride," emphasized the importance of preserving ancient Aro cultures that had been overlooked in the past. All 19 villages in Aro Kingdom and Aro Settlements in Igbo land showcased their cultures, highlighting Aro unity in diversity.

The Ikeji Calendar:

The Ikeji Festival follows a carefully planned calendar, each stage with its significance:

1. Afor Okpo Na-Za Awada: Sweeping of Awada Aro.

2. Afor Mbape Awada: Sweeping of Awada Aro by the Amuze clan.

3. Afor Ndulasa Nwaekpe: Sacrifices and libations to the ancestors.

4. Nkwo Nku: Women fetch firewood as a gesture of respect for elders.

5. Eke Agba Udu: Aro Aristocrats from Amuze perform rituals.

6. Orie Awa: Presentation of symbolic sacrifice.

7. Afor Awa: Arrival of Ikeji visitors.

8. Nkwo Ekpe Ibom-Isii: Cultural displays and wrestling matches.

9. Eke Ekpe Arochukwu: The climax with diverse Aro cultures on display.

10. Orie Ubi Lee Avo: Return of the ancestral staff of office.

11. Afor Ndula Nwa-Ekpe: Return of Nwa Ekpe to Awada Aro.

12. Nkwo Nwupu Mmai Ibom Isii: Reopening of Ncheghe market.

13. Eke Nwupu Mmai Na Amuze: Aristocrats of Ibom Isii visit Amuze.

The Ikeji Festival in Arochukwu is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Aro Kingdom. It provides a unique opportunity to celebrate tradition, unity, and the vibrant culture of the Aro people. This annual event not only entertains but also serves as a platform for reconciliation, peace-building, and community development. It is a testament to the enduring strength of Arochukwu's customs and traditions, which continue to thrive in the modern world.

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