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Ugwogo Nike is a community in Nike clean, under Enugu East Local Government Area Enugu State in Eastern part of Nigeria in Western Africa. African cultural and traditions has being our pride.
The new yam festival in Ugwogo Nike was reported to be as old as the community itself. It is said that the natives grew up to meet the tradition and that it was handed-down from generation to generation and will continue to be so till the end of time.
Before the advent of Christianity, New Yam Festival was the most important and most colorful festival in Ugwogo Nike community. It marked the end of the traditional year and the beginning of a new one. The festival was (and is still) used to appreciate the gods for the gift of life, protection, bountiful harvest and for bringing celebrants into a new traditional year. Over the years, with the coming of Christianity, Christian festivals such as Christmas, New Year and Easter have gained dominance but not displacing or diminishing the cultural significance of the New Yam Festival in the community.
The significance of New Yam Festival is based on its embodiment of the cherished values of the community. The status of yam as the king of all crops in the community, like in every other Igbo community means that the crop and its festival occupy a special place in the way of life of the people. The festival provides much needed holiday and opportunity to strengthen relationships through visits between in-laws, family members and friends; and exchange of gifts. It is used as occasion to reconcile differences and promote brotherliness, friendship and peaceful coexistence in the community. Friends and acquaintances and other lover of cultures from the 24 villages in Nike Clan and beyond are usually invited to feasts during the New Yam Festival which strengthen bonds of friendship and promote peaceful coexistence.
Furthermore, the Obere Ugwogo festive market which is the high point of every New Yam Festival celebration in the community provides opportunity for exhibition and sales of new harvests of yam by farmers and this promotes the spirit of healthy competition, hard work, excellence and positive pride.
The elders of these villages are traditionally charged with the responsibility of determining the appropriate date for observing New Yam Festival, usually in the month of August, which coincide with the period of harvest. The rebuilding of the yam-house signifies that new yam is due for harvest. The date is scheduled ahead of eight market days (one month), which is then conveyed to the lgwe (king) who is the traditional ruler of the community, and his ruling council. It is the Igwe that announces this date to the entire community.
New Yam Festival (Iri ji ọhuru) in Ugwogo Nike community begins as from four days earlier to the main date, in the ancestral shrine of Ugwu Ugwogo, followed by other shrines of Uhu-aja and Arabarata. The Custodian of these Shrines usually called Attama Ugwu, Attama Uhuaja and Attama Arabarata will be the first to grace the festival and the unveiling of the year’s new yam. They will through various rituals thank the gods (Ugwu Ugwogo, Ufiajioku, Uhuaja and Arabarata) and the departed souls of the heroes in the community for life, for good health, for bountiful harvests, and for averting calamities in the community. It is these rituals that properly kick off the following preparations. Community sanitations will kick off, youths within the grades of Agu Offor, Agu Ezi and Agu na enwero afa (18 years and above) will start with the cutting of grasses, filling of pot-holes, rebuilding of the temporal masquerades’ stands, the women will start decorating themselves with local cortex(ufie and ngarula), drying the Uchakiri leaves in preparations for the great uchakiri soup, men will be going to harvest tubers of yam from their farms while the civil servants who do not have farms will be coming to buy from them in Obere Ugwogo festive markets.
On Orie market day, which is always the eve of the new yam is always a busy day. It is on this day that members of the community make purchases of the essential things for celebration of New Yam. On the second day, which is usually Afor market called Nkwo that members of the community embarked on cutting of sticks that are traditionally used for harvesting new yam and children will go to farms to cut grasses that when put in fire and struck to a surface will give off a gun like sounds. However, traditional title-holders are free to harvest their yams on this day. The third day, being Nkwo market day, is the feast of new yam. It is marked with the harvest of new yam, breaking of the yam and thanksgiving Sacrifices are made by the Igwe of the Community with his Cabinets and Ndi Oha (The eldest men from each of the five villages that makes up Ugwogo Nike) in the community as the villagers watch in excitements. Shortly after the Iwa Ji (breaking of the yam) ceremony, other activities like wrestling, dances, show of masquerades, joyful rallies and etc will follow. After these, everybody will go back to their various houses to eat and drink and entertain their guests before they will all converge in the village square (Obere) for the display of the Egwugwu, Ijele, and Omambala masquerades from different villages that makes up Ugwogo Nike Community. That is how we celebrate our new yam festival from time in memorial till the time ends.