OFALA FESTIVAL In Eastern Nigeria | Interesting Things To Look Out For • illuminaija
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OFALA FESTIVAL In Eastern Nigeria | Interesting Things To Look Out For

   
   

OFALA FESTIVAL In Eastern Nigeria | Interesting Things To Look Out For

Nigerian tribes are known for thier colourful festivals held annually, bi-annually, to celebrate their beautiful diversified culture.

OFALA FESTIVAL In Eastern Nigeria | Interesting Things To Look Out For

The Igbos, Hausas, Yorubas have their own festivals showcasing the beauty of their culture. Apart from it serving as a form of entertainment, festivals are meant to keep the bond among its people.

Tourists from all over the world also troop in every year to see these beautiful showcases of culture such as the Agungun Festival, Eyo Festival, Osun Osogbo Festival, Yam Festival, Nnewi Festival, among others thereby generating revenue for the government.

In this article, we shall focus on the Ofala Festival. The Ofala Festival is an annual festival peculiar to the Igbo communities particularly the indigenes of Onitsha, Umueri, Umuoji, and other neighboring communities such as Aguleri, Nnewi, and Ukpo in Dunukofia Local Government Area.

The festival serves as a rite of renewal of the king or Igwe or Obi and it is similar to the Igue Festival in Benin and the Ine, Osi, or Ogbanigbe Festival in many mid-West Igbo communities of Nigeria.

The term ofala is derived from two Igbo words – ọfọ (meaning authority) and ala (land).

   
   

The festival is celebrated within two days mostly in October by the Obi (king) and is a customary obligation that must be performed every couple of years without fail.

Origin

OFALA FESTIVAL In Eastern Nigeria | Interesting Things To Look Out For

According to some oral history sources, the Ofala Festival can be traced back to the 16th Century when Onitsha people emigrated from Benin to the eastern banks of the River Niger presently known as the city of Onitsha and brought with them among other customs, the tradition of monarchy.

The festival is akin to the Igue Festival celebrated annually by the Oba of Benin. Some historians also believe the festival is related to the New Yam Festival in Onitsha and the devotion of the king to the safety of his people.

OFALA FESTIVAL In Eastern Nigeria | Interesting Things To Look Out For

The festival marks the end of a period of retreat sometimes called Inye Ukwu na Nlo. When the Obi remains incommunicado and undergoes spiritual purification for the good of the community.

At the end of the week-long retreat, the Igwe emerges during the Ofala to bless his subjects and say prayers for the community.

Ofala is celebrated annually in some places beginning from the coronation of the Obi to his death, the latter of which is called “the last Ofala” while other towns may require it to be celebrated every two to three years.

How is the Ofala Festival done?

The festival usually starts with a traditional twenty-one gun salute followed by an all-night Ufie (royal gong) drumming, dancing and other cultural activities.

In the afternoon, the Obi’s cabinet of chiefs, guests from other communities, age groups, women, and youth of the community usually throng the palace grounds or Ime Obi dressed in traditional or ceremonial attires befitting the festival occasion.

The royal music or Egwu Ota is played during the entrance of the Ndichie or red cap chiefs who arrive after the gathering of the crowd and bringing along a few of their friends and family members their procession to the palace.

OFALA FESTIVAL In Eastern Nigeria | Interesting Things To Look Out For

The highlight of the festival is the emergence of the Obi in his royal regalia to the cheer of the crowd, a cannon shot announces the entrance of the Obi who is usually dressed in ceremonial robe and carries a bronze sword on his hand, he walks to the sides of the arena or a third of the arena acknowledging the cheers of the gathering.

The Obi then retires and subsequently, the red cap chiefs pays homage to him according to seniority, thereafter both the Obi and the chiefs reappear after the firing of another cannon shot.

During the second appearance the Obi dances in the arena, something that is rarely seen and his steps cover more distance than the first appearance. Then the visiting chiefs and guests pay homage to the Obi.

The festival is also sometimes an occasion for the Obi to honour individuals with chieftaincy titles.

   
   

The Ofala festival is a season for thanksgiving to the traditional gods and the ancestors for the blessings and bountiful harvests of the previous year. The indigenes of the community present their best fruits and trades to the gods hoping for better sales the coming year.

OFALA FESTIVAL In Eastern Nigeria | Interesting Things To Look Out For

The festival is also a period where bonds are created and united. Disputes are also settled and new friendships are made. It is also an opportunity for traders to market their various goods and services.

   
   

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