Ikeji festival of Arondizuogu
The Ikeji festival of Arondizuogu is believed to have as much as four versions concerning its origin.
The first version talks of a warrior named Dikeji from Arochukwu conquered a village and made it compulsory for the defeated ruler to pay him tributes. The tributes stopped coming after some time which made Dikeji go back to that village and beheaded the king. He took the head back to his hometown Arochukwu where the event was celebrated as Ikeji Ugwo.
The second version talks of another individual named Izuogu who is the founder of Arondizuogu. He went to Arochukwu where he was kidnapped. He was fortunate to be saved by three masked figures believed to have come from Abam. Upon gaining his freedom, Izuogu led a celebration that was initially regarded as Jim Aga.
The third version is a bit odd as it is connected to the slave trade. The Aro people always had the Omu charm to protect them so they were never afraid of being captured as slaves. In a scenario where they are captured without their Omu charm, all they had to do was utter the words “Aka Ike Jim”, meaning strong hands are holding me and the slave masters will release them in fear of incurring the wrath of the famous juju of Arochukwu. The cultural celebration began as a commemoration of the Aros killed during the slave trade.
The last version asserted that the festival is connected to the new yam festival. Yam is very important to the Ikeji festival. In the ancient Arondizuogu society, only men are allowed to plant yams. The Aros take some of their names and titles after yam, such names are as follows:
Ugoji- the eagle yam
Ezeji – the king yam
Ikeji – the strength yam
Umeji – the loveth yam
Okparaji – the son of yam
Ikeji festival happens annually within the month of April and it sometimes coincides with the Easter celebration. The Ikeji festival spans four days with the celebration used as a time for thanksgiving, felicitations, and propitiations as the festival mark both the end of the planting season and the beginning of harvest. The celebration is filled with Masquerades with much music and dancing.
Each of the four designated days has special activities. On the first day known as Eke, the best farm produce is brought to the Eke market where they are sold off to the public at a very cheap price. The second day called Orie, slaughtering of livestock and feasting is the order of the day. Afor being the third day will see the masquerades come out to display with several dance groups joining them. The fourth-day Nkwo is the grand finale of the festival. The most spectacular activities are witnessed on this day. The big masquerade, Nnekwu Nmanwu makes its appearance dancing with regal steps to the sounds of Nkwa Egwu.
Nkwo-Achi which is the center of the whole celebration witnesses dances, magical displays that defy the laws of science and nature. How efficient your charm is will be known on that day as they are tested out. The main juju contest involves the loosening of a ram tied to a post by a piece of string which the ram ordinarily could easily break away from, but it is unable to. Other people are now given the challenge to untie the ram and only the most powerful of charms can accomplish such a mission. The eventual winner takes the ram home as his prize.
If you have visited Imo state and you haven’t witnessed the Ikeji festival then you need to visit again with the sole purpose of witnessing this amazing cultural celebration. If you have witnessed or partook in it before, share with us your experience.
The Video below is from 2017 Ikeji Celebration.