Impact of two significant cultural festivals observed by Owerri indigenes

Obinwannem News Impact of two significant cultural festivals observed by Owerri indigenes

The feast celebrated by Owerri indigenes are important as it marks the origin and foundation of the ancestors based on traditions.

This article will expose two remarkable festivals and how it has created impacts on Owerri indigenes.

The roasting of old yams the first meal and the corn meal entertainment developed into a cultural festival or feast ORU OWERE with which indigenes commemorate the founding of Owerri.

These events tell the story of the founding of Owerri and the time or period of the year Owerri was founded viz the old yam and corn meal, which are commonly consumed at that time of the year, the rainy season. Worthy of note is the fact that the yam is old not new yam, as new yam had not yet been harvested.

Therefore Oru Owere is not new yam festival. ORU OWERE (ORU EZE) Oru Owere is Oru Eze (the Eze’s festival). The festival is marked by a period of the observance of peace, love, friendliness and togetherness, devoid of bitterness, quarrels, antagonism and physicality confrontation, no weeping when death occurs during the period, no firing of cannon and a time to make up quarrels without third party intervention as stipulated by custom.

However Oha Owere is the traditional institution responsible for its conduct and yearly observance. They determine the commencement of the period by a system handed down by our ancestors. The duration of the period is equally guided) by the same system.

All the key events namely the beginning of the period, the roasting of the old yam, the corn porridge entertainment (MKPU KPU UZO) and the day marking the end of the period are Orie market days.

The period begins in the month of June and lasts till mid August. Between the roasting of old yam (Oru Owere Proper) and the corn porridge meal is the GRAND FINALE characterized by a colourful procession of age grade formations in Owerri community through given routes in the Old City.

The Civic procession assembles at Ugwu Ekwema Civic Center (the civic center of Owerri Community) from where it talks off and terminates at the end of the procession where invited guests are received and made to have a feel of Oru Owere with traditional dances displays and entertainment. The first item of entertainment after the breaking of kolanuts by Eze Ojwere is roast old yam. Ugwu Ekwema is our ancestral home which significance informed our choice of locating the Community Civic Center. Perhaps the reader may wish to know when Owerri indigenes are free to eat the New Yam.

THE FESTIVAL OR FEAST OF OWERRI INDGENES – ORU OWERE

Oru Owere the annual festival or feast of Owerri indigenes cannot be written without reference to the founding of Owerri. It has been mentioned earlier that the first meal of the founding father of Owere and his family was roast old yam, which they ate with oil bean salad at Ugwu Ekwema (Ekwema’s hill) Our ancestral home.

After breakfast on arriving and settling at Ugwu Ekwema, there was the need for water for obvious reasons. They knew that the source of Otamiri was at Egbu but was ignorant of the course of the river owing to t(ie thick rain forest of the area.

The communities or towns through which Otamirii flowed, were also known. It is common knowledge that peculiar sounds or noise|s are characteristic of running water from streams and rivers. That was Ekwem’ls experience that morning. He ordered his men to use the direction of the sounds/noise to see if any could be sighted. They obeyed his wish and by surprise stumbled on Otamiri river, close to where Emmanuel College Owerri now stands.

They ran back in excitement to Ugwu Ewema and broke the news of the presence of what they described as OGBU AMUMA – a pleasant early morning sunrise experience of flashing rays of the sun on the waters of Otamiri river reminiscent:of the historical account of the sighting of River Niger by the Scottish Explorer Mungo Park- GLITTERING IN THE MORNING SUN.

OTAMIRI RIVER SIGHTED:

Ekwem immediately commissioned his men to clear the route to the river -IKPU UZO. The route cleared after which he feasted them with corn porridge.

The eating of the new yam by Owere indigenes began the day immediately after MKPU KPU OZU which is the day that marks the beginning of the new calendar year in Igbo culture.

Accordingly, it is pertinent to note that Owerri people the indigenes of the capital
of Imo state do not celebrate the New Yam.

When increase in population began, there was the need to expand to other fronts. The sons of Ekwem and their families moved away from the ancestral home at Ugwu Ekwema, to different directions within the confines of the two rivers close to each other with their families leading to the growth and development of the villages of Owerri which derived their names from the sons of Ekwem.

The grave of Ekwem stands prominently on the grounds of Ugwu Ekwem Civic Center. Ikenegbu was the first son followed by Onyeche, Odu and their sister Oyima hence the villages namely;
Umuororonjo
Amawom Children of Ikenegbu Umuonyeche
Umuodu
Umuoyima
The villages were named after the sons and daughter of the founder. Information has it that about eight to ten villages emerged. Some were sacked and others migrated away to places far and near in Igbo Land, East and west of the Niger with Owerri featuring in the name of their new hometowns as Owere in Diaspora.

In recent times some persons who are not indigenes of Owerri, the state capital and who have never written or published for public consumption any historical account of the founding or origin of their home town or communities have become Owereologists who give unprecedented calculated false and hopelessly distorted account of the origin of Owerri as though Owerri town or community which was in existence centuries before the British expedition in 1901 had no known origin.

Her indigenes are not by accident of birth but divine providence. Owerri is not a geographical expression. It has a local setting given by the indigenes. It is not a coming together or movement of people from different places coming together to settle in a place or a place mixed with occupiers and intruders or invaders.

It is founded through one person and his family. Prior to the early eighties of the last century, Owerri people the indigenes of capital of Imo state did not intermarry for the reason of one blood. Owerri people are peace loving, very friendly, dq not discriminate against any ethnic or tribal group and treat you in a way more affectionate than they do to their brothers and sisters.

They are not criminal or violent by nature. Those who come to Owerri to work or find a source of livelihood come to stay and not to return from whence they came for her peace and security.

Lolo Ijeoma Njoku Obinwannem News Writer / Nov 18, 2021

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