Late December 1896: Last Market Day before Igue Festival.
This is my last blog before the great festival of Igue commences; you are in for a real treat. Just join me.
Ama arrived last night to join Uwa and Me for the festival; she says she nearly did not make it through the blockade by the Edo soldiers at the border trying to keep visitors out; anyhow, she and her entourage managed to convince them that they must attend this festival as they had promised me that they would and luckily the soldiers know her dad the chief well. So Ama is here right now spending time with Uwa; tonight Otiti the palace story teller will be entertaining at Chief Irriah’s compound.
Otiti the mother of all story tellers will be enthralling us with great tales of our ancestral feats and bravery. There is Oba Eweka, Oba Ozolua, Oba Esigie and the great others, I suspect though that tonight, we are going to join in celebrating Oba Ewuare she calls ‘The Great One’. He restored and strengthened all our celebration so it would be a fitting tribute to him tonight.
The palace, other compounds and family houses about town are filing up with our families and friends from abroad who have come back specially to join in this celebration and festival of blessings. All the outskirt Enogies (traditional Rulers) have arrived and staying at various chiefs' compounds across town. Gifts of food, drinks, fabric, jewellery they have brought as their contribution abound about the place. Ama brought a big basketful of smoked and dried fish, a calabash of tomatoes, okra and other vegetables, a bundle of yams and a bag of rice. Her mum had sent them with some carriers who had to return after safe delivery of the goods to my mum. There have been so many contributions from everyone who has come to join in the celebration that we are going to have enough food to feed the whole kingdom for the next year. Great!
Here are some things you need to remember throughout the 9 days festival:
1. The reason you have not seen His Majesty and some of his chiefs for some days now is that they have been preparing for the Igue festival by completing the Agwe (fasting). So when you see them for the first time on the first day, you need to cheer at the top of your vocal cords. Your cheerful noise will encourage and reassure them that they have your full support as a people.
2. Remember that unless you are a chief, you must arrive early each day to get a good spot to watch the celebration from, otherwise you will not be able to see a thing. Try to get out of bed as soon as the cock crows, have a proper bath, adorn yourself in your finest attire and jewellery, have a good meal and head straight for the palace to secure your space.
3. If you are accompanying a chief as part of his entourage, remember to get his own programme the day before otherwise, you will find that you have been pushed out of your role and limelight; it is after all a great honour to be accompanying a chief to these celebrations.
4. Remember to be on your best behaviour, no offhand comment and cheer as loudly as you can for every single activity by the Oba or his chiefs. You are there to show your support for His Majesty and his great Chiefs, so do so very enthusiastically.
5. Have a good rest each night so you are refreshed for the next day’s activities and events.
6. Make sure that you manage to visit all chiefs’ and other people’s houses for some feasting and dancing and take care to make your presence felt, lavishing praises on their wives and children when they take the dance floor will not go unnoticed. You might be invited to join one of the youth clubs after this.
7. Remember that the festival is a time for observing our religious rituals as well as a time for merry making, feasting, wining, dining and dancing. It is very important to enjoy yourself.
8. Plan how you will use the nine days fruitfully to gain the most from all the generosity people will be showing. This means make the most of it or you could miss out on a freebee. The Chiefs normally give out souvenirs like wooden Ise game boards carved in their images on it; you could also collect some free spending money they give out as tips or when you get 'showered' during your dance. Be creative and use your full imagination during the nine days!
Igue Festival Programme of Events.
Day 1: His Majesty dresses in his ceremonial robes and sits on the royal throne. His High ranking chiefs led by the Iyase (the Prime Minister) pay homage to him by dancing with their Eben emblem. The Ubi ritual of wading off evil spirits takes place. The Oba blesses all the homes in the kingdom through the Ewere. The Oba and his chiefs pay homage at our ancestral shrines.
Day 2: Ritual day. The Efas (the blessings priests) sanctify His Majesty with white chalk on his forehead . His Majesty blesses the sacrificial items. The high priest the Isekhure cleanses and slaughters the animals in a special ritual. His Majesty, his chiefs and members of the palace societies are anointed.
Day 3: Members of the Royal family, the Princes and Princesses dance to honour His Majesty and the kingdom.
Day 4: Free day for community celebrations and activities like masquerades, Feasting, dining and lots of dancing. Groups of friends and family members visit each other's houses to enjoy the feast each household has prepared. Spend all day in merriment, feasting and dancing.
Day 5: Free day for community celebrations and activities like masquerades, Feasting, dining and lots of dancing. Groups of friends and family members visit each other's houses to enjoy the feast each household has prepared. Spend all day in merriment, feasting and dancing. Visit the houses you haven’t yet.
Day 6: Edo people – the whole community celebrate and visit and dance for the Oba to honour him.
Day 7: Free day for community celebrations and activities like masquerades, Feasting, dining and lots of dancing. Groups of friends and family members visit each other's houses to enjoy the feast each household has prepared. Spend all day in merriment, feasting and dancing. Visit the houses you haven’t yet.
Day 8: Free day for community celebrations and activities like masquraders, Feasting, dining and lots of dancing. Groups of friends and family members visit each other's houses to enjoy the feast each household has prepared. Spend all day in merriment, feasting and dancing. Visit the houses you haven’t yet.
Day 9: Last day of celebration, by now you should have visited all houses and joined in their celebration and feasting. Remember no one should be left out, check that you have seen everyone, we are one unit this festival time; we eat from the same pot and drink from the same keg. The Enogies (Outskirts rulers) must now set their own dates for celebrating their festival in the same fashion back in their domain. These will be around the New Year.
Right, that is how things will run, I hope that I have given you a good idea of what to expect. I have got to go now, I have my own preparations to do: I have my hair to braid, my jewellery to make and my make up to produce.
In four days time when the festival gets under way, I will provide you with a daily guide to events through my twitter page. Check every night before so you know what is happening. Here is the link:
Watch the video of modern Igue festival here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okn1nwnCQBQ&feature=related