It was indeed a memorable and nostalgic moment on Sunday, September 6 as young and able bodied Igbo men gathered to celebrate 2020 Iwa ji(New Yam) festival. The venue for the annual event was at the popular Orchiwar Relaxation Center behind Fire Service building, Agbor.
The activities of the day was presided over by Mazi John Okafor, an Agbor based businessman from Enugu State. Mazi Anthony Onyeka Okwue, also known as, Orchiwar, Mazi Chukwudi, also known as, Chukwuese, Sarki, Aghezi, Chinedu (Shante) and Ekpo were among prominent Igbo men in Agbor that made the event a grand one.
The activities marking the iwa ji festival started on Saturday evening, September with a gathering of Nmu Nna where wine(Up wine and kola) were consumed according to the Igbo culture.
Speaking to newsmen, Mazi Anthony Onyeka Okwue said, “New yam festival, many call it in Igbo, iwa ji, iri ji ofu. Or uha ji oku. Depending on the people, Iri ji ofu: is one of the biggest festivals celebrated general by Igbo’s in the beginning of August, and can last up to four months in every year and it had become world wide events hence, Igbo’s usually celebrate it in any where they are.
In my own side. My father and I will go to farm in every season of the event and harvest yam by the process called milking. This process is usually done when the yam leaves is still green. That is harvesting of yam tuber before full maturity and replacing of the head to enable it grow into a smaller tubers that are even smaller than the first harvested tubers. We call it “Akpu ji” seed yam.It is used in the next planting season as a seed yam. Iri ji ofu is one of the annual festivals in Igbo land but, it varies from one group of people to another hence, culture is the way of lives of a particular people at a any available environment.
Iri ji ofu is a time when yam farmers usually celebrate their works in the farm and worship their God and spirit which guided them from the animals and evil Forest spirit attacks through the farming time. In iri ji ofu, we cooked, roasts, and pounds yam and serve to friends and family that are partakers of the celebration. In other words, it’s essential for some people, the harvest of yam and the celebration of deity of the land believes in the supreme deity as a giver of yam and donor of harvest.
New yam festival provides a heritage of dance, feasting, renewal of kinship alliances as well as mark the end of one agricultural season with a harvest to express gratitude and thanksgiving to the society. Yam play’s an important role in the society and religious festival in all areas in Igbo land. It’s a vital integral part of the Igbo cultural heritage of our people and it will not die . Yam also plays role in many ceremonies as well as in marriage , child naming and dedication, church, religious thanksgiving and most sacrificial ceremonies.
John and others during the celebration