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Ndukwu Festival: A Celebration of the living and dead.

Ndukwu is a festival celebrated by both the living and the dead. A festival with the myth of supernatural tales unknown to mankind. 

Festivals is one of several ways  Africans celebrate their gods. It is a practice in every African country. The reasons for the celebration is determined by the community.

Ndukwu festival is one such festival that includes the dead in their celebration. It is a festival that acknowledges the presence of our beloved family member that is late.

Several cultures have a way/ ways of honouring and celebrating their dead love ones and the Ndukwu festival is one of such culture in Ogume.

Welcome everyone, am so excited to see you here. Our discussion for today is the Ndukwu festival.

Meaning Of  Festival

A Festival is the gathering of a large number of people in a particular place, observing a thing or being, at a certain date. Festivals come in diverse faces like a music festival, art festival, dance festival, fishing festival etc.

Festivals in Africa are culture and tribe specific. A Lot of ceremonial activities and rituals are constantly performed. For some, ordinary human can not participate. I believe you understand what I mean by the term “ordinary humans”.

It has to do with spirituality and the abstract. There are individuals called priest, who are regarded as the mouthpiece for the gods, ancestors and the living. They act as mediators — a bridge between this world and the super realm. The priest has the power to see what mere eyes can not see and hear what the common man can not comprehend.

Ndukwu festival is a festival in Ogume, kwale, Delta state Nigeria and it is also referred to as the new yam festival.

This festival is a family festival and it’s usually celebrated when new yam is out. We refer to new yams as yams that are just newly harvested. Yams stored over time, are called old yams.

Ndukwu festival special food is new yams.


New yam festival NudukuNew yam festival. Ndukwu

How Ndukwu Festival Soup Is Prepared

During the Ndukwu festival, the feast is usually started by the roasting of the new yam. After About thirty minutes of roasting, when the skin of the yam turns dark brown, the bunt part is peeled into a bowl, and a bit of pepper is added, then pounded jointly to give a proper mixed.

Seasoning is added, potash and the other parts of the roasted yam is also added. It is then pounded again for a blended mix. When it is smooth in texture, Palm oil is added and there goes the Ndukwu festival soup. Due to the roasted yam, the soup is usually black.

Roasted New yam festival/ soup
Roasted new yam festival and soup

If you are wondering if there are no roadblocks? There are. By the way, roadblocks in this context mean fishes, beef and goat meat chopped into tiny pieces.

Ndukwu festival is celebrated in every family and the food prepared is also shared among the dead family members. They give the dead family members roasted yam in the morning and pounded yam in the evening.

You don’t need to ponder how they go about in the giving of the food, I will let it out. After the roasted yam soup is prepared in the morning, they put some portion on plates, take the food outside, place it on the floor and then call out the names of each family member. Calling him or her that breakfast is served. Intriguing right?

Ndukwu Festival Parade 

At midday during the festival, a masquerade display commences. There are numerous masquerade in Ogume and on this occasion, the Olu masquerade is the first to grace the occasion.

Masquerade display of new yam festival
Masquerade display during festival

Masquerades are a huge part of traditional African society. They are humans who put on a special kind of costume in representing a divinity. The humans who put on this costume, are not known or seen.

The masquerader no longer represents their human self but spirit beings among humans who should be honoured and reverence.

If by chance you are aware of their natural look, when they put on the mask, you do not know them. As they automatically become a supreme being. The being in which they are trying to personify.

The Olu masquerade dances all the way to the market square. It dances all through the day entertaining his audience. In the evenings, they change to a different attire why the festivity continues.

The head masquerade is called ewarun and it is only carried by the othnugbe age grade. Click here to learn more about age-grade culture.

When ewarun is arriving (head masquerade) it makes a sound as if he is crying. It has no specific time for coming out. Also, Women are not allowed to see this masquerade. So adequate information is passed to the community.

Another significant aspect of this masquerade is that when he is passing through the community, any domestic animal they come across, they kill it and take it away. Be it goat, hen or pig.

This masquerade comes out for a period of nine days. Like I said earlier, it is only the Othnugbe grade that carriers it. It represents that this age grade is matured enough to take decisions, get married and go to war.

During this festival, There are lots of dancing, singing, and acrobatics. People from far and near do come to watch for it is a great sight to behold.

Furthermore, if you are a married woman and you cheat on your husband, on this day, the gods of the land will hold you. What I mean by holding is that the person will start having signs of insanity.

To stop this, the woman must report herself to the eldest woman in the village. Thereafter she will be made to do some sacrifice. After the sacrifice is made, the woman leaves one of her wrappers behind. ( A sign of infidelity).

This is performed to shame the woman and for such act not to repeat itself. She might not be there, her name might not be mentioned, but her wrapper represents her. Songs of mockery will be sung to disgrace her more further.

This is done in order to make an example to other women — for one to desist from the act or risk being shamed and disgrace.

Also, during this festival, there is total freedom of speech. Teenagers talk about the opposite sex freely and discuss sex. Of which the community don’t approve prior to this time.

Another shocking aspect of this festival that I believe they should scrape out is Awulia. Awulia literally means catch and fuck. It is a day when rape is licensed. It is usually on the second day of the festival that this takes place.

On this day, single ladies are admonished to stay indoors, stay in open space, should not walk alone or visit any friends. As no one can tell which male is putting an eye on you. It is an opportunity for any young male who is lusting after a girl to get her laid.

In-laws to a lady’s parents also play a significant role in this festival. It is a feast that showcases the wealth of an in-law. When an in-law is coming to the feast, he brings ten tubers of yam, kola nuts, palm wine, fishes and a lot more according to his purse.

It is a competition between in-laws. The in-law that brings many gifts, brings more honour and respect to his father-in-law. Although it is not compulsory, every father-in-law does look forward to this day.

Also, it is believed that there are numerous demons roaming about freely. On the evening of the last day, the women dress in no form of style, rub native chalk on their head, hand and body then match to the shrine with leaves on their hands.

As they matched, they wave the leaves in the air. Anyone who wishes to join them stands at the front of the street and wait for them to pass by. When they are passing through, one can now be a part.

When they get to the forest they drop the leaves and run back home because sooner or later the god which a woman can not look upon will be coming out.

The masquerade carrying the gods take over from 7 pm until at about 10 / 11 pm then they go inside.

At about 12pm in the middle of the night, the older women will come out naked. Their aim is to Chase the demons and in doing so, they carry corn or mellon, and stick with fire on the other hand.

As they walk to the forest, they repeat this word ejunmor meaning evil spirits go back to the forest. When they get to the forest, the place the basket of corn and melon on the floor and begin to pray.

They pray that the harvest of next year, should be more fruitful then this year. They also pray for the peace and harmony in the community. Then they go back home.

When they’ve all gotten home, the othnugbe comes out again until 6am the next day. Then they go inside.

Ha! What a day. I hope you find this festival exciting? Please leave a comment below telling me how you feel concerning this festival of the living and dead.

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