Posted by News Express | 15 May 2022 | 999 times
By HENRY UCHE
It was a celebration of peace, unity and cultural values of the people of Uratta in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State at the annual Onwa Oru cultural festival which took place in Lagos recently.
The annual festival, which holds in Owerri in February, is also organised in Lagos to mark a period of rest from the toils of previous year and in preparation for the next farming season.
Tradition demands that during the festive period, which usually spans several weeks before the festival, the natives are prohibited from divorce, fighting, quarreling and demanding for debts. Conversely, old scores are settled by the elders during this season.
In recent times, the cultural event is used to preach the message of preserving Igbo cultural heritage and identities as well as the need to embrace peace and unity for socio-economic progress of the people and the society.
Organised by the Uratta Development Association (UDA) Lagos branch, the 2022 edition of the festival focused on the need for people to rise up to the occasion when they are called upon to preserve the cultural values of the community.
Charles Obinna, president of UDA, Lagos said the group has put in place, measures to preserve Igbo language and other Igbo identities as they marked the day in grand style.
According to Obinna, “This festival is unique. It’s a period when we appreciate the Almighty God, congratulate and reward ourselves for our labour; a time to reconnect with one another, and a time to fix a lot of anomalies. It has been performed at home and we are doing it here in Lagos. It marks the beginning of the farming season at home while those of us in urban cities strive to excel in our various trades."
Also speaking, the vice president of UDA and chairman of the organising committee, Chibueze Uche, affirmed that the festival represents a season of consecration. “We call this period a fattening period. A time when our single daughters are taken care of for three months thereafter they are presented to the world and prospective husbands at this occasion,” Uche explained.
The festival, which dates back to ancient time, symbolises the social norms and rich cultural heritage of the people.
The colourful festival, held at St. Jude’s Catholic Church, Mafoluku, Lagos, was embellished with a lot of cultural shows as the eight different clans that make up Uratta took turns to showcase their rich cultural values in a procession.
The clans, Umualum (The head and custodian of ofor na opi Ndichie), Umuorii, Okwu, Umuoba, Owala, Owaelu, Umunahu and Orji, in order of seniority, were seated in their respective stands, relishing assorted foods and drinks in style. They were ecstatic in their colourful regalia.
Every community came with foods and drinks for not only themselves but also for guests and visitors even for uninvited persons. Guests were treated to sumptuous delicacies.
At the occasion, friends and well wishers from adjoining towns like Emekuku, Emii, Awaka, Egbu, Uzoagba, Amatta among others were there to felicitate with the people of Uratta.
One of the highlights of the event was wrestling match among able-bodied men - one from each community against the other.
Women groups also took turns to dance in their uniforms while the elders performed some traditional rites. One of such rites was the presentation goat legs to the daughters of the soil – married or not, which some say signifies the fattening period.
The elders of the last seven communities paid homage to elders of the eldest community – Umualum.
The have’s doll out some monies in different denominations to different dance groups in appreciation and admiration. Young and vibrant men handled the ogene (metal gong) and other cultural musical instruments. They sang, drummed and the people danced to the rhythm of their songs.
According to oral tradition, some of the ancient practices, that used to be part of the festival which are now believed to be fetish, have been abolished. But the new face of Onwa Oru is even more exciting.
•Some of the dignitaries at the 2022 Onwa Oru cultural festival held recently in Lagos
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