OJI EZINIHITTE CULTURAL FESTIVAL

Ezinihitte Mbaise is a local Government Area in Imo state,Nigeria. With a total Area of (108km2). It is made up of two unique towns Ezi na ihitte.

An Ishi Nze with the Okwa Oji

An Ishi Nze with the Okwa OjiThe Oji Ezinihitte cultural festival is an annual thanksgiving ceremony performed by the ancestral father of Ezinihitte clan known as Abiama to thank his god for safe arrival and peaceful settlement at Ezinihitte. This cultural festival dates back to 14th century AD which was the time Abiama migrated from Amaigbo Orlu and settled at Ezinihite. During this time, the ceremony was performed permanently at the centre of Ezinihitte creation ”Orie Ukwu” umunama until the death of Abiama.

The descendants of Abiama continued this ritual until 1951 when HRH Eze D.N Abii of Eziudo summoned a meeting of all the traditional rulers and the Ezinihitte clan Union where they agreed that the annual ritual will be revived and assumed a rotatory position. So that each community can have the opportunity to host the ceremony at a time.

ROTATIONAL HIERACHY

Abiama has sixteen sons that make up the Ezinihitte clan. Each formed a community of its own. The collection and hosting of the kolanut follows the seniority basis of the sons in this order: *Oboama/Umunama

*Ife/Owutu

*Chokoneze

*Ihitte

*Akpodim

*Amumara

*Eziudo

*Itu

*Okpofe

*Eziagbogu

*Udo

*Obizi

*Onicha

HOW THE FESTIVAL IS PERFORMED

The Oji Ezinihitte cultural Festival is performed on january ist every year. But preparations for this great cultural festival usually start immediately after the last occassion, by the community whose turn it is to host the event. The initial preparation is the historic planting of the Oji tree by the Ezinihitte Development Association (EDA) in the host community between April and October of the year preceding the year of the event. As the date draws near, the community whose turn it is to host the occassion will send out invitations to it sons and daughters,in-laws,friends and well-wishers both within and outside the shores of the country to remind them of the Oji Ezinihitte cultural festival.

EVENTS OF 31ST DECEMBER

On the evening of the 31st december,the Oba Oji and Okwa Oji will be carried in a procession by the community that hosted the last Oji festival to the boundary between them and the community that is to host it on january first. The host community who are already at the boundarybetween their community and that of the last host of the festival or to an agreed place,will welcome the Oba Oji and Okwa Oji from the last host.

This is usually heralded with 16 canon shots (Ntunala) signifying the original sixteen communities of the Ezinihitte Clan. After welcoming their guest at the boundary which also requires the presentation and breaking of kolanut. The host community will then lead the procession to their market square where their visitors with the Oba and Okwa Oji will be recieved with canon shots and various dance groups. This occassion of handing over the Oba Oji and Okwa Oji has two significant meanings which are:

*the receiving community has accepted to host the occassion as agreed

*A confirmation to the entire clan that the festival will hold.

After rejoicing over the arrival of the Oba and Okwa Oji, the crowd will proceed to where the Oba Oji and Okwa Oji will be preserved for use the next day. Usually at the palace of the traditional ruler (Eze) of the host community

THE D-DAY

On the morning january ist at about 6: am, the great ikoro drum would sound indicating that a very important event would take place. With the sound of Ikoro drum, sixteen (16) canon shots would also go off as part of the announcement of the beginning of this great occassion. After which each of the villages that make up make up the host community is expected to also fire 16 canon shots in solidarity to their community. At about 11: ooam , the festival begins with a parade of masqurades,agbachaekurunwa, abigbo and other cultural dancers wearing scintillating dance steps and intricate acrobatics.

By noon, all the traditional rulers (Ndi Eze) in Ezinihitte will converge at the palace of the host traditional ruler from where the will proceed to the festival arena. At the arena, all the communities that make up Ezinihitte will be confortably provided with canopies and chairs with their community name tag. The arrival of the traditional rulers (Ndi Eze) marks the official opening of the the occassion. It is usually greeted with 21 canon shots. Once they are seated, the MC introduces each of the traditional rulers and other dignitaries invited to the occassion. After the introductions, opening prayers will be said followed by opening remarks by chairman of the occassion.

The welcome address by the host community traditional ruler will also be read and finally the address by the Ezinihitte Development Association (EDA) the organiser of the cultural event. The next stage is the ushering in of the veiled Oba Oji by titled men from the host community who carry it with a touch of dignity to the centre of the arena. Midway into the arena, the titled men would gingerely lower it and dance around it before continuing. As soon as the Oba Oji reached its appointed place, the canon shots would boom sixteen times in a thunderous salute. The Oba Oji is seated on a table.

The traditional ruler of the host community usually stands behind the platform where the Oba Oji and Okwa Oji are to be placed to welcome the Oba Oji and the men who carried the Oba Oji to the platform. The ushering in of the Oba Oji is followed by the unveiling of the Oba Oji by the host community’s traditional ruler which is usually marked with loud ovations from the crowd. At this juncture each community lead by the traditional prime minister(ishi nze) and other high ranking titled men will dance acrobatically with ekpe masqurade infront leading them to the center of the arena where the Oba Oji and Okwa Oji is placed to collect their own kolanut from the host community’s traditional ruler.

The traditional ruler of each approaching community would standby waiting to receive his community. A cash gift brought by each approaching community is handed over to their traditional ruler by the traditional prime minister (ishi- nze).Their traditional ruler will in turn hand over the cash to the host traditional ruler who inturn presents to him, his community’s share of the kolanut in an Okwa Oji ( a small hollow wooden container )on the commuinty’s name is written.

After receiving their share of the kolanut and ”nzu” or ufara the community will dance around the vicinity and leave through the out-gate. Normally the dress code for the oji Ezinihitte participating community include wrapper and shirt preferably chieftaincy regalia. This routine will continue till all the communities must have collected their Okwa Oji. As these events are going on, there is a panel of judges appointed to award marks for each community, based on dressings, and dancing steps as the went to collect their share of the Oji. At the end of the occassion the community that performed best in the ekpe dance will be presented with a trophy.

This is usually done by the chairman of the occassion or Eze ndi Eze followed by vote of thanks, after which the next host community will be announced and the occassion comes to an end with multiple shots of canon shots.(Ntunala)

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