Uzoiyi: The Art of Umuoji: Written ? By Okaneme… Photos ? @theheadbridge.
The Umuoji people in the Idemili Area of Anambra State celebrate their famous Uzoiyi festival every year. All 23 villages in the town present their masquerade in a stadium during this spectacular event.
The occasion showcases the great artistic and cultural lifestyle of the people. Umuoji people, young and old, have from ages prided themselves on the joy and magnificence of this ennobling tradition.
The Uzoiyi festival is performed in reverence to a river goddess named Idemili. The goddess lives in Ideapkulu stream. There is a great significance to the worship of the river goddess. The ancestors of Umuoji people were predominantly farmers.
They desired abundance of rainfall to allow for a successful farming season and subsequently, a bounteous harvest. The belief in the river goddess by the ancestors ensued as a consequence of their expectation that the deity will use her spiritual powers to assure them sufficient rainfall for their farming season. The festival is performed in celebration of the river goddess to bring forth rainfall that will guarantee good farming season. A sacrifice is made to appease the goddess.
Hence, the natives start farming after the festival which is the culmination of the activities of the dedication to the river goddess.
A parade of masquerades gets the attendees on their toes on the day of the festival. Beast from the sea, renowned Akum that breaks a ship with its jaw, roars down the field with its musical troupe of spirited youths dancing in an elevated exultation.
The all beautiful and colorful Ijele is a jewel that dazzles the eyes towers over the crowd striding with majesty. The mythical Ocha, wild bird from the underwater world draws the spectators with its unimaginable strangeness.
And the procession of exotic masquerades enthralls the jubilant viewers who participate in the mystical fiesta.