New planting season festival in Arondizuogu
The people of Arondizuogu town in Imo State recently threw a week-long party to celebrate the past harvest and welcome the new planting season. Hundreds off Igbo people flocked to the small town to share in the Ikeji Festival, which lasted a whole week.
The festivities wouldn’t have been complete without the attendance of masquerades, who many believe are their ancestral spirits appearing in physical form. The masquerades are members of secret societies with exclusive membership.
To make sure that the spirits communicate effectively with the festival attendees, a bell bearer accompanies the masquerades and interprets the messages from the gods. Bell bearers also pass on blessings for a bountiful harvest.
The spirits do a fine job of entertaining the crowds of people that come out to see them. In return, people sacrifice goats and chickens in the hopes that the ancestors will pour down more blessings.
Every year, the elders in the village and the ruling monarchs get together to decide the festival dates. It is not uncommon for these dates to coincide with Easter celebrations, but festival-goers never seem to mind this. Most people do a full immersion into the fun activities of the festival by covering their bodies with paint, dye, charcoal or palm oil. Body art is part of the fun.
Those who aren’t brave enough to cover themselves in paint attend the festival decked out in their finest clothes and accessories. The women don’t directly get involved in the festivities, but they can watch and cheer from the sidelines.
The festivities aren’t complete without the most mouthwatering dishes.
The women prepare assorted traditional meals and serve them to the crowd. To supplement what food the women serve, the crowd can buy barbeque fish and chicken from roadside vendors who usually set up for the purpose of cashing in during the festival.
The main part of the festival is the cleansing rituals. The goal is to wash away the past farming season and welcome a more bountiful planting season. People are looking to plant vegetables, cassava, yam and other staples, and they hope and pray for a fruitful farming season.