Imo State in noted for having very rich culture which communities maintain and pass down from generation to generation. Among such cultural practices is the Oghu festival which is celebrated annually from June to August. This festival is practiced by many communities in the state especially those in Njaba, Oru East and Isu local government areas. The festival and rules that guide it are well respected in communities like Awo Omamma, Okwudor, Umuaka, Amandugba, Ekwe, and Amurie, among others. The Oghu festival is used to usher in the new yam festival.
Rural news tourism took us to Okwudor in Njaba local Government area of Imo state, to learn more about the Oghu festival.
During this festival there is a display of peace masquerades with acrobatic dancing steps which add colour to the memorable annual event. Among the masquerades that are showcased during this festival are the Ohu Uzo, Okorosha, Onyeji g’eme, Egwu-Udo and Ebileri. These masquerades have their individual trademarks during the festival. The Ohu Uzo appears only on the eve of the first day of the Oghu, moves round the village hitting a metal gong and announcing that the Oghu will commence the next day. No one comes out to watch this masquerade move around and it moves from 12 midnight, visiting the houses of the heads of Oghu in different kindreds. The Okorosha which appears in white apparels primarily does the dancing during the festival. The Egwu-Udo carries cane and chases people especially ladies during the festival as part of the fun. This particular masquerade’s costume is an overall colourful knitted wool which covers the dancer with opening on the belly were it can be worn through.
The other masquerades – Ebileri and Onyeji g’eme – only showcase themselves with some graceful displays, collect money and move on. Meanwhile the Ebileri masquerade has different names among which are Osisi Ka Ibeya Elu, Mee Ka Okwoo, Ibu, and Osisi ka Nkwu. Different owners of the Ebileri give their own Ebileri different names. Another kind of masquerade called Egwu Nna Mara Agu appears after the Oghu has ended. It is made with only palm fronds and indicates that the Oghu festival is over. This masquerade is worn by kids who move around the village asking for money. Once you see this, it means the Oghu festival is over.
Oghu is a festival of peace and within the three months it is celebrated, the community prohibits quarrels of any form and those caught engaging in fights are made to pay heavy fines. Oghu calls for holiness and mutual respect to all members of the community and their guests who returned from various parts of the country and beyond to be part of the festival.
Organizing the Oghu is not an all-comers affair. You have to be a member of Oghu traditional group to either organize the dance for the village or even participate in the dance as one of the masquerades. Within the three months of celebration, the community organizes just one general Oghu dance for every one while families that have the traditional right to organize Oghu, do so at separate times and venues within the three months of the festival and invite friends to witness the event either in their compound or selected venue.
Indeed, the Oghu festival is one event you should strive to witness any time you’re in Imo State during the summer.