New Yam Festival is a major ceremony that is universal among Ndigbo but how it is celebrated differs from one community to another. For some the New yam festival is called Ikpoji, iri ji, and iwaji while some call it Otute. However, called, it is the celebration of a bountiful Yam harvest.
Fides reporter, Mercy Hill, captured how it was celebrated amongst the people of Akpu Community in Orumba South L.G.A in Anambra State, 18th August 2019 at the Traditional Ruler’s palace.
The Akpu Community in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State was a beehive of traditional activities as HRH, Igwe Marcel N. Okoli, Igwe Chukwuchiri, Ezeukwu II of Akpu Kingdom, with members of his community, celebrated the 2019 New Yam Festival commonly called ’Otute’ amongst the people in a grand style.
Members of Igwe’s cabinet, top government functionaries, political juggernauts, friends and well-wishers in and outside the State attended the ceremony which took place in his palace.
Performing the Iwa Ji rites, Igwe Okoli, described the new yam festival as a moment of thanking God for fertility of the soil, pointing out that the relationship between God, Man and yam was very symbolic. He also noted that it served as a period of blessings, purification and proclamation that the new yam was safe and ready for consumption.
Igwe Okoli while appreciating the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Dr. Willie Obiano for the landslide achievement in the state, suggested that Ndi Anambra should commence the celebration of the new yam festival collectively as practiced in most countries like China whose unified cultural heritage is celebrated for a period of one month attracting tourists across the globe and had helped boost their economy. The traditional Ruler said if all communities in Igboland celebrated the festival together it would enhance the attitude of communalism, peace and love amongst Ndi Igbo and would also aid the propagation of rich cultural heritage Igbo People were known for.
The Royal Father went ahead to thank God for a bountiful harvest saying that the new yam festival sought to bring people together and ensure that their culture was kept alive as their traditional heritage was passed from generation to generation.
Earlier in his opening prayers, the Parish Priest of St. Mathews Catholic Church, Akpu, Rev.Fr. Dr. MichaelJude Nwajiobi, prayed for a successful new yam celebration and a plentiful harvest next farming season.
Speaking in an interview with Fides, some of the indigenes including Professor Andrew Osuigwe and Chief Denis Udeokoli said in their separate speeches that the New Yam Festival was the hall mark of culture as Ndi Igbo were mainly farmers who later acquired other professions to be at par with their counterparts in the world and advocated for the expansion of New Yam Festival in the entire Igboland.
Speaking also, the Palace Secretary of the Community, Nze Mike Udensi and the President General of the Women Wing of the Community Dr. Mrs. Ifeoma Obioji, said that the name given to new yam festival differs among communities, explaining that Akpu Community referred to new yam as Otute meaning ‘praises to God for a successful farming season’ and a period to usher in the eating of the new yam among the Akpu indigenes around the world.
During the closing prayers, the Reverend of St. Michael’s and All Angels’ Anglican Church, Akpu, Rev. ThankGod Onwuka, prayed that the New yam festival would usher in God’s blessings and grace in the community.
Typical of festivities, the Otute festival was made complete with the heavy presence of masquerade groups, musical displays and eating of the roasted yam which for them, raised the hope for a bountiful harvest next farming season.