By: Ifeanyi Okonkwo(Anambra),
It was a great gathering of traditional rulers, chiefs, scholars, academicians, students of Nnamdi Azikiwe and students from various institutions from south east on Wednesday 5th September as the New Yam festival was celebrated by Nnamdi Azikiwe University.
It was indeed a display of traditional dances, masquerades and different melodic tunes and display to the enthusiastic crowd who gathered to witness the event.
Vice Chancellor Uni-zik, Professor Joseph Ahaneku in his opening remarks expressed his delight over the occasion.
“Convinced of the relevance of culture in a people’s life and mindful of the often expressed fear of the threat of the eclipse of Igbo language and culture, our administration decided to set up a directorate for Igbo Village and Center for African Civilization (IVACAV) with a mandate to promote African civilization.”
“Culture being the totality of the way in which a people adopt with the environment cannot really be static in the face of the pressures attendant on the religious rites associated with the new yam festival, its core value and thanksgiving to God the lord of all creation remains relevant”, he stated.
Very Rev.Fr.Prof. Bonachristus Umeogu the Director of IVACAC, in his speech said “Before the coming of the church, people in Igbo land think that new yam festival is a “pagan” festival.
“Yam in Igbo land is not only used for food, commerce and sacrifice, they are also used for healing purposes. Igbo land heritage, yam is the heritage of both rich and the poor”.
The festival variously called Iri Ij, Iwa Ji or Ike Ji in the various dialects of the Igbo people usually takes place in August every year. It is intended to offer the yam as gratitude first before it can then be consumed by humans.
New yam festival in Igbo land is the king of all festivals and includes a lot of Igbo cultural things like Thanksgiving, Kola nut breaking, masquerade performance, theatrical and dance exhibitions.
Yam is not only an Igbo affair. Almost all continents of the world have yam in their respective traditions.
IVACAC is a directorate In Uni-Zik created to preserve and foster “Igboness” (Ejirimara Igbo) in relation to the people who regard Igboland as their ancestral homeland and who think and speak Igbo language and have their life and existence in Igbo tradition and culture.