Thursday, 1st June 2023

Ekwe Mgba Festival in Lohum Imenyi of Bende in Abia

By Olaleye Ngozi Lawretta
21 May 2023   |   5:19 am
Lohum Imenyi is a community situated between Uzuakoli and Isiukwuato in Abia State. Lohum Imenyi is culturally. Culture is the ideas, beliefs and ways of a particular people or community.

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Lohum Imenyi is a community situated between Uzuakoli and Isiukwuato in Abia State. Lohum Imenyi is culturally. Culture is the ideas, beliefs and ways of a particular people or community. It is the total activities and ideas of a group of which are passed from one generation to another. Ekwe Mgba festival (known as traditional wrestling) is one of the culture of this community that attracts visitors from nearby communities.

It is a very great festival that brings unity in the community and all the communities surrounding Lohum Imenyi. This festival normally provides an opportunity for members of the community in diaspora to travel home. It holds once in every two years, usually in the month of December, that is why many people attend the festival because December is a festive period and that is why the Lohum community people in diaspora normally come home en-mass any year this festival holds.

A lot of activities take place before the ‘Ekwe Mgba” festival proper. Lohum Imenyi being a community situated at the major road linking Isiukwuato, Abiriba, Ohafia, Igbese, Arochukwu, etc normally attract people from these communities whenever the “Ekwe Mgba” festival is being celebrated. Infact some of the people from these mentioned communities join the Lohum community members to celebrate this festival.

This festival involves every member of the community. It lasts for one week starting from the day of preparation to the last day. The last day is the day set aside for the young men or boys to exercise their power with their fellow young men or boys which is the “Mgba” proper. This word “Mgba” is known as ‘Wrestling” in English Language.

Any year this festival is celebrated, the elders normally meet before the festival to fix a date and to do some rituals. Once this is done, a town crier will go round the village to announce the date fixed by the elders.

On the first day of the festival, all the married women will gather at the village square with their hoes and cutlasses and the women leader of the village will address them. She informs them that the hoes and cutlasses they came out with is what they are going to use to weed the entire road that leads to all the streams in the village. When the weeding is completed, they will gather again at the village square and all the women who gave birth that year will prepare one big bowl of fufu with Okazi soup mixed with achara each, this is a very special native soup in Lohum community.

The women that went to weed the road to the stream will eat the food and dance and thank God for safe delivery in the life of the nursing mothers and they will pray for them.

The second day the women will come out and sweep the village square. The third day normally falls on the village market day which is ‘Eke”. On the “Eke” market day the women will go to the market to buy the things they will use and cook on the festival day. On that market day, some well-to-do parents will buy new clothes for their children for the occasion but as for the women and men what they wear on that day of the festival is George material.

On the fourth day, the young girls will go and fetch fire wood and water for the elderly women and some women who are childless, even women whose children are outside the village are also assisted. Some of the young girls when they see that the compound of any person they went to give water is dirty, they will help them to sweep it. All these are in preparation of the “Ekwe Mgba Festival”.

On the fifth day many women in the community will start preparing what is called “Alu Isu” this is done with Egusi (melon seed) soup. It is the first thing every woman offers to her visitor starting on the sixth day.

The “Ekwe Mgba” starts on the sixth day and ends on the seventh day. On that sixth day friends and relatives to each family are expected to be visiting. This sixth day is mainly a day of merriment. That is a day you attend to your visitors with delicious Okazi soup and fufu and the common drink used for this festival is palm wine. In the evening of that sixth day at about 5pm, people will start going to the village square where the “Ekwe Mgba” takes place.

This Ekwe Mgba is where the young men showcase their power. So on that sixth day some young boys will engage in the exercise.
On the seventh day which is the grand finale, boys from neighboring community will come to witness the Mgba festival. Some of them will equally participate in the “Mgba”. This exercise is done according to age. The boys are grouped according to their age. While the ‘Ekwe Mgba” is going on, the drums are rolled out in celebration and the women dance and sing in the course of the competition. When anyone throws his opponent’s back to the ground, there will be great joy. People will rush to him and lift him up. Some will spray money on him and the women will start singing with the person’s name.

This occasion is where young men showcase their power and skills. At times the young men that have skills will see young girls that will fall in love with them which will end up in marriage. This is one of the advantages of the “Ekwe Mgba” festival.
The celebration of Ekwe Mgba in Lohum Imenyi, Bende local Government area of Abia state has continued to be a way of sustaining the rich culture of the people, it also provides opportunity for people to visit home, find spouses and most importantly create avenue for social relationships.
• Lawretta is a member of staff of National Commisiion for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Abuja.