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The Celebration Of The Deity Imo By The Akwa People

By Chinelo Eze
04 September 2022   |   1:44 pm
Every culture that ever existed in humanity has many facets to it that preserve it. In Akwa, located in Anambra the eastern part of Nigeria, the famous Imo Akwa festival is a practice that has lasted for time immemorial. Imo Akwa for the average Akwa indigene is equal to what the Christmas celebration is for…

Every culture that ever existed in humanity has many facets to it that preserve it. In Akwa, located in Anambra the eastern part of Nigeria, the famous Imo Akwa festival is a practice that has lasted for time immemorial.
Imo Akwa for the average Akwa indigene is equal to what the Christmas celebration is for Christians or what Eid il Kabir is for Muslims. This festival can be juxtaposed with what the Osun Osogbo festival means for the Osun people.

This anticipated festival which is usually celebrated in the month of May has indigenes of Akwa coming back from far and wide to celebrate the festival.
The long-lasting celebration reaches its peak with the two-weeks fanfare. Before this two-week peak of the festivities, masquerades are seen within and around the towns and villages as well as deities heading to the central worship spot, a tree at Amaeanyi in Akwa. The 2 week-long celebrations have a lineup of activities that take place: ede mmuo, ogwu oghugha, egwu opu-eke, egwu imo-oka, nti agba and/or nro nta. This involves 2 male groups whipping each other as a display of strength till one surrenders.

This cultural festival, away from the hullabaloo, is done with a sense of spiritual connotations.

What is the value of Imo Akwa to the people of Akwa?
The festival of Imo Akwa honours as well as celebrates the legendary tale of the avenger god(Imo) of Akwa for standing firm to protect and give victory to the people of Akwa. According to legend, during the times of tribal wars and the conquering of villages, the charm Imo was created by a powerful priest to protect the Akwa people when their impending doom was near. To communicate to the people about the dangers ahead, Imo used a monkey to inform the people ahead of their fears. To their advantage, the people of Akwa always had victory over their enemies.

Therefore, the need to go back in time and be thankful for the guidance by Imo became the genesis of this age-long celebration as practised today.
Perceived as a female god, Imo Akwa celebrates, venerates and honours her, giving thanks to Imo for favours, and also praying in hopes for a brighter year ahead. This is why at the finale of Imo Akwa, women are seen clad in white as they march to the shrine of the deity Imo.
Imo Akwa is thus a celebration that cleanses the land of impurities and negativity hence, fostering protection of the people, and securing peace and prosperity for the people.

Monkeys
Due to the role the monkey played in saving them from doom, by informing them of the invasion ahead, monkeys have been venerated in the community, therefore finding a place in the festival of Imo Akwa. This is why it is a horrendous act to kill a monkey, and if such a scenario takes place some ritual acts are to be done.
Regardless of its persistence over time in the culture of the people of Akwa, its relevance faces scrutiny and questioning by people outside of the community.
However, this perception has trickled down to the day-to-day activities of the people that Imo Akwa still fights and protects their land and people.