Nigeria, a country made up of various ethnic groups and thirty-six states records more than 365 festivals, some of these festivals date back to the period before the arrival of the major Religions in the country.
The main Muslim and Christian festivals are often celebrated in ways that are unique to the people of that locality.
The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation has been working with the states to upgrade the traditional festivals, as a way of displaying and boosting the country’s varied cultures.
ARGUNGU FISHING FESTIVAL
The Argungu Fishing Festival is an annual four-day festival in the state of Kebbi, in the Northern Nigeria. People from different parts of the world, travel to Kebbi, to witness the Argungu festival.
The main reason for the Argungu fishing festival is for fishing and unity.
The festival started in the year 1934, to mark the end of the centuries old opposition between the Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom. This festival has brought a huge growth to the development of the state as a whole. It is usually called a Fishing-Frenzy Festival, celebrated to mark the beginning of fishing season in Argungu, Kebbi State. It is celebrated between February and March annually. On the final day of the festival, a competition is held in which thousands of men line up along the river, and at the sound of a gunshot, they jump into the river to catch the largest fish within an hour with the use traditional fishing tools, though many prefer to catch fish entirely by hand to demonstrate their expertise. The winner can take home as much as $7,500 US dollars. Competitors are only allowed to
Activities carried out include:
- Canoe races
- Agricultural showcases
- Cultural activities
- Wrestling matches
- Musical performances
- Grand Fishing conquest
- Swimming Contest.
AFAN FESTIVAL KADUNA
The word Afan means “mountain” or “hill” in Tyap. The exact date when this festival started could not be ascertained, but it is believed to be first held in Ankwai clan on the Jos-Bauchi Plateau around 1500 A.D.
The glamorous hills are located at an altitude about 1,246 meters above sea level. Large trees grow on the hills with a wobbly base. The climate of the area is significantly influenced by the hills and the climate is similar to that of the Jos Plateau and the Mambila Plateau, with heavy rainfall in the spring.
In the early days, the Agworok people lived in the caves and atop the hill ranges for centuries before gradually settling at the foot of the mountain and finally driven down almost completely by the British colonialist in the early 20th century although communities yet exist atop the hills.
The hills provided the people safety from foreign Invaders and harbors sacred bee colonies which when unauthorized invasion climb the hill, it is met with bee stings on a victim especially when such a one wears a perfume.
The Afan National Festival is a yearly event celebrated every 1st January in the palace of the Chief of Kagoro in the Kaura Local Government Area of Northern States by the Oegworok (Kagoro) people of southern Kaduna State, Nigeria. It has been observed for over 400 years.
The festival is celebrated with the greatest solemnity, according to historical details. After sanctifying the hills in the Palace, a hunting expedition is organized early in the morning of the following day.
All the hunters will ascend to the top of the hill to a place called ‘JIYO’ (trouble) where they surround the place and set it on fire. This is called ‘burning the hill’ and then the hunting can proceed.
The festival has now been merged with the New Year celebration as the hunters now dress in traditional hunting attire symbolizing the return from the first hunting expedition of the year. Further processional features of the festival include traditional dancers like ‘Kodai’, ‘Dodo’ dancers, Boys Brigade, Girls Brigade and many other colourful activities, which add beauty and colour to the event.
Traditionally, the festival marks the end of crop harvest for the year and the beginning of hunting expeditions as well as other numerous activities.
NJUWA FISHING FESTIVAL IN ADAMAWA STATE
Njuwa Lake has a historical and cultural legacy, it has been an absolute source of livelihood to the people of Yola town on the Southwestern side, and Rugange village on the Northeastern side of the lake.
Many Rivers flow into the Lake, from the South Western side, River Chouchi and Mayo Chudde, from the South Eastern side by several streams such as Mayel Lumo, Mayel Kalwa, Mandare streams and many other small streams (about five) drain into Njuwa Lake.
Fish species variety is also very high, therefore the lake offers a unique potential for both artisanal fishing and fisheries tourism through the revival of the cultural fishing festival despite the environmental degradation that it has suffered over the years.
Njuwa is an annual fishing festival performed by the people of Rugange, Njoboliyo, Dasin, Dulo, Bagale, Dagri, and Vunoklan villages of Adamawa Emirate.
Though there is no fixed date for the festival, it usually takes place when the level of the water in the lake subsides. The Njuwa fishing festival used to be a two-day occasion, which is normally marked by a lot of performances, ranging from traditional dances to competitive running, tug-of-war, boat riding, swimming, fishing, etc. In most cases, it comes up in the month of April, the fishing festival attracts many people from within and outside the state.
The festival, like other fishing festivals in the country, attracts many fishermen with different kinds of style and skill in catching fish. While some make good use of their bare hands and gourds to catch fish, others make use of nets to do so.
The Eyo Festival, is a Yoruba festival unique to Lagos, and is traditionally performed on Lagos Island. The white-clad Eyo masquerade represents the spirits of the dead, and is referred to in Yoruba as “agogoro Eyo”. The word refers to the costumed dancers, known as the masquerades that come out during the festival.
Back in the day, the Eyo festival was held to guide the soul of a departed Lagos King or Chief or a notable Lagosian who contributed greatly to the development of Lagos and to usher in a new king. It is widely believed that this was one of the habitual African festivities that served as the forerunner of the modern carnival in Brazil. Its popularity stretches beyond the shores of this country, it can be concluded that the Eyo masquerade itself represents Lagos.
On Eyo Day, the main highway in the heart of the city (from the end of Carter Bridge to Tinubu Square) is closed to traffic, allowing for procession from Idumota to the Iga Idunganran palace.
The exceptional feature of this event is its rare staging, the Eyo does not hold on an annual basis like the popular Lagos carnivals of Olowogbowo, Oko-Faji etc. There have been times in the past when for 21 years, the event did not hold, also there have been years when Eyo was staged, three, four and five times in a single year: 1903, 1906 and 1909 respectively.
Prohibited items during the Eyo Festival
- Okada motorcycle taxis
- Shuku – hairstyle
- Female with head tie, headgear, or any covering of the head
- Male with cap of any kind
The masquerades are known to beat people who use any of the prohibited items at sight with their staffs.
SANGO FESTIVAL OYO STATE
Sango Festival is an annual festival held among the Yoruba people in honour of Sango, a thunder and fire deity who was a warrior and the third king of the Oyo Empire. The Sango Festival celebrations can be traced back to 1,000 years ago after the exit of Sango.
The festival is usually held in August at the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo and also observed in over forty countries around the world.
Sango was a famous strong ruler and magician who became king of the Oyo Empire after succeeding his elder brother who was alleged to be a “weak ruler”. It was believed that he brought wealth to the people of the Oyo Empire during his reign.
Sango’s death has been linked to different mythical stories. It is believed that Sango hung himself in order to avoid humiliation from one of his powerful chiefs who ordered Sango to give up his throne or face war.
Sango was said to have reigned for just seven years as King over Oyo but with such a powerful leadership, he was counted as the best King ever in the history of Oyo rulers.
NEW YAM FESTIVAL OF THE IGBO
The New Yam Festival of the Igbo people known as Orureshi in the idoma area, Iwa ji, Iri ji or Ike ji, Otute depending on dialect is an yearly cultural festival by the Igbo people held at the end of the rainy season in early August.
The Iri ji festival (new-yam eating) is also practiced throughout West Africa (especially in Nigeria and Ghana) and other African countries and beyond, symbolizing the end of a harvest and the beginning of the next farming season.
Generally, at the beginning of the festival, the yams are offered to the gods and ancestors first before distributing them to the villagers. The rites are performed either by the oldest man in the community or by the king or eminent titleholder, showing appreciation to the supreme deity for his protection and kindness in leading them from lean periods to the time of bountiful harvest without deaths resulting from hunger.
After the prayer of thanksgiving, they eat the first yam because it is believed that their position bestows the opportunity of being intermediaries between their communities and the gods of the land. The yam used for the main ritual at the festival is usually roasted and served with palm oil (mmanụ nri). This event is an important event in the calendar of Igbo people all over the world.
The colourful festival is a visual display of unity, dance, joy and feasting, an annual display for community members.
The festival is done at community stage first and then individuals now take queue to celebrate with their own family and friends, thereby kicking off the eating of new yam in the families that participated in the ceremony.
Oro Festival is an annual patriarchal event celebrated by towns and settlements of Yoruba origin, it is only celebrated by male descendants who are paternal natives to the specific locations where the particular event is taking place.
During the festival, females and non-natives stay indoors as history has it that the Oro must not be seen by women and non-participating people.
The ceremony surrounding the celebration of Oro differs from town to town. In some places, when the Oba dies, a special atonement and period of mourning are held. It usually involves human sacrifice that has been refuted strongly by the followers.
The Oro is usually concealed except during the festival. Oro then makes an entry by making high-pitched swishing sounds . This whirring sound is said to made by the wife called Majowu.
It is said that Oro makes an appearance wearing a robe with shells and an adorned white wooden mask with blood smeared on the lips. Its follower’s eulogies it by making incantations in loud voices.
Calabar Carnival festival in Nigeria, also known as “Africa’s Biggest Street Party” or the “Pride of Nigeria”, is an annual carnival in Cross River State, Southeastern part of Nigeria.
The carnival is held every December as an activity to mark Christmas celebration. Over the years, the quality of this festival keeps growing, and it has presently become an international festival and Nigeria number one biggest carnival.
The carnival has always been a prospect one as different competition takes place with huge cash prices, the carnival has always been a colorful one. The Calabar Carnival is without a doubt the biggest, best and longest tourism event in West Africa. It attracts over two million revelers and features participants from over 25 different countries.
The Battle of the Bands and Street Parade is even broadcasted to television viewers of around fifty million.
LAGOS BOOK AND ART FESTIVAL
The initiative behind this festival was to commemorate Nigeria’s return to democracy after over three decades of military regimes and to have a feast that would re-energize the scene and refocus both the young and old, especially to book reading culture, which was gradually dying. The Lagos Book and Art Festivals are held over a seven-day period in different venues including Goethe-Institute, the British Council, and Freedom Park, all in Lagos State.
This Festival features a number of different activities including pre-festival activities like book treks, musical performances, book readings, film screenings, publishers forum, book and art exhibitions, panel discussions, book presentations, cultural exhibitions, book reviews, and more events.
The festival also enables the participation of students of primary and secondary schools and universities in Nigeria by introducing competition and presenting opportunities for them.
The festival was also scheduled to celebrate different literary icons that passed on like Pius Adesanmi, Eddie Ugbomah, Bisi Silva and others. It was founded by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), a Nigerian-based cultural organization in 1999. The festival has been hosting activities like musical performances, book readings and launches, film screenings, a publishers’ forum, book and art exhibitions, panel discussions, symposiums, cultural exhibitions, and much more for the last twenty-one years.
Photo Credit http://www.travelstart.com.ng/blog/10-colourful-cultural-festivals-in-nigeria/