Home Viewpoint Iwa-Akwa in Imo State and its cultural benefits

Iwa-Akwa in Imo State and its cultural benefits

By Nduka Val

Iwa-Akwa ceremony as the name depicts is a cultural event organized in certain places in Imo state that signifies an initiation of some categories of adult- males, occupying certain age brackets, into manhood.
In other words, the exercise is set out culturally to initiate some
full grown men with certain age attainment into a particular age-grade, with a view to allocating them certain cultural responsibilities in their various participating communities. That is to say that the activity is geared towards introducing those qualified men into a new phase of life, coupled with its surrounding challenges as specified culturally.
This cultural exercise is a very unique event that is practised exclusively by some Communities in certain Local Government Areas of Imo state. It is not an annual cultural event like Iriji, Oru Owere festival, Onwa Oru of Uratta, Ita Oka of Awaka, Mgbugbu Uzo of Egbu, Igba Nta of Umuguma and so on.
It is an event that is specifically and culturally organized every three years in all the communities involved in its celebration.
Iwa-Akwa (Cloth-Wearing) ceremony was historically told to have been adopted from Obowo in Obowo Local Government Area, into Umuaro-Umunumo in Ehime-Mbano LGA of same Imo State in about 1937, by a group of adult men who saw the need to concretize the role of age-grading in Igbo land.
It was also informed by some men from Umunumo community(where it was first adopted to), such as late pa Corlenius Echeruo, late pa Lambert Egemba and late pa Eugene Nduka that shortly after its introduction in Umunumo Community in that early period, it was swiftly emulated by some neighbouring Communities such as Umuezegwu, Lowa, Amainyi, Umuderim in Ihitte-Uboma LGA.
It was also emulated by communities like Umuezeala, Agbaghara, Umuakagu Nsu, Umuanunu Nsu and Umuezeala Nsu in Ehime-Mbano LGA, owing to the derivable benefits from such cultural event at that particular point in time.
As such cultural practice kept gaining grounds resoundingly within the participating communities, the quest for its adoption by many other interesting communities kept increasing.
It was on that basis that it crept into Ogbo and Ihitte-afoukwu in Ahiazu Local Government Area of the state in the 80s.
Having laid down the origin and the expansion of the Iwa-Akwa cultural event in Imo state, it is also important to present
how it is celebrated in
the affected communities.
This long-term celebration as experienced in Umunumo
is always performed to the admiration of the invited guests and relatives of the participants.
On the day of the event
which must correspond with a particular market day of the celebrating community, the group of qualified adult males selected for the event, on the ground of age -bracket, are meant to joyously file out with their tied 4-yard Judge Wrappers to an approved market centre of their Community, in company of their musical groups as well as their culturally certified celebrated predecessors, whose duties Will include: directing them aright in their market processions and dancing; monitoring the number/sound of their exploded cannon-gun shots and directing their movement inside an organized built structure.
These activities will be done whenever it is ascertained that the selected qualified set must have completed the
cultural requirements of their respective Communities prior to event date.
Most of those required items will include: sizeable amount of pounded Cassava, prepared oil bean salad
M(Ugba), Gallons of palm- wine, some cartons of beer and some amount of money in some cases.
Sequentially, after the cultural procession of the celebrating group or age-grade at the chosen market (Eke, Orie, Afor and Nkwo), in compliance with four Igbo market days, they will all retire to their respective homes joyfully with their relatives, friends and well-wishers for total merry – making and exchange of financial gifts.
This Cultural event as practised in such places as Ehime, Ihitte-Uboma and Obowo Local Government Areas is very significant in our society, considering the fact that it enables those coming behind the initiated set to begin getting prepared with conditional financial savings for a period of three years within which it will be their culturally approved turn to be initiated. By so doing, the consciousness of responsibility is gradually
and culturally cultivated in them in their respective families.
This cultural practice empowers the participants to imbibe the responsibility of paying Community taxations, getting married, building their own houses and fully participating in the general assembly meetings of ‘Umunna’.
In same vein, it affords them the opportunity of entertaining a full scale independency of taking a suitable personal decision without any family interference, as earlier on experienced prior to their initiation into the ‘Manhood Stage’.
This exercise has the merit of conscientising the youths from the participating communities to work harder in life and always acquaint themselves with that strong belief in life-stages and challenges at any point in time.
It serves as a tool for the encouragement of competition among people occupying same age- brackets in relation to societal achievements.
There have been some hiccups surrounding this cultural practice in some parts of the state. These include: it exposes participants into unnecessary financial debts due to its huge financial involvement; Religious perception/ interference and its ability of exposing would-be participants into some criminal tendencies to meet up with the cultural and material requirements of the people.
Conclusively, this article has made some recommendations in respect to the Iwa-Akwa celebration. These include: there is need for the state government to adopt it as an official cultural event that must be practised in all the 27L.G.As because of its manifesting merits and the request on certain Corporate establishments such as MTN, GLO, Breweries, Coca-Cola Bottling Company and Commercial Banks operating in the state, to as a matter of compliance with the Corporate Social responsibility, assist financially those participating in the initiation into manhood programme, with a view to reducing their monetary burden.


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