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Benue Cultural Festivals

Festivals and celebrations among Benue people are marks of the rich cultural heritage of Benue people. These feasts cover the various socio-cultural aspect of life of Benue people, like marriages, seasonal farming yields, fishing, hunting, burial, bestowal of honour and dignity upon individuals or group among others. Some of these festivals are celebrated annually or at different times of the year.

These include:

KYEGH SHA ISHWA (Chicken with Sesame) Benue Cultural Festival

It is, however, a choice delicacy of the Tiv of Central Nigeria; a soup made of chicken and thick sesame (Benniseed) sauce. The Tiv people best savour this delicacy with pounded yam. It is indeed a very popular dish.

Leveraging on the popularity of this and the near-worship sentimental attachment that the Tiv have with this dish, the Very Rev. Fr. Solomon Mfa Ukeyima conceived of it as a fine rallying point where Tiv sons and daughters would come together, reason together to grow together – a kind of reawakening of the great communal spirit that drives them, as beautifully couched in one of their proverbs, “ka ityem imôngo Mbagbera ve fe iywa ye”.

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Activities

NYINYA (Umilin) Benue Festival

Nyinya: The Tiv name for horse.

The horse found its way into Tiv Land in the wake of a conflict with the Jukun and the Hausa. The horse was initially used by these tribes in Warfare and later as a means of conveyance in peaceful times. But neither of these was a horse to the Tiv people.

To the Tiv people owning a horse meant to be rich “Dzege”.

This is a display of a celebrant’s affluence, culminating in the purchase of Nyinya (a horse). It is a boastful celebration of an individual to his age group and elders in Tivland, therefore when one bought a horse, an age mate or an Angbian would throw a feast for him.

This festival takes place anytime of the year, during the celebration of ‘Nyinya’, songs are composed in praise of the celebrant and musicians and dancers such as:

  1. Ajo,
  2. Genga, and
  3. Ingyough feature prominently

There would be much drinking, dancing and general merriment.

The owner would mount his horse and treat the crowd to daring displays of expertise in horse riding. Money and especially livestock are presented to the “Tor Nyinya”. The festival is held as often as a horse is bought.

IVOM (Amar or Genga) Benue Festival

Ivom: is from an earth mound, the type you find in Benue farms.

Ivom feast is a prestigious (Shagba) marriage dance festival, it is a Benue age mates competition where each member of an age group strives to out-dance his mates.

Significance: The significance lies in the fact that it has the potentials of enhancing an individual’s personality traits, thereby letting him into the early part or the twentieth century when the Tiv people finally settled down where they are now, to a more viable economic and social life.

Purpose: The main purpose of the feast is to display wealth and in so doing, score a point against the financially less privileged members of an age group. An age mate could throw such a feast for another.

Qualities and requirements: The “Ivom” itself is a raised platform carefully and artistically molded by a specialist and painted with pictures of wild animals like lions, leopard, buffalos, and crocodiles depicting the bravery of the celebrant.

  1. He must be married to dance the “Ivom” with his wife.
  2. He must also have celebrated “tsantic”, a ritual considered to be a preamble to the celebration of the “Ivom” proper.
  3. He must in addition to the above qualities, receive approval from the Council of Elders.

While the chief celebrant dances or performs the ritual on the “Ivom” with his wife, a spear and / or horsetail in hand, his age-mates who have never done the dance, shower money or gifts on the couple from a distance or through an initiate as anybody who is not initiated is forbidden to go near the “Ivom” let alone touch it.

Usually, a man from Igba (mother clan) can “throw” such a feast for an Igba (one who hails from the latter’s clan).

It usually takes place between January and April with lavish entertainment comprising of “burukutu” (local beer), food and meat.

UJOR Benue Festival

This is a festival most popular in Agila, Utonkon and Igumale areas of Ado Local Government Area of Idoma land.

It is celebrated in September during the New Yam season.

Ujor festival is celebrated in commemoration of past victories recorded by the Idoma at war. It is also partly a new yam festival. Prominent celebrants include the Chiefs, Clan heads and brave warriors.

The celebration is accompanied with the following cultural dances of the Idoma people of Benue State:

  1. Agba,
  2. Atakakpo,
  3. Adeigbo Oode, and
  4. Odabaru.

On the eve of the festival, the traditional ruler meets with members of his traditional council in-all night session to review the activities of the community in the last twelve months. Decisions reached on this occasion are handed down to the people the next day as laws after some traditional dances. On this occasion, the warriors demonstrate to the people how a typical warfare is planned and prosecuted.

The Arsenal on display includes:

Spears and shields: signifying Benue’s traditional implement of warfare in olden days.

ODUMU Benue Festival

Odumu: The Idoma name for a ‘Lion’

Odumu festival is a masquerade dance festival that is common amongst Idoma people of Benue State. The entire festivities are centered on animal superiority, dignity and majesty that are attributed to the lion or king of the animals as it is referred.

Here the lion is qualitatively ascribed with aggression, physical prowess and with majesty. These are supposed to be the qualities that the Idoma people of Benue State cherish in men.

Odumu festival therefore is a post-expedition triumph dance staged primarily by hunters in their hunting groups to capture the essence of their supposed warlike nature or agility. It is important to note that the hunters do not willfully go out to hunt lions, rather they try to symbolize the joy a lion would demonstrate after a successful hunting expedition since they feel victorious as the lion would after its hunt. The performance of the festival has no associated taboos except the ones the people usually carry out on the hunting ground prior to the festival.

It can be organized at any time of the year.

AKATA Benue Fishing Festival

This is a fishing festival popular among the Akata people located in Katsina-Ala local government area of Benue State. Tiv, Etulo and Jukun fishermen competes during Akata annual fishing festival that is celebrated between the months of March and May in Katsina-Ala, Benue State. The festival depicts fishing techniques. Prizes are given to the fishermen that come out with the biggest catches.

This festival attracts all kinds of dances.

UKPLEKA Benue Festival

Ukpleka festival is celebrated among the Etulos of Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State. It is celebrated in the month of August every year.

It is an annual gathering and converging of sons and daughters of Etulo before their chief, the Etsu-Etulo who confers titles on the most prominent ones for their contributions towards the development of the Etulo community.

It is therefore, when Etulo sons and daughters, prominent in their various endeavors and societies go home with high expectations of being honored by their paramount ruler.

IGEDE AGBA Benue Festival

Igede Agba festival celebrated among the Igede people of Benue State.

It is celebrated in month of September every year. It’s a new yam festival at which the people of Igede thank their communal deity for bumper harvest before they officially begin to eat the new yam.

The period also serves as celebration of their National day. It is the Igede celebration to commemorate their happiness at arriving at their abode. The Orgirinya, Obemu, Aita, Alatakpa, Onyantu, Woro form parts of the celebrations.

KWAGH-HIR Benue Festival

Kwagh-Hir Puppet festival is very peculiar to the Tiv people of Benue State.

It is most popular during the dry season from October to April, and in December. The Kwargh-Hir puppet festival is a dramatized folklore of the Tiv people with intense use of masquerades, puppets and marionettes.

It is useful as a means of handing down information, opinions beliefs and customs through the oral, narrative and has offered visual metaphors for understanding and resolving social conflicts.

Its themes are woven around economic and social conflicts, problems of the people, traditional and historical issues in Tiv land and contemporary work in general. The stories seek to enlighten and cleanse the society.

A typical Kwagh–Hir performance comprises of a group of drummers, singers, dancers, and acrobats as well as various works of art.

BIEM AND TOHO YILAN Benue Festival

Biem’ is inter-clan or community while ‘Toho Yilan’ is intra-clan.

Biem And Toho Yilam is a festival of hunting wild games among Tiv people of Benue State. The bush is allowed to stay for a period of five to ten years in burnt condition preparatory to the festival.

Elders of the clan involved in organizing the hunting expedition and feasting. The hunters who usually use local hunting tools like: bows and arrows, cutlasses, sears, matches, Dane-guns all await patiently at the mapped out area.

Biem and Toho Yilan is accompanied by all kinds of dances and takes place between December to April.

INDYER Benue Festival

Indyer: A Tiv drum.

Indyer as a festival it is a noble celebration carried out by any individual who sees himself as reputable enough to possess the ‘Indyer’.

It is an instrument of dignity whose fashioning and preparation is shrouded in mystery. The personalities involved must have all the natural and human resources to put up this festival.

Indyer festival takes place at any time of the year and it is celebrated throughout Tivland. It is accompanied by songs; music and dances composed according to the dictates of the ceremony.

ACHEMUDUJE Benue Festival

This is a New Year festival in Okpokwu Local Government Area of Benue State. Other activities like the inauguration of age grades are also formally performed. It is during this festival that the Ekwunokwu masquerades appear.

REKANGE Benue Festival

Is a communal cleansing ceremony of the Utonkon people in Ado Local Government Area of Benue State, held annually in the month of July or August during which evil spirits are chased away. Also, disused ancestral masquerades are buried at night.

Dances that accompany this festival are:

  1. Odarigbo,
  2. Ikpirigidi,
  3. Odabane,
  4. Unaloko,
  5. Enkpa, and
  6. Ukpobu.

RICHU Benue Festival

Richu is a pre-Ijaha festival at Utonkon in Ado Local Government Area of Benue State. Each household makes private sacrifices at its own shrine to its ancestral spirit, particularly at the harvesting of the new yam.

JOHA EGBADOGWU Benue Festival

This is a communal ritual sacrifice to a special shrine to mark the harvesting of new yam, and initiate age-grade activities. It takes place in September and lasts for three days. It is held in Ado, Utonkon in Igumale.

The Ikpila and Odrigbo amongst other dances accompany the festival.

ECHI Benue Festival

The Echi festival is mainly composed of nocturnal dances by elders to express gratitude to the god of war for their past and present victories. It can be held any time of the year in Agatu Local Government Area and Ochekwu in Apa Local Government Area.

Occasionally this dance by men is to regulate social ills in the community. Some of the native dances that accompany it include:

  1. Echi dance,
  2. Akpan Chila, and
  3. Agwi.

EJEGEMBI Benue Festival

Ejegembi Benue festival is to appease the spirits to secure natural immunity against snakebites held in Igumale, Ado local government area.

It takes place in the month of July and August, usually celebrated before Ujor festival.

Some of the native dances that accompany it include:

  1. Oto,
  2. Agama, and
  3. Aringa dances.

AKETAKPA – OROJA Benue Fstival

Aketakpa-Oroja festival is for cleansing of the land of diseases and epidemics which is accompanied with the Aketakpa mask dance. The festival is held in Ado, Igale in the months of July and August.

EKWU-OBUECHE Benue Festival

Ekwu-Obueche is a funeral ritual festival during which the spirit of one’s deceased parent is appeased by preparing a special masquerade, which represents the reincarnated deceased person.

The ancestral masquerade (Alekwu) appears for the first time before the living relation and is treated with reverence by the clan. It comes up when necessary and it stays three days.

Masquerades that appears united during the night of the festival are:

  1. Alekwu-Afia,
  2. Eje-Okwu Ogrinya,
  3. Aja,
  4. Ekwunokwu

The festival takes place in:

  1. Apa,
  2. Ogbadibo,
  3. Otukpo, and
  4. Okpokwu Local government areas of Benue State.

IKWU OOYA OR OWYI ONYONYI Benue Festival

Ikwu Ooya also known as ‘Owyi Onyonyi’ is the second burial. It takes place when necessary and is highly regarded by all Idoma people.

Masquerades that take part during this festival include:

  1. Alekwu,
  2. Achukwu,
  3. Ajap Ichahoho, and
  4. Odmu.

AMAR A MIRIN Benue Festival

Amar A Mirin Benue Festival is an intra-community dance festival that involves other festivals like:

  1. ‘Ivom’,
  2. ‘Tembe Duen’, and
  3. ‘Nyinya’.

It is undertaken by communities to display human and natural wealth any time that is convenient.

Amar A Mirin is held in all Tiv local governments of Benue State namely:

  1. Gboko Local Government Area,
  2. Makurdi Local Government Area,
  3. Gwer Local Government Area,
  4. Guma Local Government Area,
  5. Gwer-West Local Government Area,
  6. Katsina-Ala Local Government Area,
  7. Konshisha Local Government Area,
  8. Ushongu Local Government Area.

Some of the dances during the festival include:

  1. Takera,
  2. Swange,
  3. Ange,
  4. Ajo,
  5. Iyua, and
  6. Chough are involved.

IKASE AKOMBO AND TYAV Benue Festival

Ikase Akombo and Tyav is a funeral Benue festivity that is associated with the death of a patriarch. The songs, music and dances composed depend on the caliber of the dead. During this period, different masquerades appear. At the height of the ceremony, a cow is sacrificed alive by Ipaa masquerade.

Other masquerades are:

Akune,

Abum Kombo,

Imbor,

Igbe, and

Ivughul Akombo.

The festival comes up between October and April. It is celebrated throughout Tivland in Benue State.

GBERICHUR Benue Festival

Gberichur could be translated as bowing down in Tiv language.

Gberichur is a feast celebrated by Tse-Dzer community of Tarka Local Government Area known as a peace loving people. The festival was instituted to drive the quest for peaceful homes has become part of Tse-Dzer’s peope culture that every tradition of Tse-Dzer people is a manifestation of peace and harmony among the people.

Bowing to most Benue people is a symbol of respect and respect brings about peaceful co-existence. The essence of the festival is to teach the members of the community, particularly the young ones, the need for peaceful co-existence using a ritualistic ceremony embedded in the cultural festival.

The main features of the Gberichur festival include:

  1. Elaborate and Beautiful traditional dances,
  2. Merrymaking,
  3. Partying,
  4. Exchange of gifts, and
  5. Visitation of friends, families and well wishers.

EJE-ALEKWU Benue Festival

This is a festival celebrated yearly between the end of March and the beginning of April, a period when the land’s chief priest performs his duty of sacrifice for good yield and the general populace provide the forum for celebration with dances and merriment. It is a communal hunting, and the largest catch is usually offered to the god of the land, for fertility of the land. It is hoped that this would in addition bring about progress and harmony among Idoma people. Spirits that appear during the celebrations includes:

  1. Eje,
  2. Aje-eje oope, and
  3. Alekwu.

The festival takes place in the following local governments in Benue State:

  1. Otukpo local government area,
  2. Ado local government area, and
  3. Okpowu local government area

MZOUGH-U-TIV (TIV NATIONAL DAY)

Mzough-U-Tiv is celebrated by the Tiv people in Gboko local government area of Benue State, the centre of  Tiv land and holds the traditional seat.

It is an annual event, a period when Tiv sons and daughters all over the globe (at home and in the Diaspora) are required to travel to Gboko for reunion, discussions on development, progress of the Tiv nation and other related issues.

Tiv day is a week long celebration which can rightly be termed a cultural week with a showcase of the rich and colorful display of traditional fabrics:

  1. Anger,
  2. Gbevwar,
  3. GodoAkpem,
  4. Agese Chado,
  5. Gadgir,
  6. Ivavtyo (Ityoapen),
  7. Tugudu,
  8. Anzapher,
  9. Agbende-A-Kurugh,
  10. Agbende-A-Adenden,
  11. Acika,
  12. Zaan Agergbila,
  13. Ishanda Zaan,
  14. Acubu,
  15. Ashira,
  16. Lishi (complete black), and
  17. Ankyegh Tsuaityo.

IMO ( 1 MINI ) Benue Festival

Imo Igberen (singing) like dancing is of great significance to the Tiv. Not the singing of love songs alone but reflections on philosophical themes, praise singing of social heavy weights and soliciting of financial help. Singers like:

  1. Number 1 Golozo,
  2. Kuje,
  3. Yom,
  4. Agugu Igba Kombu, and
  5. Many others are well known.

The Imo feast is a solemn occasion when a singer is called upon to sing at the host’s compound.

Dignitaries among them businessmen, traditional rulers, individuals who have made their marks in different works of life, grace the occasion. The composer launches his new album amidst unmitigated hilarity, and merriment.