There are so many appetite wetting and amusing Festivals in Nigeria, some of which dates to the period before the arrival of the white missionaries that brought the major religions into the culturally different society. The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation has been working with the states to upgrade the traditional festivals, which formed important sources of tourism revenue.
For the visitors to Nigeria and even people who have an affinity for our culture and love learning about it/experiencing it, there are several carnivals in Nigeria. There is no better way to explore and acknowledge Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage than joining in the colourful celebration at the cultural festivals. With a lot of unique cultural festivals for you to choose from; The Ogidi day festival in Kogi State holds every June, Usi day in Ekiti State, Africa’s biggest Street Party in Calabar, the worship of the goddess Oshun in the Sacred Forest of Osun, The Iri Ji Mbaise that comes up every August 15, to be honest with you, beholding the stunning white Eyo masquerades and lots more, we have selected some colourful cultural festivals in Nigeria that would blow off your mind; you can plan your next trip to Nigeria to carnival at one of these colourful festivals. These and many more led credence to the rich cultural heritage of Nigeria so if you’re ever in Nigeria be sure to pay a visit to one of these festivals and your life would be all the richer for the experience.
Argungu Fishing Festival
You may have come to real terms with some house hold like names and fascinated water activities around the world but if you have not been to the annual Argungu Fishing Festival in Sokoto State, your check tilt may not be complete. The tempting undercurrents of the festival, the exhilarating audience that throng the venue, and the nervous contenders who are ready to jump inside the river to begin their search for the biggest fish entrenches the Fishing Festival astonishing thick and stunning to behold. It would be recalled that the prestigious Argungu Fishing Festival is an annual four-day commemoration in the town of Argungu in the North-Western Nigerian State of Kebbi. The very engaging heritage began in 1934, as a mark of the end of the centuries-old hostility between the Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom. The festival is held on the Sokoto River in February or March. Thousands of fishermen equipped only with nets compete to catch the largest fish. Other lures include dance and music, sporting competitions and exhibit of arts and crafts. People from innumerable parts of the world come to see, catch fun, learn or take a curious but true look at this festival.
The Argungu Fishing festival
On the final day of the rivalry is when you get to see the main event: Thousands of fishermen and women line up on the bank of the river and on a signal, dive into the water in a competition to catch the biggest fish that year. Modern methods of catching fish are not allowed and in fact, the majority of competitors prefer to fish with their bare hands and calabashes. The person that has the biggest fish after the allotted fishing time of an hour walks away with the substantial cash price.
Ikeji Cultural Festival of Arondizuogu in Imo State is a popular festival that brings the Igbo speaking communities around the world together. Its origin dates back to over five centuries and it is acclaimed as the biggest Pan-Igbo Cultural Community Festival with strong heritage, international recognition and is witnessed by thousands of people on a yearly basis. It is arguably the biggest cultural festival in Igbo-land. In contemporary times, each passing year has witnessed an increase in grandeur, display, dance, sophistication and an all-inclusive participation of all Arondizuogu people and friends. The festival is marked with colourful display of different masquerades such as Ogionu, Mgbadike, Nwaaburuja and Ozoebune; prestigiously parading across the market square to the admiration of the public.
The essence of the festival, which ranks among the best surviving traditional ceremonies of the Arondizuogu people, is to celebrate the harvest of the first yams. It serves to unify and foster ties among Aro people who are spread across the entire Igbo speaking states and part of Cross River state. It appeals to the entire Igbo speaking peoples both at home and in the Diaspora.
Ikeji is a four-day festival of propitiation, thanksgiving and feasting which is held annually. Reckoned with the Igbo calendar, these four days correspond to one Igbo week of four market days (Eke,Orie, Afor and Nkwo). Each of these days has a special significance and represents one of the several dimensions of Ikeji – a festival renowned for sumptuous feasting, fascinating masquerades, pulsating rhythms, and colourful performances. Traditional musical instruments used to accompany the masquerades are ekwe (wooden slit drum) of various sizes, ogene (metal gong), bells, maracas and oja (wooden flutes). The flutist is a very important element in the ikeji festival. He deftly communicates with the masquerades – weaving soulful melodies and blending esoteric messages into the intoxicating rhythm of the drums.
Another interesting aspect of ikeji is the raconteur known as Ima mbem – an imaginative tale delivered with a musical cadence that only the initiated can understand or comprehend. The importance of the flutist during Ikeji festival is very vital, for he communicates things hidden from the ordinary eyes to the masquerades, combined with soulful melodies, steps and gestures, “blending esoteric messages into the intoxicating rhythm of the drums” to the admiration of the crowd.
Arondizuogu Mmonwu Ikeji Cultural Festival.
During Ikeji festival, on the last day, a ram is usually tied to a pole at a popular market square with a single thread. Somebody with the strongest protection from any juju of whatever type is expected to leisurely walk to the ram amid heavy attempt with juju from other people to knock him down, maim him or kill him. Only the brave can participate in, while the not so brave will either abstain from or remain with the crowd as spectators. Only the brave can majestically and boldly step forward from the crowd, one after another and approach the tree with a view to untying the ram.
However, each contender will be attacked by forces which are beyond the latitude of this piece to enlighten, with a view to stopping him reaching the ram. If overwhelmed, he will beat a retreat back to his starting point. Until eventually, the bravest among the masquerades participating in the competition for that year’s festival, after overcoming all odds, will reach the ram and untie it and take it, with roaring applause by the spectators. This will be followed by visits to his house by fellow kinsmen with food and wine for elevating the status of his village. Each year this is used to commemorate the person in Arondizuogu and neighbouring towns with the strongest juju or voodoo power. From whichever angle you may be looking at it from, it can safely be said to be survival of the fittest.
The Calabar Carnival has been held in Calabar since 2006, including band competitions, a parade, food and dancing. It has been called Nigeria’s biggest street party. The carnival may have as many as 50,000 costumed participants and 2 million spectators, and is broadcast on television across the country. It is the culmination of the month-long Calabar Festival. The Calabar Carnival holds at the end of the year in Nigeria, and in keeping with tradition, carnival teams’ march across the streets where they engage in colourful displays and competitions from which winners are selected and rewarded. Participating teams usually rehearse for Months in advance before the carnival date itself.
The Calabar Carnival, after a decade, has reached a defining high point; there is a lineup of companies seeking to sponsor what has been repeatedly described as ‘Africa’s biggest street party’. And it is not just the corporate world that is buying into the carnival. Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists, mainly Nigerians, travel to Calabar for the month-long celebration, which includes a series of concerts, fashion shows and a food fair spread out over 32 days.
As has been the tradition, the carnival flags off at the Millennium Park and terminates at the U.J. Esuene Stadium, a distance of 12km. The Calabar carnival, though is a very colourful parade, there is seriousness to it that many visitors don’t realize: it’s an ‘intellectual theatre on the road’, a blend of creativity and deep analytical thinking. For one, it is one thing to have a general theme to work with but it is another to interpret those same themes and express them in tangible symbols and representations. Even more than that, “we want to show Nigeria as a country rich in culture and heritage,” says the compeer at the opening ceremony, which took place one of the carnival year.
The Calabar carnival
Much as the Calabar carnival parades participants across a wide age spectrum—from grandparents to the kindergartens– it is the youth population, made up of more than 80 percent of the bands, that gives it verve and street credibility, especially because of their splendid mastery of the dance routines. Without them, the carnival would not be as fascinating to behold. Over the years Calabar has grown itself to be a must- watch tourist destination and the people have become a critical part of everything the government does so much so that there never seems to be any security problems. And from inception, the carnival has been focused on attracting domestic tourists mainly, building it up to a point where it will become internationally viable and competitive. And its overall success has spawned imitation-carnivals in other States. Having come thus far, many observers now think that the Calabar Carnival is ripe to be marketed to a larger international audience. It is a suggestion the State government is taking seriously, due largely to it original concept, attendance and execution. It won’t be overstatement to add that it one tourism destination whose time has come.
Carniriv Port Harcourt Carnivals
For seven days, few weeks before Christmas in the Garden City of Port Harcourt, The Port Harcourt Carnival which combines two carnivals; a contemporary Caribbean style carnival and a Cultural Carnival changes the ‘Garden City to become more and very colourful. CarnirivPort is Rivers State’s biggest tourism export.
The CarnirivPort (English: Car-nee-rev) is an annual festival, held in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The Carnival starts few weeks before Christmas, and lasts for seven days. During this time several ceremonial events are held, most of which hold some cultural and or sacred significance. The Port Harcourt Carnival bears sure uniqueness as it combines two carnivals – a purely Cultural Carnival and a Contemporary Caribbean style carnival- in one. This gives it an edge over all other regional and continental carnivals, and presents with the principal advantage which must be consummately exploited.
The Government of Rivers State recognizes CarnirivPort as its biggest tourism export. With economic interests increasingly identifying tourism as a viable alternative to the fossil fuel economy–especially in these parts–the state government has exhibited its commitment to developing this carnival into a regionally unrivalled and globally reckoned tourist attraction. Thus, it has always made available the necessary monetary backing needed for the event to hold every year, and has also worked hard through the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to see that it is held.
The Eyo Festival is held in Lagos, Nigeria. It is usually performed in Lagos Island. Eyo also refers to the masquerades that appear during the festival. Witness one of the most exceptional and marvelous celebrations in Nigeria. Some people called it the Adamu Orisha Play, a Yoruba festival that transforms the commercial Lagos Island to be stunning white. It appeals to thousands of tourists from around the world who come to see costumed dancers or masquerades called ‘Eyo’ that perform during the festival. The processions are colourful and a lot of major roads are closed. It is strongly believed that Eyo Festival is a forerunner of the world biggest carnivals in the globe, the Rio de Janeiro Carnival, the modern day carnival in Brazil. No one is to wear hats during the festival
The Igogo Festival is an annual festival held in Ondo State, Nigeria. It is a festival that usually lasts for seventeen days in which the Olowo of Owo and high chiefs of Owo Kingdom are dressed like women to celebrate and pay homage to Queen Oronsen a mythical wife of Olowo Rerengejen in appreciation for her protection.
Nnewi Afiaolu Festival
Afiaolu (New Yam Festival) is a traditional Festivals held annually in Nnewi in August. The Afiaolu Festival commences on “Eke” day with what is traditionally described as “IWAJI” (scaling of yam) and Ikpa Nku (the wood gathering), this heralds the availability of new yam as well as thanksgiving to God. The festival includes variety of entertainments including performance of ceremonial rites by the Igwe (king), cultural dance by girls and masquerade dance.
The Ofala Festival
The Ofoala Festival also called Ofala Nnewi, is a yearly ceremony practiced by the indigenes of Onitsha in Anambra State, South- East Nigeria. The term Ofoala (English: Authority of the Land) is derived from two Igbo words – Ofo (English: Authority) and Ala (English: Land). The festival which is described as the most important surviving traditional ceremony of Onitsha indigenes is celebrated within two days mostly in December and January in honour of the Obi (king).The Ofala Festival is held in Anambra State where the Obi of Onitsha, Dr. Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe and his Traditional Rulers who are adorned in their red caps and royal regalia with their traditional staffs paint the whole place red with their parades and display of affluence and power.
OSUN OSOGBO FESTIVAL:
This is a ceremony held every August to worship Osun (the water deity of love and marriage). Supplicants often go there to offer her sacrifices to favour them from far and wide. The festival is held over a span of two weeks, there are carnivals within this festival, concerts, cultural activities and chants. The festival is said to have started as a yearly period set aside to make sacrifices to the Osun deity but now it has become a cultural phenomenon that attracts visitors from all over the world. The Osun Osogbo Festival is held at the end of the rainy season, usually in August, at the Oshogbo Sacred Forest. The week-long festival is held in honour of the River goddess Oshun, an important Yoruba deity, and is attended by thousands of people. It includes ceremonies where priests seek protection for their local communities through gifts and sacrifices to the goddess.
Sango Festival, also known as World Sango Festival is usually held in August at the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo. The festival which is observed in over forty countries in the world is held in honour of Sango, the thunder and fire deity. Pretty much experience for anyone who has ever come to Sango Festival, this festival is in the honour of Sango the all-powerful god in Yoruba land. This festival has facilitated an annual home-coming avenue for Yoruba descents in the Diaspora as a form of pilgrimage. It brings back the past history and celebrates the culture and tradition of the people, while creating wealth and employment for the people.
Sharos / Shadi Festival
The Sharo or Shadi flogging competition is a traditional rite of passage for Jafun Fulani men. The youths, escorted by girls, are led into the ring of spectators bare chested and armed with whips. As the noise of singing, drumming and cheering rises to a crescendo, each young man must stoically endure a flogging to demonstrate his manhood. The young man only qualifies to marry if he passes the test, which is administered by another youth of about the same age and size. Most do pass, but carry scars from the ordeal for the rest of their life. The sharo is generally staged at the time of the dry-season guinea corn harvest, and again during the festival of Id-el-kabir. Usually it lasts for a
week and is held in a marketplace. There are other types of entertainment including dances, musical performances and tricksters, but the flogging ceremony is the main event.
Leboku is the name for the annual New Yam Festival celebrated in Ugep, Cross River State Nigeria, one of the five settlements of Yakurr, to honour on the earth goddess and the ancestral spirits of the land.The Leboku in Ugep, festival is celebrated with pomp and ceremony displaying rich cultural at its best. Hundreds of masquerades, dancers in beautiful attires, acrobatic displays and fetish activities make it one festival that you should not miss, but rather to look out for the next edition.
Osun Oshogbo Festival
The Iriji-Mmanwu Festival is held in Enugu State in August. At the festival, over two thousand masqueraders from across Igboland and from other states in Nigeria dance and perform acrobatic displays, wearing unique and colorful costumes. In the IndIgbo tradition, masquerades are thought to be reincarnated dead ancestors with supernatural powers.
Also held in Benin City in the December period, this is an occasion that can be enjoyed by visitors to Edo State/residents during the yuletide period. Mock battles are staged, costume dancers abound and to round off the celebrations, a parade to the Oba’s palace afterward. It is held to celebrate the New Yam Festival.
Ojude Oba Festival
Ojude Oba festival is a Cultural heritage that is woven around the threads of diversity, history, legend and conquest. ‘The King’s front year’ is the literal meaning of Ojudae Oba. The people of Ijebu Ode return en masse to pay their homage to the King, the Awujale of Ijebuland. This takes place on the third day of the Ileya Festival, (Eid-el-Kabir). This festival includes parades, traditional songs, equestrian skill display and lots more.