Itakpo Festival

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Last update June 1, 2020

Various communities regard life as a stair-case which must be climbed from one rung to another. This is why festivals are celebrated at various times to elevate citizens from one age group to another. One of such festivals is the Itakpo, celebrated every seven years at Ososo in Akoko-Edo. Ososo is about 16 miles from Igarra. There are four quarters in Ososo and they celebrate this age group festival in turn every seven years. Although all inhabitants of Ososo participate in the celebration, yet the quarters whose turn it is to observe it in a particular year plays more active role.

Itakpo festival dates back to some centuries ago when present-day Ososo was founded by settlers who wandered away from Benin. The festival is celebrated in honour of a god who is regarded as the protector of Ososo people. It also marks the time when elders of the clan are chosen by elevating them from one age group to higher ones. The highest age group, known as the elders group is called Okogbe and only people who have attained the age of 40 and above are initiated into it. Forty to fifty years of age among the people of Ososo mark the end of youth and the beginning of manhood. This age group is called Egbelaju. It is from this group that people are chosen for the elders’ group.

Those to be elevated are led to Egbovie shrine where they undergo certain purification rituals as well as a test for full manhood and leadership. They are allowed to receive food and other requirements and visitors during their three-day stay in Egbovie shrine.
While they are away, the next age groups to theirs do everything to ensure the success of the festival, knowing fully well that when those camped at Egbovie shrine are elevated, they too would fill the vacuum thus created. They dance round the town and cheer up those in camp.

On the third day of the festival, all candidates for initiation fete Ososo inhabitants with food. The prepared food is carried from the town to Egbovie shrine. Before this is done, the women and the young girls of the town dance Ishimi Irakpo dance round the pounded yams and soup at the premises of every celebrant.

It is later taken to Egbovie shrine by hefty and stout men, followed by the relatives of the new initiates. Women who are real natives of Ososo clan do not reach Egbovie shrine for fear that they will become barren. They go half way and stop to dance back to the town while the men folks perform the necessary initiation ceremonies at Egbovie shrine.

When the pounded yams and soup prepared with any type of bush meat have been brought to the shrine, the leader of the year’s celebrations addresses the audience. Later the Egbelajus emerge from their huts or sheds to listen to the address and advice from the main representative of the elders.

Both the celebrants and the elders dance round the food before it is shared among those present according to age groups and families in Ososo clan. However, non-natives are not allowed to see how the food is shared. As soon as the sharing is completed, the celebrants now go by the name Okogbe and they wear beads and bear this title Okogbe for three months.

They are now eligible for the council of elders and can become chiefs. Any of them who desire to be a chief may indicate this by still wearing his beads at the end of the third month. He will then be asked to perform certain chieftaincy rites and become a chief in Ososo clan.
On the fourth day of the festival, all the newly initiated Okogbes, gaily dressed, are heartily welcomed to town by Ososo inhabitants. They are met at Egbegu roundabout. Then they are led in procession by various dancing groups to Eribonoke shrine, that is, Oke quarters traditional field.

At Eribonoke shrine, they walk past ‘Ewoiribo’ stone, the spirit of which is believed to accompany Ososo inhabitants anywhere they go. Here the Okogbes dances to the tune of erigede drum, the only drum sound to be heard of on this spot every seventh year.
As they dance to the tune of erigede, each celebrant pays four kobo (4k). He is then allowed to walk across a big barrier rock which had been stained with the blood of three slaughtered goats. Once they cross over the blood stained rock they have now completed ah activities of youth and are now in the elders group. They go home to continue with merry-making in connection with the festival.

No other types of drumming, shooting and singing are allowed to be heard of at the spot of this shrine until another seven years. But children are, however, allowed to wrestle here when the occasion arises.

When they leave ‘Eribonoke’ shrine, the newly initiated Okogbes continue with the festivities. On the following day, each of them slaughters a goat and the leg is preserved to be used by another age group of between 14 and 15 years in the future.
The new Okogbes neither attend farms nor do any other hard work for three months when the celebrations finally come to an end. They are properly fed during this time when several gifts are presented to them by their relatives, friends and well-wishers.
Four days are the peak period of the festival; this is from the second day to the fifth when each newly initiated Okogbes slaughters a goat for certain ritual ceremonies. At the end of this period, any Ososo son or daughter who has come from abroad for the festival may go back

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