In the vibrant city of Warri Kingdom, the Obodo community stands out for its rich cultural heritage, notably celebrated through three unique festivals in December. These festivals passed down through generations, not only showcase the distinctive traditions of the Itsekiri people but also serve as a spiritual cleansing ritual to welcome the new year.
Okurama Masquerade Festival – December 28th, 2023:
The first of the three cultural festivals celebrated by the Obodo community is the Okurama Masquerade Festival. This festival is a testament to the deep-rooted cultural practices that define the Itsekiri people. The Okurama Masquerade is not allowed to be photographed. The highlight of the Okurama Masquerade Festival is the Sukpukpe dance, a unique Itsekiri dance that adds a rhythmic and colourful dimension to the festivities.
Abiton-Okoro Masquerade Festival – December 29th, 2023:
On the 29th of December, Obodo community continued its cultural extravaganza with the Abiton-Okoro Masquerade Festival. Unlike most other Itsekiri masquerades, the Abiton-Okoro masquerade holds a distinctive feature – it actively involves women in the celebration. Women are not only allowed to get close to the masquerade but are also encouraged to dance with it and even receive hugs, making this festival a unique and inclusive experience for everyone.
Both the Okurama and Abiton-Okoro festivals serve as a spiritual cleansing ceremony, symbolizing the renewal of the community as they prepare to welcome the upcoming year. The community usually picks two days between the 23rd to 31st of December of each year to celebrate both festivals.
Uge-Odon Titon – New Year Festival:
Closing the trilogy of cultural celebrations is the Uge-Odon Titon, meaning the New Year Festival. This festival serves as a celebration of the new year by the Obodo community, haven completed the Okurama and Abiton-Okoro festivals. Held on the 1st of January annually, the Uge-Odon Titon is a crucial aspect of the Obodo people’s cultural identity, reinforcing the connection between the community and its ancestors.
Cultural Heritage Handed Down by Forefathers:
All three festivals celebrated by the Obodo community are deeply rooted in the cultural legacy handed down by their forefathers. These rituals, filled with symbolism and traditional significance, play a vital role in maintaining the spiritual and cultural integrity of the community. The festivals are not merely events; they are a living testament to the resilience of the Obodo people and their commitment to preserving their heritage.
In December 2023, the Obodo community in the heart of the Warri Kingdom showcased its cultural vibrancy through the unique Okurama and Abiton-Okoro festivals that not only entertained but also spiritually cleansed the land in preparation for the new year. The Okurama Masquerade Festival, the Abiton-Okoro Masquerade Festival, and the Uge-Odon Titon, each in their own way, contribute to the rich tapestry of the Itsekiri cultural heritage. These festivals are not only a source of pride for the Obodo people but also a window into the traditions that have withstood the test of time, connecting the community with its roots and paving the way for a culturally rich future. The Uge-Odon Titon will be celebrated on the 1st of January 2024.