The rich tapestry of Itsekiri traditions and customs came to life as the Yardley Cultural Society in Sapele celebrated its 2023 annual cultural dance from December 25th to 28th. Founded 64 years ago, the society has been a steadfast guardian of Itsekiri heritage, and this year’s festivities were no exception. The event, held in Sapele, drew high-profile personalities, marking a significant cultural milestone.
Day 1 – December 25, 2023: A Grand Kickoff
The festival commenced with a grand opening on Christmas Day, and the Chairman of the occasion, Honourable and Mrs. Appearance Afejuku, set the tone for the celebrations. Special Guests of Honour included Hon. and Mrs. William Popo, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Ekoro, Madam Becky Afejuku, Mr. and Mrs. Joba Irone, Mr. and Mrs. Omatsola Pemu, and Mr. Ekpen.
The masquerades took center stage, with the Obirah masquerade in the morning, Eja-ekere masquerade in the afternoon, and the Eje masquerade captivating the audience in the evening.
Day 2 – December 26, 2023: A Day of Distinguished Guests
Hon. and Mrs. Sunny Ofe, Commissioner of DESOPADEC, presided over the events on the second day. Mrs. Princess served as the Chairlady, adding grace to the occasion. Special Guests of Honour included notable figures such as Mr. and Mrs. Sunday Etchie, Mr. and Mrs. Sikiru Saka Jimoh, Mr. and Mrs. Julius Uyebe, and many others.
The masquerades continued their captivating performances, featuring the Oludieyen masquerade in the morning, Udugbo masquerade in the afternoon, and the Jabajaba masquerade in the evening.
Day 3 – December 27, 2023: A Day of Family and Tradition
Mr. and Mrs. Tuoyo Demeyin chaired the events on the third day, with Mr. and Mrs. Michael Temisanren honoured as the Father of the Day. The morning showcased the Paddle fish masquerade, followed by the Egodomi masquerade in the afternoon and the Oki masquerade in the evening.
Day 4 – December 28, 2023: Culmination and Celebration
Chief Walter Boyo took the reins as the Chairman of the occasion on the final day, with Hon. Perkins Umukoro serving as the Father of the Day. The morning featured the Agbakara masquerade, followed by the Abada/Agira masquerade in the afternoon and the Oli ekun (Ever lovely Yardley) masquerade in the evening.
The Yardley Cultural Society’s annual cultural dance not only showcased the vibrant traditions of the Itsekiri people but also served as a testament to the enduring legacy of the society, with over 90% of its members being descendants of the founding members. As the festival concluded, it left behind a trail of memories, fostering a deeper appreciation for the Itsekiri culture and a sense of community among its members. The Yardley Cultural Society continues to be a beacon, preserving and promoting the cultural heritage that binds the Itsekiri people together.