Itsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeIpi Masquerade at the Ibirifo Community Etse Odon Festival

The conclusion of the annual Etse Odon festival marked a significant moment for the people of Ibirifo community in Ethiope West local government of Delta on December 29, 2023. As one of the oldest and most ancient communities in Warri, warrikingdom.org correspondents meticulously covered the cultural activities, culminating in the final day when the traditional Ipi masquerade took center stage after completing all necessary rites including the Okun Kpikpa.

Odonghanro Besidone Bawo, the Okparan Umale and spiritual head (Chief priest) of Ibirifo community, shared insights with our correspondents, providing a concise history of the Ibirifo community and emphasizing the festival’s importance. According to him, “The community derives its name from Oyeifo, the sister of then Prince Ginuwa, who later ascended to become the first Olu of Warri. This came about when the Royal Alabara (parrot) guided her in locating him along the Jameson river during the early stages of their journey to establish the Warri Kingdom. Oyeifo, heavily pregnant at the time, was left behind after Olu Ginuwa and his entourage crossed the Ibirifo River.”

Itsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masqueradeItsekiri Ibirifo community hosting their annual festival with Ipi masquerade

Explaining the significance of the Etse Odon festival, Odonghanro Besidone Bawo highlighted its role in appeasing the gods and ancestors of the land, including Osan Oko, Osan Odighiri, Osan Iromi, Ale aja, and others. The festival serves as a gesture of gratitude for their protection over the lives of the Ibirifo community members, safeguarding their land and properties, and fostering peace within the community. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to offer prayers for the continual well-being, prosperity, development, and protection of the community and its descendants worldwide.

Odonghanro Besidone Bawo recounted a period when the festival’s observance and the associated sacrifices to appease the gods and ancestors were neglected for an extended duration. This neglect resulted in adverse consequences, including the encroachment of land grabbers leading to the loss of geographical territory. The revival of the festival occurred when he assumed the role of Okparan Umale, ushering in positive changes for the community’s overall welfare and development. The festival’s highlight featured the enchanting display of Ipi masquerades, with community members singing songs and beating drums while the Okparan Umale conducted various traditional and spiritual rites. The resurgence of the Etse Odon festival not only reinstates cultural practices but also signifies a revitalized connection between the Ibirifo community and its ancestral roots, paving the way for a promising future.