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Kalabari: Where Marine Spirits Entertain Villagers At Owu-Aru-Sun Festival

The environment and the atmosphere in Buguma in Kalabari of Rivers State look modish, mist and film. The natives are fertile in their cultures and traditions without any pretense in upholding them, especially the Owu-Aru-Sun festival held every twenty years, with marine spirits prying as masquerades. The people have fishing as their primordial enterprise, while living on 23 islands and are known as travellers. In many quarters, it is believed that they travel a lot having been part of the first sets of Africans that were exposed to the colonial Europeans. By the 15th Century, we learnt that their traders meddled for Africa and the West in many businesses, but principally in the cause of slave trade, ODIMEGWU ONWUMERE writes

Asari Dokubo leading the Alagba

The Media Team of a political big weight in Rivers State, Prince Tonye T.J.T Princewill departs Forces Avenue, Old GRA, Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, for Amachree Square in Buguma, the customary Headquarters of the Kalabari Kingdom in Asari-Toru Local Government Area of the state.

We are here to cover the Owu-Aru-Sun Alali festival which Princewill, a crowned Prince of Kalabari is the Chairman, Publicity Committee, 2009 Owu-Aru-Sun Festival that is being held during dry season.

The environment and the atmosphere in Buguma look modish, mist and film, as we are guarded and guided by Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, the then Media Spokesperson for Princewill.

Holding Their Cultures And traditions

Buguma is a developing town that has lost its African village setting, like most African villages have, due to the erosion rupturing African villages called western civilisation, but certainly not her cultures and traditions.

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The natives are fertile in their cultures and traditions without any pretense in upholding them, particularly in this epoch when Paulian religion from the Middle East is scraping aboriginal belief-systems and characterising them as demonic.

The people have fishing as their primordial enterprise while living on 23 islands and are known as travellers. In many quarters, it is believed that they travel a lot having been part of the first sets of Africans that were exposed to the colonial Europeans.

By the 15th Century, we learnt that their traders meddled for Africa and the West in many businesses, but principally in the cause of slave trade.

Structure In Buguma

These people known as Ijaw speaking hold their cultures and traditions so dearly to their hearts, as they relish their love for the Owu-Aru-Sun festival known as the epicenter, where all masquerades and families and groups showcase their dance steps.

Women dancing at Owu Aru Sun

The people are partitioned into what is recognised as “War Canoe Houses”. They live in creeks, and have connections with terrestrial and spiritual beings having mutual understanding and communications with them. These Beings, we are told, are invited as guests and performers during festivals, such as the one we are in attendance.

Marine Spirits Play As Masquerades

The engaging aspect of the Owu-Aru-Sun festival is that it is not like many African cultures and traditions that have been reduced to mere costume appearances: The festival upholds the spiritual aspect with marine spirits prying as masquerades.

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We see masquerades’ and the natives’ attractive dance steps tied with thrust and pageantry. Each family and group showcase their royal and native ceremonial dress and objects; and some families present their virgins, who appear topless, as custom demands, before the prying eyes of spectators.

There is the Alagba Masquerade staged by the Ekine Sekiapu Society. This masquerade is said, it must be played before any masquerade will. It is played to dish in the fête of the Owu-Aru-Sun festival.

A document presented by Sokari Douglas Camp of Kalabari, says, “Alagba is a female masquerade and a water spirit that comes to perform for mankind.

“She is the beginning of all masquerades and starts off the Water Spirit Season. The Water Spirit Season takes seventeen years to complete.

“Alagba is the only water spirit who wears a leopard skin cape: A symbol of power coveted by every Kalabari House…”

History Of Owu Aru Sun

King Prof TJT Princewill, CFR, Amaechree XI, the Amanyanabo of Kalabari Kingdom, says, “Oral history has it that, the festival is usually performed after the exhaustion of the various masquerades owned by the community, groups and compounds in the kingdom.

“The festival was celebrated in Buguma in 1908, 1927, 1973 and 1991 respectively by the Ekine Sekiapu (Traditional Group) under the leadership of the Opu Edi, who serves as the head of these groups.

“The Ekine Sekiapu is the custodian of the Kalabari customs and traditions right from the old shipping (Elem Ama) till date.

“The Ekine also formed the central part of the traditional government of the Kalabari people. The Owu-Aru-Sun festival among all unites natives of Kalabari in celebration.”

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Founding Of Alagba Masquerade

We understand that the Alagba masquerade was founded by King Amachree 1V.

The masquerade was 7 in number and Amachree 1V gave two to each of the 3 groups in Buguma and kept one for himself.

The groups comprise of the Abbey Karibo group, Omubo Gberimoni group and Horsfalls-West group. Some families like the Georges Compound, Bekinaru Sibi by Wokoma Compound, Gbasa of the Onbo group own some of the masquerades and how they emerge, whereas the entire community own some, as well.

King T.J.T Princewill

King Princewill As Custodian Of Kalabari Traditions

The January 29th, 2009 Owu-Aru-Sun, which we are present, is said to be celebrated after 20 or 15 years from the last one.

King Princewill does his best to protect the cultures and traditions that surround Owu-Aru-Sun Alali.

The King believes, “If as the custodian of the cultures and traditions of our people and I fail to uphold them, they will die like the cultures and traditions of other celebrated kingdoms.”

  • Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Rivers State. He sent in this piece via: apoet_25@yahoo.com
  • SOURCE: OoReporters

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Updated: June 6, 2019 — 2:23 pm

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