Why Annang People Of Akwa-Ibom State Celebrate Ekpo Festival

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The Ekpo festival, according to Annang people, serves as a link between the living and their ancestors.

When it comes to Africa, there are lots of traditions that date back in time and are still practiced today. An example is the Ekpo masquerade festival celebrated by the Annang people of Akwa Ibom state Nigeria. This festival usually takes place between the month of August and December.

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It was invented to serve social, political and economical purposes to those who celebrate it. Back in the day, it was said that Ekpo masquerades were seen as crime detectors. These masquerades have the main task of making public the identities of those who did wrong in the community.

The masquerades also perform other tasks such as checking infidelity among couples, checking visitors to ensure that they are visiting the village with pure intentions.

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The festival itself involves different masquerades, all males, and their leader is referred to as Obong Ekpo. Before a male joins, they have to undergo an initiation ceremony to confirm their membership.

The masquerades represent the ancestors of the community and it is also to indicate that the deities, particularly the ancestors, rule even after their death.

The Ekpo festival also involves an event where new yam is harvested in the community, and taken to a shrine where the spirits can appear and partake in it. In this situation, the Ekpo is invoked by the community head who offers sacrifice declaring that the yam is now suitable for consumption.

The yam is prepared, and served with oil to the head of every community to commence the new yam festival.

The people of Annang believe that this indicates that the ancestors have come back to the land of the living to be a part of the celebration. Then, the Ekpo season officially begins with movement restricted for women.

Towards the last couple of days of the Ekpo festival, a large ceremony is held involving a giant stage performance in the village square. The Ekpo masquerades perform a special dance one after the other.

After the celebration, the whole Ekpo masquerade will go back to the underground where there’s a separation between the dead and the living.

On those days no one is allowed to go out so as to give respect to the spirit of the ancestors. This feast officially marks the end of the Ekpo season. This feast is not only celebrated by the Annang community, it is also associated with the Mkpat Enin, Ikot Abasi, and Ibibio people.

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