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stories and histories IRI-JI FESTIVAL IN UTURU

Iri-ji festival in Uturu
The Iri-ji festival in Uturu is a popular feast among the Igbo people. The festival has been celebrated for as long as the community itself has existed. Its origins are rooted in the discovery of yam, which was taken as food during a period of hunger. However, people were afraid of the possibility of death, as they did not know if the yam was edible. As a result, the Achara People, who were the oldest lineage in Uturu, were asked to taste the yam. But due to fear, they shifted the responsibility to Onuzo, the smallest and least significant clan in Achara. Onuzo people obediently took the risk of tasting the yam, and thankfully, they did not die. From then on, other communities joined in for the harvest and the display of the New Yam(Ji ohuo), starting from eight days before the Uturu New Yam Festival.

The festivities in Uturu used to involve sacrifices to appease Njoku-ji, the god of the yam, for a good harvest. The rituals involved slaughtering a cock in front of the Njoku shrine and pouring libation with palm wine and kola nut. However, with the advent of Christianity in Uturu, cultural and religious practices have changed over time. Today, Christianity has significantly impacted these practices, and the negative aspects have been eradicated.

During Iri-ji, the Umu-umu festival is also celebrated. This festival is essential to an Uturu man or woman, as it involves recounting his/her descendants. It is also an occasion to host a feast with their grandchildren, relatives, or descendants. However, with changes in social behavior, the custom of Umu-umu has become somewhat obsolete. Young people are now suffering the negative effects of this, as examples of incestuous relationships have been seen in Uturu.

Despite the changes, the festival is still vital and requires a religious re-visitation to revive or modernize it to fit in with current realities. The essence of the festival is to bring back the spirit of Ikwu n'ibe, thereby putting into control the relationship between Uturu people. Ultimately, Uturu people should embrace their culture and religion without compromising.


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