Ikpo Ji is the process of sanctification and purification of the newly harvested yams before they are taken to the native markets for sale, or before they are eaten.
It is an ancient traditional festival observed by Enugwu-Ukwu people in Njikoka local government area of Anambra State on behalf of Ndigbo. The festival is celebrated on Nkwo market day. You may recall that Enugwu-Ukwu holds a special place in Igbo culture and history as Isi Nri, the paternal head of Umunri clan, Nri being the ancestral home of Ndigbo. The Ikpo Ji festival which will be celebrated on Saturday (Nkwo), July 25th 2020 is to be the 944th in the community.
According to written history and oral tradition, Ikpo Ji is the process of removing the ‘dirts’ from the yams and make them ‘clean’ for human consumption. After this, Ndigbo can then eat yams in their various homes and also sell them, especially for those who cannot wait for the communally celebrated new yam festival (called Olili Onwa Asato in Enugwu-Ukwu)which usually comes up a month after Ikpo Ji.
The ritual of Ikpo Ji is performed at Umunri palace in Enugwu-Ukwu and involves very senior titled men in the community who have been so designated and assigned to perform the task by Eze Enugwu-Ukwu na Igwe Umunri, HRM Sir Ralph Obumnaeme Ekpeh.
The tradition is that every year, the Igwe nominates an individual, usually someone of means and a member of the Ozo society to sponsor the festival. It is a huge privilege and honour. Ozonkpu Ezennia Chuma C. Egwuagu to be assisted by his younger brothers, Ozonkpu Okpuzu Ifeanyi H. Egwuagu & Ozonkpu Nwachinaemelu Okwie Egwuagu will sponsor the 2020 Ikpo Ji Enugwu-Ukwu festival. The sponsor also buys enough yams which are given out as token gifts to representatives of the 18 villages, and other invited guests including brother Umunri towns.
Before the commencement of the festival, Ndi Nze, Ozo, members of the cabinet, cultural and musical groups do a procession dressed in their various attire. The procession is done along the major road and also around Nkwo market. This adds colour and glamour and helps to enrich the festival, and culture of Ndigbo.
Once the rituals are concluded, everyone then moves to the palace of the Igwe to pay homage. This is where the sponsor and members of the cabinet plus other titled men report back to the Igwe how the Ikpo Ji festival proceedings went. The Igwe welcomes the team with light refreshment.
The train then moves on to the home of the sponsor for entertainment.
Ikpo Ji is one of the festivals observed by Ndi Enugwu-Ukwu. There are others too such as Igu Aro festival, Nmonwu, Ngene and Nimkpa festivals etc. All these festivals are supervised and promoted by Enugwu-Ukwu Culture Ministry. Ozonkpu Jude Ekwunife (Okwuatuegwu) is currently the Culture Minister of Enugwu-Ukwu.
Culled from Chief Uche Nworah (Ezeudo) Md ABS Awka