FESTIVAL: NCAC, Firm to Focus on ‘Ohafia War Dance’


By Peter Udo

The economy of the culture-active Ohafia, Abia State, South-East geo-political zone will receive a boost as the National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC) in partnership Potter Media Communications and Marketing Company, a Lagos- based communication and marketing company, will in August hold a cultural festival in Ohafia.

Ohafia Heritage Festival and Slave Route Tour (OH-FESRT) are designed to provide local and international tourists the opportunity to experience the life during the pre-colonial era, includig the famous Ohafia War Dance ‘Ikperikpe Ogu’, a traditional dance festival that evolved from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The organisers of the event said the festival will also offer tourists the opportunity to visit historical sites in Ohafia and its environs (Abia North Senatorial district) associated with the slave trade era.  Ikpirikpe Ogu (Ohafia War Dace) which has become one of the leading dances to showcase in Igboland will e featured.

“The Ohafia War Dance is a spectacle we want to package properly for tourists to come and enjoy. It is a heritage that represents the antecedent of the people of Ohafia and the larger Old Bende region.  The electrifying cultural dance encapsulates history, music, choreography and creativity. It is from this music and dance that the oral history of the Ohafia and the Old Bende region is passed from generation to generation.”

For Ohafia people, history is captured in dance and merriment that extol the exploits and conquest of the ancient warriors. The dance celebrates the history of Ohafia people and also captures series of  exploits of the warriors in the past.

The Director General, NCAC, Otunba Segun Runsewe, currently spearheading non-oil exports,  use of culture and arts for economic benefit of the country, said the heritage festival would help to further project our culture and tell our story as a people.

Speaking on the festival, the project coordinator, Mr. Okorie Uguru, said the festival would provide a platform to celebrate the culture, history, craftsmanship and rich artistry of Ohafia people and by extension, the Old Bende Region (Abia North Senatorial Zone).

He said: “While the festival will showcase and assemblage of Ohafia War Dance troupes from 27 communities of Ohafia, the Slave Route Tour will cover Uzuakoli, Bende, Ohafia and Arochukwu towns to see key places and artifacts from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade era.

According to him, “Ohafia and the whole of Abia North were very active during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade era. The relic, artifacts and outposts are there. Our aim is to create a tourism economy in Ohafia and Abia North.  It is a cultural cum tourism fiesta that aims to develop a tourism economy for our people.  Currently in the Old Bende region, the economy revolves around farming, trading, small and medium scale enterprises (SME) and civil service.  Tourism, through the festival and package tours, could add to the economy of the people by directly attracting tourism that would spend their money within the region. This would stimulate the economy and the proceeds go directly to locals to help improve their livelihood. “

The event, the orgaisers said, will provide entertainment as well as improve upon the economy of the region, pointing out that all over the world tourism being the biggest employer labour, also has a direct economic impact on the host communities.

For Uguru many places in Nigeria are losing their history and identity as a result of westernization. “There is no better way to preserve and celebrate our history than actively reliving it through the traditional dance,” he said. Adding: ”Apart from the touristic value, the festival is educational as our youths would use the opportunity to imbibe the history of our people.”

He told a story. “Historically, Ohafia people are warriors and their exploits are succinctly captured in oral tradition passed through panegyrics. Ohafia warriors were mercenaries during the slave trade era. They were engaged by the Arochukwu slave traders for punitive and slave raids. It is from these war exploits that the Ikpirikpe  Ogu or Iri Agha  (Ohafia War Dance) originated.

Ohafia people, of course, are very artistic, most especially in the area of wood carving. The testament to this could be seen in the close to 20 feet wood carving adorning the entrance of the National Museum Onikan, Lagos. The Omo Ukwu temple in Asaga and the Obu Nkwa in Elu Ohafia also attest to this.

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