By Jon Egie

 

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Ogir, the largest drum in West Africa

Ogri, the largest drum in West Africa

The annual celebration of the Ogri festival in Okpolo-Enhwe clan in Isoko South LGA of Delta state came to an end on Friday, August 26 with presentation of war dances by the six communities of the town.

 

The festival began on Monday, August 22 during which war dances were also presented. On the eve of the celebration, about 100 brides were escorted to their husbands’ compounds and the new brides participated in a beauty parade the next day.

 

The people of Okpolo-Enhwe boast of varaint cultural heritage due to immigration trend from different tribal origins, with link to the Igbo people, but merged into one ethnic identity. This led to the recognition of two deities, the Ogw-Enhwe (male- god) and the Oku (female-goddes), as spiritual guardians of the six communities of Okpolo-Enhwe clan.

 

 

A warrior in a war dance step

A warrior in a war dance step

It is believed that the Ogwa-Enhwe is responsible for the safe keeping and protection of indegens of the Town from year to year, especially from hostile neighbours and for the fertility of the soil to yield good harvest.

 

On the other hand, Oku, also known as Okpa-emo (children’s blanket) protects indegenes when in danger at sea or any marine environment. In such situation if an indegene called on the name of the goddess a blanket would appear from no where to carry the person to safety and that is why many indegenes of Okpolo-Enhwe confidently work as sailors across the world.

 

 

Head of the warriors, High Chief Geoffrey Afisi, the Odhe of Okpolo-Enhwe kingdom in a war dance step.

Head of the warriors, High Chief Geoffrey Afisi, the Odhe of Okpolo-Enhwe kingdom in a war dance step.

“It works, I work in the high sea and once there was a fire outbreak, I jumped into the sea and called on the goddess who immediately provided a blanket to convey me to shore. It works for all sons and daughters of the community “ Chief Benjamin Emamoke Igwe, the Crown Spokesman of Okpolo-Enhwe clan told Spy News.

 

It is in appreciation of the role the god and goddess play in the life and welbeing of the people of Okpolo-Enhwe that the yearly festival is celebrated to honour the deities.

 

On day one, the Ogri (drum) is sounded and responded to by war dancers from the six communities at the shrine of Ogwa-Enhwe where traditional war scenes are mimicked. On the final day, the Ogri which is 18 feet tall was be moved by 40 able men to the shrine of Oku where the feat was repeated.

 

 

Other warriors approach the dance arena

Other warriors approach the dance arena

Chief Peter Ikologho Idolor JP, the Osogba of Okpolo-Enhwe and Secretary to the Odion-Ologbo palace said the Ogri festival is inherited from the founding fathers of the community and it is celebrated at harvest season every year and until the celebration is completed, the two priests of Ogw-Enhwe and Oku will not eat the New Yam.

 

“It makes our children to remember what our fathers were doing in time past. The unique feature of the feast is the drum-Ogri, it is the biggest drum in West Africa. It also serves as a symbol of unification for the six communities of Okpolo-Enhwe. We celebrate the festival no matter the condition, whether rain or sun, we are duty bound to celebrate” Chief Idolor said.

 

 

Young warriors mimic real war scene

Young warriors mimic real war scene

Commenting on the significance of the festival to Okpolo-Enhwe and neighbouring communities, the Chief Celebrant of the feast and Head of all war dance groups, High Chief Geoffrey Afisi, the Odhe of Okpolo-Enhwe kingdom said “we decided to celebrate the feast to tell Nigerians that there is no sorrow in Enhwe. We appreciate God for what He has done to our community because the gods of this land will never deny us. We pray for more good days to come like the past. I have decided as Chief Celebrant that we must appease our gods and I charge all communities to appease their gods because a community withouth intelligence report will soon go into slavery” he counseled and sued for peaceful coexistence among communities in Isoko land.

 

Chief Mrs Ilolo Evelyn, a spectator who came from Oleh kingdom to witness the celebration described the feast as a unifying force for the people of Okpolo-Enhwe and urged the indegenes to uphold the traditions and customs.

 

 

The chief celebrant, the Odhe of Okpolo-Enhwe emerges from the Oku shrine for the war dance

The chief celebrant, the Odhe of Okpolo-Enhwe emerges from the Oku shrine for the war dance

“It is satisfying to experience the revival of our culture through this festival “ she said.

 

Chief Joesph Ubeleke, ex PG of Ikpide-Irri who also came to witness the celebration stressed on the relevance of the festival saying the communities in the Niger Delta face avoidable problems because they disregarded their traditions and hence advised all communities to revive their culture.

 

Okpolo-Enhwe has a population estimate of 12,000 according to Hon Mike Okah, a one time vice chairman of Isoko South LGC and presently the deputy President of Okpolo-Enhwe clan union. It is an agrarian community with bias in the cultivation of rice, cassava and fish farming. Bounded by Igbide, Emede, Olomoro, Uzere and Uwheru community, Okpolo-Enhwe has a vast land that is suitable for large scale agricultural investsments.

 

 

Ogri, the cultural drum being sounded to control the dance steps of the warriors.

Ogri, the cultural drum being sounded to control the dance steps of the warriors.

Although some indegenes have made small scale efforts in that direction, Hon Mike Okah called on the Delta State government to encourage investors by providing access roads to the farm lands assuring that if that was done “we can fee the whole of Delta state with cassava and rice”.