IOVBODE FESTIVAL: THE COMING OF AGE OF THE IULEHA PEOPLE
THE COMING OF AGE OF THE IULEHA PEOPLE
Iovbode in the local language means “coming of age”.
As the name implies, Iovbode is a festival celebration to mark the coming of age into maturity.
The Iovbode festival is celebrated by the people of Iuleha. Iuleha is located in Owan West local government area of Edo state. It occupies the North Western part of the state in the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The Iuleha people are known for their rich culture, farming, and peaceful coexistence amongst themselves.
Every four years, Iuleha people come together to celebrate the “OTU”. Otu is the age group ceremony to celebrate the coming of age into maturity. The Iovbode or age-grade festival celebration is an initiation into manhood, although celebrated by men and women respectively who are between the ages of 37 and 43 years.
Age grade celebration came into existence a long time ago and it is founded on the ground of social-cultural preservation, leadership grooming, and political advancement and also to mobilize and organize labour for man's benefit.
There are three phases of the passage into manhood.
The first stage is the youth level called Otu ósàde. These are the people in charge of security, policing, and maintaining peace and order in the community. In recent times, they have been modified into the vigilante or watchdog of the community.
|A few Otu ósàde Police on duty during the Iovbode ceremony|
The middle level is called Otu ófovbotó which is a mediation between the Otu ósàde and the level of eldest the Otu àgà. The Otu àgà is the overall senior in the age group and he becomes the head of that group.
The Iovbode celebration is usually done in two days, the watch night day and the main celebration day. The watch night is the night before the celebration day where initiates are gathered together with families and well wishes to dance and sing into the new day; The age-grade celebration day. The initiates are usually distinguished by the wearing of a uniform outfit worn by all celebrants.
|Initiates at the watch night party|
On the celebration day, initiates are first gathered in the village square dressed in a white outfit and later move around the entire community dancing in admiration to the cheers from families and well wishes. Of course, the celebration is not complete without the initiate being accomplished by an “Oze” wearing maiden.
These are young females dressed in a semi-nude form with their bodies adorned with an ornaments such as oze and ekpoghe, and traditional paintings who accompany the initiates as they go round the community in a funfair to the cheers and admiration of everyone.
|An Oze wearing maiden|
The reason for this in the olden days was so young men who are eligible to marry could easily see a maiden of their choice who is usually presumed to be a virgin and is ripe for marriage in all her natural endowment. In recent times, things have greatly changed.
While this festival is one the community looks forward to every four years as families home and abroad join in celebrating their own in the coming of age ceremony, there are however concerns that Christians cannot and shouldn't be involved in this as it does not align with ones faith and Christianity frowns at nudity weather on cultural ground or not.
|A group of Otu accompanied by an Oze wearing Madien|
|Female Otu initiates|
The world is evolving and we should change with it too. The human body, especially that of the girl child should be appropriately covered and respected irrespective of culture or tradition.
|The future of Oze. A welcome development!|
The Iovbode festival is one that has brought exposure to the community and opens doors of opportunity to showcase our rich cultural heritage. The celebration is unique as it offers the opportunity for loved ones to come together in the spirit of oneness and to share the joy in the season.
Culture is beautiful and this is my root.
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Oze: is a molten wide bronze element, which are formed to match the arms and the ankles of the person wearing them who is termed to be a female virgin. Oze is worn on the entire arms and ankles.
Ekpogho: a local bead worn on the waist
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