- Background of the study
In African traditional society, customs and traditions are regular in every village and town.
Festivals are periodic celebration marking significant events in the life of people or a community. They are a re-enactment of historical, religious and traditional events which serves as a medium to transmit ideas, aspirations and the philosophy of people which makes life meaningful. Festival is an occasion for celebrating especially a day or time of religious or cultural significance that recurs at regular intervals. It is a time people do something they normally do; they carry to the extreme behaviours that are usually regulated by measure.
Some scholars like Ejizu have noted that festivals are very popular and recurrent events in traditional African life. He assumed it up by defining festival as: Any special occasion, observance or celebration which may be religious or secular in nature and which is generally marked by merry-making, performance of music and the like.
From these definitions, it is clear that festival is a celebration, a feast, a season of musical or other performance which involves joyfulness and merry-making. The masquerade on the other hand plays a very significant role in the history and culture of communities in Nigeria.
Though, background origin of masquerade may differ, their overall role like traditional dance be classified into categories. For instance, there are masquerades whose major role may be pure entertainment, ceremonial, rituals or a combination of some or all of these.
In the sense, therefore, festivals are like modern promotional fares that mobilize members of the society to achieve particular aims and cement their aspiration as well display their creative achievement.
The periodicities of festival are determined either by natural cycles such as harvest season, New moon among other reasons. These are a number of Igbo festivals which have either been part of traditional society or have in modern times been recently created.
The Igbos of Southeastern Nigeria has a rich cultural heritage. Every autonomous community has one form of cultural festival or the other to celebrate annually or bi-annually such as the new yam festival, the Okorosha masquerade festival, Ownu-Ekpe and Okonko Dance Festival, and the Ofala festival to mention but a few. It is a period that brings the Igbo-speaking community around the world. Oral account has it that some of the festivals origin could be dated back to about five centuries and some are acclaimed to be Pan-Igbo biggest cultural community festival with strong heritage. International recognition witnessed by the thousands of people on a yearly basis. In contemporary time, each passing year has witnessed an increased in grandeur, display, dance sophistication and an all-inclusive participation by Igbo community.
The essence of festivals in Onitsha Anambra State is just like every other Igbo society that celebrate the harvest of the new yams, appease the gods of the land for protections, asking for continuous favour on the community among others, it also serves to unify and foster ties among community both at home and in the Diaspora. It is based on this belief that their mode of existence, their political, socio-cultural and economic organization, intergroup relation among others depend, even agricultural practice were strictly regulated by customs and religious taboos and this help to regulate behaviours among members of the society and also help in no small measures to the socio-economic development of the society.
Onitsha indigenes are a people, who cherish their heritage and value their culture very much in spite of their early contact with education. This why they pay attention to the traditional ceremonies that abound.
Some of these ceremonies includes, the coronation of a new monarch, chieftaincy installation, initiation unto the masquerade cult, Ozo title-taking, initiation into the Ofuodu cultural group, burials rites and so on.
However, the Ofala Festival seems to be the most significant and prestigious of all the ceremonies performed in Onitsha. The festival varies from community in Igbo land.
- Statement of the problem
The Ofala Festival is important, but it has its own problem the Ofala Festival is not supposed to be known only in Onitsha, it has to be recognized globally and internationally. Since Onitsha is a well-known place.