Coming of age ceremonies and rites of passage for men are common all over the world. The Igbo tribe is known for cultural identity, values and history, which 'Iwa-akwa' ceremony is among. This is an age-long tradition which indicates transition into manhood. It is a highly cherished cultural event which connects us together as a people.
Iwa-akwa (Wearing Cloth) is a ceremony among the Igbo people, which indicates the passage of a young boy into a full fledged man. When a young boy reaches about 23-27 years of age, and his family thinks it is time for him to partake in this ceremony, they indicate their interest. After which the elders start making investigations to ensure his eligibility.
In this context, 'eligibility' includes being of the right age and behaviour. Investigations are always made about the family background of the intending participant/celebrant. It requires that the participant's mother was properly married according to the customs of the land, and his father must have passed through this initiation stage during his own days.
After the investigations are carried out, participants proceed to buy high quality wrappers (usually George) from the market and getting the reception event ready. On the initiation day, the celebrants/participants hang the brand wrappers at the entrance of his father's compound. This is an indication that a member of that household will be initiated into manhood. No one is expected to touch the hung wrapper until the senior ones come and tie it around the waist of celebrant. The peak of the ceremony is the procession along the community streets on bare foot and the market square display. Here, participants wear their long woven wrapper costumes.
It is worthy of note that the wrapper is a symbol of coverage. The celebrants used to be naked children, but now, they are clothed adults.
Being a very organized ceremony, only participants enter the ring while the crowd stay behind and watch. Many young men look forward to this ceremony because they cease the opportunity to display their fortune and invite their friends to make merry.
Iwa Akwa ceremony is so valued that many young men wait till they are wealthy before they come home to perform the ceremony.
After the initiation rites, participants join an age group and can now take civil responsibilities within the community and family circle. They pay taxes, attend community meetings, get married and partake in the decision making of the community.
The importance of age-grade in Igbo land has made Iwa-Akwa ceremony to be the most celebrated festival among the Obowo clan of Imo state. Other towns that celebrate this festival are Ehime Mbano, Ahiazu Mbaise, Ihitte/Uboma in Imo state.
This ceremony takes place every 3 years and people travel back to witness it. Even though the ceremony is gradually fading away, its social significance cannot be overlooked. It is one fun aspect of Igbo culture that must not be allowed to fade away in the face of modernization.
Content created and supplied by: VivienMedia (via Opera News )