The Leboku festival is an annual festival celebrated by the Ugep people of Yakurr Local Government Area of Cross River State. Leboku is a dialectic name which means festival literally. This festival is peculiar to the core Lokaa speaking communities of Yakurr LGA comprising of Ugep, Idomi, Ekori, Nko and Mkpani. The grand finale and international version is celebrated in Ugep. Each of the communities aforementioned have a distinct day set aside for the celebration in their respective communities. The name of the festival varies from community to community: Lemormor boku for Ugep, Lelomi boku for Idomi, Lekoli boku for Ekori, Lekpankpani boku for Mkpani and Lekakaa boku for Nko.
The Leboku New Yam festival is celebrated as earlier said annually and it is usually in the month of August. It is a three week celebration that kicks off with the Mblemi. On this day, the harvest of new yams is officially flagged off. Beautifully adorned women parade the town with their harvests.
The second day is the Janenboku which translates to women's festival day. On this day, gifts are given to women by their loved ones, family and friends. Traditional dances also take place on this day.
Day three is the Ledemboku which means mens festival literally and like the Janenboku, gifts are also given to men. There's also dance performance by the male Ekoi dancers, a parade by the Obol Lopon (The King) and his Bi-Inah (Council of Chiefs).
There's also a display by the Etangala masquerade. This masquerade makes its appearance once a year and only on the day of the Ledemboku.
This festival is sponsored by MTN with a host of other sponsors and amidst all the celebrations, people win lots of amazing prizes from the sponsors. There's also a day set aside for pageantry where beautiful maidens and young men contest for the grand prize of a car amongst other prizes. There is also Leboku sports festival and leboku picnic
AfterLedemboku, a day of rest is set aside to enable the leboku maidens make new friends, this day is known as Nkokebi, there is also Leteboku which features poetry performances by Ugep maidens from different wards and also dance performance which is always a delight to watch.
Two days later is the Yekpi and on this day, boys and leboku maidens parade themselves in beautiful attires and adornments. This ceremony is believed to usher in peace and prosperity.
Yeponfawa takes place after the Yekpi and this is carried out by the initiates of the Libini group and though non-initiates are not allowed to partake, they can stay up at night to listen to the songs.
Yeponfawa ends with young boys and girls participating in a one week musical festival which is known as Egbendum for boys and Oka for girls.
Leboku comes to an end with the exit of Egbendum and Oka. And while it lasts, no burial ceremony is held. So it is either you bury your dead before the festival or wait until it's over as it is a taboo to mourn while the community is rejoicing.
This brings us to the end of this long tour, hope you've mapped out Yakurr LGA as your next tourism destination this August?
Ba sam ehh!!!!! (You're welcome)
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