The Ofala Festival: A Celebration of Igbo Land and Culture


ofala festival

Ofala Festival, which takes place each year during the Igbo New Year celebration, has become one of the most widely known traditional festivals in Nigeria. The Ofala Festival draws crowds from around the world, who witness the beautiful and elaborate costumes worn by Igbo festival celebrants as they dance through the streets on their way to the annual Ofala festival procession. Many people are unaware of why these colourful costumes are worn or what message they carry, so we have put together this guide to the Igbo Ofala Festival to help educate people about this famous Nigerian festival.

Ofala, or Igbo New Year’s Day, takes place on the fourth day of the month of Oguehi in the Igbo calendar. The event also celebrates the New Yam Festival. It marks the end of the harvest season in southern Nigeria’s Igbo region, encompassing most of southeastern Nigeria and parts of Cameroon and other surrounding countries. For this reason, Ofala is also referred to as Iri Eke or harvest festival in some areas.

The Ofala Festival takes place in Igbo land, Nigeria, every year. The festival, which was established over 100 years ago, celebrates the life of Okonkwo and his importance to Igbo history and culture. Although the Ofala Festival is largely religious, several unique and fun aspects of this festival make it particularly appealing to tourists visiting Nigeria during this time of year.


What is Ofala Festival

The Ofala festival, also known as Orukpe in Isuikwuato, Owerri and Owerri South Local Government Areas (LGA), is an annual celebration to honour one of Igboland’s greatest ancestors. It is a festival with so much colour and flair that it was selected as one of Nigeria’s Cultural Center’s projects for 2009. The colourful celebrations take place from late July to early August each year. They feature masquerades that dance wildly throughout town. Traditionally, these masquerades are spiritual beings who represent departed family members called orisha/drinking. They walk through towns and villages during these festivals wearing masks and costumes made of leaves, beads, feathers, and cloth. In return for their services to society during their lifetime on earth, they receive gifts such as food, money and clothing. Furthermore, while they visit different communities during their travels, they bring joy to people by dancing alongside them. Since time immemorial, this tradition has been around among many West African tribes, including those in Ghana, Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.


What does Ofala Festival In Igbo Land look like?

The Ofala Festival is one of Nigeria’s most popular festivals, occurring in September. It begins with a traditional procession into town by groups from around Igboland, celebrated in Owerri. The five branches (or villages) that participate include Aboh, Isuofia, Ohafia, Umuahia North, and Njaba. Even if you cannot make it to see it for yourself, there are plenty of images online to get a sense of how vibrant it is—especially when combined with other regional celebrations. By travelling to see other festivals throughout Nigeria (and West Africa), you can gain a great understanding not only of cultural differences but also just how diverse Nigerian culture is!


When does it take place?

The festival is celebrated in August every year, marking two different events on separate occasions. One was a victory over a chief named Uga. The other occurred during Owari Agbo when Bayo Rock was broken into pieces by people who escaped slavery from Benin. The celebration lasts for three days and can only be celebrated once every four years; in alternating four-year cycles, each village in Anambra takes turns to host it.


How do I get there?

The Ofala festival takes place in southern Nigeria, in Delta State. Igboland, as it is called, is located in southeastern Nigeria. We can get to Igboland by plane or bus. The closest international airport is Murtala Muhammed International Airport (LOS) Lagos; you can take a short flight to Port Harcourt International Airport (PHC). PHC offers connecting flights to other major cities like Abuja and Kano, so it might be your best bet if you are from other areas of Nigeria. Alternatively, you can fly into Benin City (BNI), which is going to Port Harcourt. If travelling from another country, flying into one of these two airports will put you near Igboland and make getting around much easier. Some buses travel between Lagos and Onitsha frequently throughout each day; they leave every 30 minutes. However, some travellers have reported problems with thieves on these buses, so keep an eye out for that possibility when planning the trip!


Who is involved In Ofala Festival?

The Ofala festival takes place in Igboland, a region in southern Nigeria. It is organized by traditional leaders and is meant to bring together different communities to celebrate Igboland’s culture. During its history, it has involved almost every aspect of Igbo life—including those who live there now and their ancestors. For example, spiritual traditions played an important role for most community members during their heyday, so churchmen were often key organizers. Furthermore, since women were forbidden from participation in many public events during that time, many looked to events like Ofala as an opportunity to mingle with other women on equal footing.


What happens when you get there?

The first time my husband, Ralph, and I arrived in Nigeria, we had difficulty trying to get from Lagos International Airport to our home. Our driver insisted that we could not pay him until he dropped us off. He did not take credit cards or checks, so we went as far as we could with him—not realizing he was planning on doing some shopping along the way. We were stuck for hours (and a few dollars) in traffic on busy roads with crazy drivers going every way. If you can avoid taking cabs when you arrive in Lagos, do it. There are many ways to get from Point A to Point B without spending much at all—and without getting lost or extorted. Many hotels offer shuttle services; others will pick you up if you call ahead. Alternatively, plenty of okadas (motorcycle taxis) are willing to drive around town. They are fun to ride on but make sure they wear helmets! Moreover, do not forget your umbrella—it rains here often!


What can I eat at the fall festival in Igbo land?

There is so much to eat! It is not easy to choose because it is all delicious, but here are some specific foods you may find at your local festival: ok pa (corn meal with vegetables or meat), ogbono soup (fermented soybean soup), egusi soup (traditional spicy red pepper soup), yam, cassava, plantain. You will also see tons of western food – like burgers, fries, and pizza – sold by local vendors! This is one place you can try everything you have ever wanted to try – without worrying about getting sick from sampling it all. Moreover, if your favourite food is not there? Just bring it yourself next year.


How much does it cost to attend the fall festival?

The Ofala festival is free for everyone to attend, but there are various concession stands at various points in the festival where you can buy drinks, food, and handmade crafts. You are expected to give an offering or money (as they say in Igboland) to one of these concession workers when taking a drink or food. Money is often referred to as ukwu. An average amount you might pay for a soft drink is ₦50. Some students say they give ₦100–200 naira per drink as an offering—that is fine! Moreover, you can also pay in smaller denominations, such as 20 nairas etc., depending on what kind of cash you have.


Are there any other festivals similar to the ofala festival?

Several festivals around Nigeria are similar to the ofala festival in Igbo land, but none quite as large or well-known. The Eyo festival, which comes up in Lagos, is similar in its focus on royalty and traditional culture; however, it is much smaller than that ofala festival. Other festivals more closely tied to royalty include Ariaria’s Ububu Ohuofia (called Ariaria’s Olowo Oloju Ifo), Igue-Iro Ijebu (Ooni Adeyeye Ogunwusi) and Ekpeye in Asaba Delta State. These festivals do not have anything in common with ofala other than their focus on royalty. The Ofala festival is also different from these other festivals because it has no political ties whatsoever—something you cannot say about any other major Nigerian celebration.

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