New Yam Festival in Nigeria 

Festivals like the New Yam represent how agriculture is one of the pillars of the Nigerian social order.

The present-day borders of Nigeria were chalked by the British when they colonized it in 1914. A British journalist, Flora Shaw, suggested the name Nigeria, after the Nigeria river. Nigeria, also known as “the Giant of Africa”, is the most populated African country and 7th most populated country in the world.

Nigeria has a rich history of culture and heritage which often reflects the hint of British, Brazilian and Portuguese Architecture. There is no better way to explore and rediscover a country’s culture than exploring its festivals. Nigeria has a rich cultural history and traditions which has given rise to several beautiful festivals in Nigeria.

The Nsukka Dance Troupe at the Igbo New Yam Festival
Image: Juju Films on Flickr

Most of the festivals in Nigeria are specific to their regions such as the Durbar Festival, celebrated in the northern regions of Nigeria, the Osun-Oshogbo Festival, which takes place annually in Osun State, and Eyo festival that is unique to the city of Lagos.

Another festivity that attracts much banter is the New Yam festival. This festival is popular from Leboku in Ugep, Cross River State to the Iriji-Mmanwu festival in Enugu State.It is also prevalent in Ghana. The New Yam Festival is celebrated with renewed vigor each year, between August and October.

It symbolizes the end of the harvest and the commencement of the next work cycle. Each community independently determines the date. The occurrence of this event is as old as the culture of the Igbo people. The goal of this festival is to get the approval of the ancestors and of the God. This festival of fertility brings together divergent communities of the Igbo people. Individuals thank the supreme power for their crop, specifically yam.

Kola Nuts are often eaten at the festival
Image: Juju Films on Flickr

The yams are fried and eaten, and accompanied by boiled dishes and porridges. Palm oil is also added to dishes. The festive meal is followed by folk dances, musical performances, acrobatic displays and fetish activities. Dancers in beautiful attires sporting masquerades show up and bring life to the festival.

It’s pretty clear that the New Yam Festival is one such festival that should not be missed, as it helps decode the culture of Nigeria through story-telling, food, as well as performance art.


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