ANNUAL NEW YAM FESTIVAL HELD ON 19TH OCTOBER, 2019
The new yam festival in Cherryfield College is an annual event. The event usually starts with the preparation. The day of the event kicked started with various activities like the display of items, making of fire for yam roasting, yam peeling and cooking of yam for pounding, cutting of vegetables for soup making, sauce making for roasted yam etc. The goat killing exercise attracted many students who are participating in the exercise for the first time. The pounding of yam was equally very interesting but the students enjoyed the roasting of yam the most. The event also witnessed a lecture delivered by Prince Nze Ugochukwu Ugboaja of the Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja. Below is the lecture captioned New Yam Festival in Igbo Land.
NEW YAM FESTIVAL IN IGBO LAND
The New Yam Festival of the Igbo people is an annual cultural festival celebrated by the Igbo people. It is usually held at the end of the raining season in early august till late October. The New Yam Festival literally means Iwa Ji, Iri Ji or Ika Ji, depending on the dialect. The festival is restricted to the Igbo people. The festival signals the beginning of the harvest season in the Igbo culture. There is nothing fetish about the festival. The festival is basically culturally based. During this period, yams are the first crop to be harvested by the farmers. The significance of yam in the Igbo tradition cannot be over emphasized. The festival, therefore, is a celebration of how important yam is in the socio-cultural life of the Igbo people. It is important to note that all old yams from the previous harvest are expected to be consumed or discarded a day before the event. At the festival proper, only dishes of new yams are expected to be served at the event. This festival differs according to communities but the basic essentials remain the same. In some communities, it could take a whole week while in some communities it may last a day or two. The festival often includes a variety of entertainments such as cultural dance by the men, women and children in the community, masquerade dance as well as wrestling competition. The Iwa Ji (cutting of the yam) rites are performed by the Igwe (the King) or the oldest man in the community or a prominent title holder in the village.
Ji (Yam) is regarded socially as the King of all foods and crops in Igbo land, and it is exclusively a man’s crop among the farmers. Men who cultivate yam in large quantity takes the traditional title of Ezeji (Yam king/ cultivator). Yam is cultivated in mounds called Ebeji after clearing and burning of the farm land. Holes are dug, upon which mounds are made. When the tendrils (Umeji) start sprouting, sticks called Mkpa are used to hold the tendrils up and direct them to bigger trees that can hold them for the planting seasons. Yams are harvested twice in a year. The first harvest is known as Ikeji. This is a system whereby new yam is carefully cut from below the head of the yam (Isi ji). This leaves the head of the yam still to grow and have yam seedlings that can be planted in the next farming season.
Yam is harvested with a long iron rod flattened at one end. This rod is called Mbazụ. After being harvested, yams are stored in a specially prepared place called Ọba ji (Yam barn). From there, the farmer can take some for eating or for sales.
VARIOUS WAYS OF EATING YAM
Yam is eaten in various ways in the Igbo land. It can be eaten in the following ways:
1. ỤTARA JI (POUNDED YAM)
This is called pounded yam. It is common food among the Igbo people. It is a prestige delicacy for the Igbo people and mostly in use during ceremonies.
2. JI MMIRI ỌKỤ (YAM PEPPER SOUP)
This is yam preparation type where yam is cut into pieces called ibeji. They are then cooked with required amount of water, Mmanụ, Ose, Nnụ, Anụ, Aụu and Nchanwụ. This is usually taken by the nursing mothers and also during cold weather.
3. JI AHỤRỤ N’ỌKỤ (ROAST YAM)
When yam is roasted, the burnt part is removed carefully with knife. This is eaten with palm oil and ground pepper. This is a common food in big cities now. Many women are seen roasting yams at major streets and corners where lover of the delicacy visit them on a regular basis.
4. JI AGWỌRỌ AGWỌ (YAM PORRIDGE)
The yam porridge is cut cooked by sizeable pieces of yam called Ibeji. The back particles can be removed or left. They are cooked until they become soft. Mmanụ nri (Red oil) Ose (Pepper), Nnụ (salt) Azụ (fish) are mixed and used in the eating the well prepared yam porridge.