NZIRE ANI FESTIVAL : A RICH CULTURAL HERITAGE OF NDI ANAM
Nzireani festival is one of the rich cultural heritage of Ndia Anam. It literarily means "coming down" or "bringing down" but actually in the ancient time was known as Nzire’ume’ani (descent of earth's energy) is a great festival of repute when Anam elders invoke the fertility energy from Chukwu-Okike down to the earth for new farming season and beginning of new year for Anamites. And as well glorify Chukwu-okike for the success of previous farming season and for giving their ancestors victory over their invaders and over flood.
Anam is usually flooded during the rainy season. During this period, the Ani symbol of authority is taken up so that water will not touch it. The annual flooding of the area is always seen as a natural disaster to the people in that both the crops livestock are always endangered in most cases it often leads to loss of life of both children and women, it also causes epidermic such as cholera etc that also leads to loss of life. During this flood menace children and other family treasures are taken up to the hills and platforms to avoid loss or damage, these little children live on these platforms at the mercy of the gods of the land who protects them from those rodents and wild animals. When the flood recedes, this symbol of authority is brought down and this is celebrated as a festival to thank God for protecting them through the hard times and difficult moments of the flood. This is based on the belief it is only the favoured by the ancestors that survives the difficult moments and therefore thanksgiving and atonement for cleansing of the land in case of any evil committed in the land.
This festival is also celebrated to mark the victory of Anam people over the Ada and Aboh slave invadersDuring the 19th century, Ada slave hunters from Arochukwu and Abor slave hunters invaded the area and captured some Anamites who were sold to slavery. This made other Anam peopleto runaway from Odah Anam into hinterlands, but Umueze Anam people decided to leave Abor and come back to Odah to settle and defend their father land.
The Ada people was successfully chased away using masquerades clubs,stones e.t.c (that the origin of Ada masqurade at Nzire Ani).The Abor people resisted because they are good mariners and had canon guns (Ugbondu Abor) and the elders appeased their god which revealed that they can only be chased away with a charm and the bearer of that charm will die. This scared other Anamites but Iwo from Odionwu kindred of Ebendu volunteered to be used while his brother Ama from Amekeme kindred of Ebendu alonside Obalichi from Umuoba volunteered to escort him such that if his brother dies he will cut off his head and bring back. They went and succeeded in defeating Abor people at Abor and Iwo came back with both his brothers head and the head of Abor King he killed as well.
This festival also marks the beginning of the new farming season and the beginning of the new year for the anam man and therefore the people appease their ancestors to ensure a fruitful farming season and to pray for a prosperous year.This is usually done in December during the last Eke before Christmass. The celebration starts at Nkwo market day with oti ekwe Ada and Akpali masqurades. During the Eke market day,early in the morning the Ada masqurade is performed to remind the people of the victory over the Ada slave hunters. After this, the youths will perform the Ijo Ada which is used to castigate evil and evil doers in the soceity during the year.
Next is the Otimkpala masquerades which runs till evening. At about 4pm the the able bodied youths will show strength and courage wil engage in the battle with the spirits known as Okpaege, the masquerades will assemble at the village square where they will engage in wrestle with the people and whoever is defeated leaves the square and the last man standing wins the day. ( I remember the wrestle between Dr Jaja nwanegbo and Onuorah Emeka these two men were the strongest among the Akwuloto Age Grade and Dr Jaja wining the battle both defeated all the masquerades that participated) when the okpotiyi and owakwa masquerade performs and at night the dreaded odumudu masqurade which is the highest performs till dawn. women and uninitiated does not watch this masqurade.
It is always fun and tourist normally troupe from neighbouring communities, villages and town to witness this rich cultural carnival of our people. I wish to invite all of you to this Years edition come 23rd of December 2012.