Italy and Brazil may be known as the flagship countries that popularized festivals all over the world, but with time, other countries and societies, including Nigeria are now rising up and boosting their local festivals so much that they now even stand a chance at competing with the later festival giants. While Festivals are not new to Nigeria, in recent time, some major festivals are now popularized so much that tourists from around the world visit the country annually for the events.
From the Eyo Festival to the different city carnivals, there is a variety of events and festivals that celebrate either religious history, music, art indigenous folklore or Nigeria’s cultural heritage, most of them featuring local music, costumes, parades, dancing, alcohol, and food.
The most ancient and prominent festival in the northern regions of Nigeria, the Durbar festival is popular in Maiduguri, Kano, Katsina and Zaria. Originally intended to mark the advent of a war between ancient kingdoms or regarded as a form of military parade to the emirs and their councils to showcase the fighters who defended the territories, the festival is now performed and considered a ceremonial parade. The parades are filed with aesthetics, colors and it serves to reveal the loyalty of the paraders to the emir as well as reveals their strength and readiness for war. The ceremony is major part of the Eid el Kabir celebrations as well as the Id el Fitri marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan and it attracts visitors and tourists year after year.
A regional festival that is unique to the city of Lagos, Eyo festival stems from ancient Yoruba history and is speculated to be the inspiration for the modern day Rio de Janeiro carnival in Brazil. The festival features a major parade with participants dressed in while flowing robes that cover their entire body, top hats and sticks; and masquerades referred to as “Eyo” as well as costumed dancers. One of the major objectives of the festival is to pay homage to the Oba of Lagos as well as. The 24-day event sweeps through the entire city with focus on the Lagos Island and attracts a large number of tourists from around the world.
A highly cultural and spiritual festival held annually in Osun State, the Osun-Osogbo festival is held between the months of July and August and sees thousands of Osun worshippers, observers as well as tourists from all over the world who come to join in on the festivities. Celebrated at the Sacred Osun grove in honour of the river goddess, Osun of Osun State, the event spans for two weeks. The first stage features the ‘Iwopopo’ – a traditional cleansing of the land- at the initial stage, ‘Ina Olojumerindinlogun’ – the lighting of the 500-year-old sixteen-point lamp- three days later and finally the ‘Ibroriade’, an assemblage of the crowns of past rulers, and a committee of priestesses. While the colorful parades and parties across the city suggest light-hearted merriment, the Festival is a strong aspect of the Osogbo culture.
ARGUNGU FISHING FESTIVAL
With an origin traced to the visit of the late Sultan Dan Mu’azu in 1934 who was honored with an akin festival, the Argungu fishing festival has been around for quite some time. The festival, widely popular in Kebbi and Sokoto state areas, is a competitive feast that aims to weigh the fishing skills of the locals. It is usually celebrated between the months of February and March and also marks the end of a farming season. As music, drums and dance envelops the air, anxious participants try to outdo each other in a bid to gain the biggest catch. Other activities, including swimming competitions, bare-hand fishing, canoe racing and wild duck hunting serve as side attractions. At the end of the festival, the winner is hugely celebrated, there is merriment across the towns and the river is sheltered to ensure it yields fishes for the next festival.
THE NEW YAM FESTIVAL
An extremely popular festival that everyone indigenous to the south-eastern regions of Nigeria look forward to very year, The New Yam Festival is locally referred to as Iriji-Mmanwu, Iwa ji, Iri ji or Ike ji, by the Igbo speaking areas in the region. Ripe with masquerades, colorful costumes, cultural dances and displays, the event symbolizes the end of a harvest and the commencement of the next work cycle. The celebration is a highly cultural occasion and unifies the different Igbo communities together as they are essentially agrarian and dependent on yam.