Ekuechi Festival: A Night When The Dead Are Said To Visit Their Loved Ones

Ekuechi Festival is a traditional and cultural event that is prominently and highly celebrated among the Ebira people of Kogi State within their different communities in Nigeria, West Africa.

Ekuechi celebration is held Yearly as it starts in the late November and ends in December. The Ekuechi festival always has an extended duration as different clans (family groups) mark their own date for the celebration of the ancestral event. “Eku” in the Ebira language means an ancestral Masquerade while “chi” means to descend or to return.

 In Ebira culture, there exist a supreme ancestral belief in the existence of two different spiritual land(s) i.e the land of the living and the land of the dead as those in the land of the living owe veneration of devotion  to the land of the dead.

Thus, the interpretation of Ekuechi, simply means an ancestral spirit descending back to the Earth. It is a general belief among the Ebira’s that the Masquerades who perform during the celebration of the cultural event have proximity to the spiritual world where the dead relatives stay examining the behaviors of the living and at the time of the event the Masquerades bring back messages of good tidings and admonitions from the spiritual world.

The Ekuechi ancestral event indicates the climax of the year and the beginning of a new year.This is a festival when the well-to-do Ebira men would travel home from where ever they are to grace and the youths would keep timetables of the celebration distribution according to the clans, so as not to be left out.

The most important act at the time of the event is a masked performance by Eku’rahu which is focused on singing, drumming and chanting

It is a night masquerade festival which marks the end of the Ebira calendar year and the beginning of a new one. Ododo is popularly acclaimed to be the initiator of this masquerade festival. The ‘Akatapa’ masquerade in heralding the beginning of the festival often says “Irayi ododo osi gu, Irayi akatapa osi gu eeeh! Osa yeeeh!” which means “the year of the Ododo has ended; the year of Akatapa has ended. Here is another year”.

The festival begins with a festival eve in which folk singers (omeikede) perform to the delight of both men and women. The following day, the real festival in which masquerades sing and dance to entertain people from dusk to dawn takes place. It is restricted to men only so all women stay indoors throughout the duration of the festival. Majority of the women however are not happy during this period because they are usually locked inside from 7pm to 7am and never allowed to come out till the end of the festival. All dead relatives are believed to return to a earth on a visit this night, so, women prepare delicious ‘Apapa’ (bean read) and he-goat meat for the visitors. The women also, at times, leave monetary gifts with the men for the visiting dead relatives. Trust men, the meals and gifts are properly and neatly delivered to the beneficiaries who only the men have the privilege of seeing and interacting with, that night.


This article is written by Olusola  Oni

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