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THE FUNCTION AND RELEVANCE OF COSTUMES IN THE NGWA-EKPE FESTIVAL

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[icon type=”icon-pencil”]: THE FUNCTION AND RELEVANCE OF COSTUMES IN THE NGWA-EKPE FESTIVAL
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Keywords: THE FUNCTION AND RELEVANCE OF COSTUMES IN THE NGWA-EKPE FESTIVAL


RESEARCH BODY

CHAPTER ONE

General Introduction

1.1 Background  of  the  Study

Festival is an event usually set by a local community. It centers on some unique aspects of that community. It is a set of activities and practice designed to entertain the people of that particular community. Festival of many types serves to meet specific needs as well as toprovide entertainment. These types of celebration offer a belonging to Religious, social or geographical groups. Festivals also remind people of their traditions and in recent times also helps in unity among family. Reversal, intensification, trespassing and abstinence are the four cardinal points of festival behavior (Babcock, 1978).There are many festivals in Nigeria, some of which date to the period before the arrival of the major religions in this ethnically and culturally diverse society (museum collections, 2013). The main Muslim and Christian festivals are often celebrated in ways that are unique to Nigeria or to the people of a particular society (Alade, 2013).

The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation has been working with the state to upgrade the traditional Nigeria festival, which may become important sources of tourism revenue. Among the Igbos of Nigeria, there is a wealth of cultural heritage manifested in ceremonies and festivals. Social phenomenon like marriage, birth, farming, harvest, victory and many other social institutions are celebrated. These cultural activities contain the germs of rich poetry and prose, excellent music and lively drama which have not been raised far above their traditional level although present day scholars. Sociologist, Anthropologist and Literary researchers are showing sufficient interest (Onyefulu,2007). Some of these works will be examined in relation to definition, function and structure.

Ejizu (1990) noted that festivals are very popular and recurrent events in traditional African life. He summed it up by defining festivals as: Any special occasion, observance or celebration which may be religious or secular in nature and which is generally marked by merry-making, performance of music and the like. Festivals, according to Onwubiko (2008) can in most cases be said to be a good measure of the intensity of the religious consciousness and cultural richness of a people. He further stated that feasts are the external manifestation of religion itself in every culture and they very often include sacrifice as a prominent part of their ritual. From these definitions, it is clear that festival is a celebration, a feast, a season of musical or other performance which involves joyfulness and merry making. The masquerade on the other hand plays a very significant role in the history and culture of communities in Nigeria. Though back ground origin of masquerade may differ, their overall role like traditional dances can be classified into categories.

The word costume could be refer to wearing of clothes, unique human behavior, or an act that possesses great symbolic meaning in a culture and is closely connected to social interaction (Risa, 2010). Costume  serves as a means of communication in social interactions. Individuals through the wearing of costume have historically revealed their personal identity along with others socially. Costumes is not only a form of communication, but can also be viewed as a symbolic behavior. Humans are unique in that they wear clothes and can adorn themselves with expensive objects. Through this act, they creates meaning and passed it on to others. Since symbols were given arbitrary meanings, costumes became symbolic when meaning is assigned to it. Individuals were not usually isolated from others;as a consequence, costume and appearance became a means that influenced all members of the society. Symbols on costumes are a silent but powerful way to quickly communicate multiple facts. People in a society first had to define their costume in cultural terms before they prescribed it with symbolic meaning. Without social interaction,symbolic meaning cannot be impaired. How an individual desired to be perceived was defined by the values that his or her culture upheld. Costume, as perceived symbols, acted to define social groups and provided visual reference information to others.

Throughout  history,  art  and  culture  have  remained  two  inseparable words  (Appiah,  1991).  They  are  interdependent;  in  which  every  culture has  its  own  art  forms  peculiar  to  the  traditions  of  the  society.  The society’s  culture  can  be  identified  through  the  traditional  art  forms which  form  the  cultural  identity  of  the  people  within  that  community. There   are   however,   non-material   elements   of   culture   such   as conventional  norms  and  established  traditional  ways  through  which ideas  are  articulated.  These  may  include  costumes,  literature,  songs, drumming  and  dancing  as  well  as  other  forms  of  customary  ideas  about man  and  his  society.  The  material  aspects  of  culture  include  art  forms such  as  basketry,  leatherwear,  textiles,  pottery  and  sculpture  among others. Asihene  (1978)  was  emphatic  that,  there  is  not  a  single  cultural performance  that  ends  without  the  use  of  a  costume.  Indeed,  costume in  a  great  sense,  gives  us  absolute  ideas  about  both  past  and  present cultures;  playing  an  important  role  in  the  socio-religious  and  political structure  in  the  life  of  the  traditional  African.  It  has  thus  remained  a vital  component  in  appreciating  the  culture  of  Africans.  Festivals  are  a composition  of  non  materials  and  material  (or  visual)  aspects  of  culture that  articulate  the  embodiment  of  cultural  systems.  It  is  against  this background  that  the  function  and  relevance  of  costumes  in  the  Ngwa-Ekpe festival  has  become  the  focus  of  this  research.

1.2  Statement  of  the  Problem

The  Ngwa-Ekpe  festival  which  is  celebrated  by  the  people  of  Umuahia and  Owerri  provinces  has  art  components  inadequately  documented. The  festival  is  celebrated  annually  in  the  first  two  weeks  of  the  month  of January,  in  remembrance  of  the  God  of  Njoku  (yam  God).  It  is  to commemorate  the  culmination  of  the  year’s  rites.  As  a  festival,  a number  of  arts  and  costumes  both  material  and  nonmaterial  are paramount  in  the  celebrations.  Each  of  these  costumes  embodies  the beliefs  of  the Njokus  and  divinities  prevalent  in  the  success  of  their  everyday  struggle and  thus,  have  a  lot  of  educational  values  that  need  to  be  harnessed  to promote  art  education  and  cultural  heritage. Some  of  the  costumes  similarly,  have  specific  beliefs  attached  to  their usage  in  the  festival  apart  from  ordinary  use.

These  costumes,  due  to the  fact  that  they  have  not  been  adequately  documented,  have  also  not been   fully   comprehended   by   the   people   themselves;   taking   into consideration   their   role   in   the   celebrations,   why   those   specific costumes  are  used. The  costumes  used  in  the  festival  have  educational  values,  that  need comprehension,  hence  the  purpose  of  the  research  is  therefore,  to identify   the   artistic   roles   and   functions   of  the  costumes  used  in Ngwa-Ekpe  festival  as  an  element  of  cultural  sustenance  for  educational implications.

1.3 Scope of the Study

The study will be restricted to the Ngwas Ekpe festival from cross river state of Nigeria. The  Area  covering  the  old  Aba  division  Ngwa,  is  situated  in  the  tropical rain  forest  of  southern  Igbo  plain  in  the  present  Abia  State  of  Nigeria.  It has  a  population  of  about  one  million  people  and  an  area  of  little  over nine  hundred  square  miles  (2,300  km2).  The  area  is  bounded  on  the  north by  the  present  Umuahia  zone,  on  the  west  by  Owerri  and  Mbaise,  on  the east  by  Ikot-Ekene  and  Abak  and  on  the  south  by  Ukwa. The  people  are  largely  farmers,  producing  yams,  cassava,  cocoyam,  maize and  other  tropical  farm  products.  Major  rural  industries  include  garri  and palm  produce  in  addition  to  Akwete  cloth  weaving  in  which  most  women from  the  area  were  engaged.  The  old  divisional  headquarters  was  Aba,  a very   important   commercial   and   industrial   center.   Centers   of   major population   concentration   include   Aba,   Mgboko,   Osisioma,   Umooba, Owerinta,  Nbawsi  and  Okpu-Alangwaomoba.

 1.4 Research Methodology

The research methods used in this study is descriptive method. The descriptive method requires that the costumes are vividly analysed. Data obtained using this method provide this study with  our primary data. The secondary data were obtained from scholarly opinions (Academic journals), articles, text book, internet sources.

1.5 Aims and  Objectives  of  the  Study

The specific aim of the study is to examine the functions and relevance of  costumes in Ngwas Ekpe festival.

The objectives are;

  1. To identify,  describe  the  various  costumes  associated  with  the Ngwas Ekpe Festival.
  2. To find out the functions that specific costumes plays and their cultural relevance in the celebration of Ngwas Ekpe festival
  3. To examine the relevancy that each costumes play in the celebration of Ngwas Ekpe festival.

1.6 Purpose of the Study

This study becomes necessary in order to identify the functions and relevance of  costumes in Ngwas Ekpe festival.

1.7 Significance of the Study

The importance of this  study  cannot be overemphasized as its findings would  serve  as  reference  material  for  students   and researchers  for further  studies. And also empower  others  alike  to  have  a  renewed  orientation and  be  equipped  with  the  necessary  information  on the essence of Ekpe festival and even give them the zeal to want to attend.

Secondly, the  findings  of  the  study  would  promote  cultural  education  among  the youth  in the  Ngwa  area  while  creating  cultural  awareness  about  African cultural  values. And also serves  as an  input  for  Ekpe festival organisers so as to make the festival more attractive and more accommodating so that people from different part of the world can  participate in the festival.

Thirdly, the  study  would  also  serve  as  a  source  of  information  for  policy  makers towardsnational  cultural  festival  development.

Finally, the  study  would  enhance  the  cultural  education  of  art,  particularly  the performing  and  visual  arts. And also assist the students so that they would be better equipped with the necessary information on the function and relevance of the festival and in so doing attend as one of their excursion.

1.8 Limitation of the Study

The limitations of the study is based on the short period of time available in making the research, errors and the distance of the study area that could be encountered in gathering data from the sources of research. Also one of the limitations encountered in carrying out this research work is the issue of finance which is a core reason for not having a direct access to the information needed.

1.9 Conceptual Classification

Costumes:  : an outfit worn to create the appearance characteristic of a particular period, person, place, culture, occasion or thing.

Festival: A festival is an event ordinarily celebrated by a community or society and centering on some characteristic aspect of that community and its religion or traditions. It is often marked as a local or national holiday etc.

Ekpe Festival: Masquerade festival is peculiar to Ngwas people and it’s celebrated on yearly basis.

Ngwas: an Igbo group, constitute the largest and most populous sub-ethnicity, or clan, in southeastern Nigeria

Relevance: the importance of something in relation to a situation or person or significant in that situation or to that person.

Function: the special purpose or activity for which a thing exists or is used.

Keywords: THE FUNCTION AND RELEVANCE OF COSTUMES IN THE NGWA-EKPE FESTIVAL





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