The Yoruba celebrated the Egungun Festival prior to the coming of the Yoruba New Year on 3 June.
The Egungun Festival is celebrated annually and is dedicated to the worship of ancestors. The trademark of the Egungun Festival is the Bata drum, which is beaten without rhythm.
The Ifa Oracle will decide which Orisa to be revered for the year and who will be the custodian of the Egungun Mask. The custodian takes the mask to the Alagba (elder) who decides who will wear the mask during the Egungun Festival.
It is the Egungun Orisa who listens to the requests of the living and carry their messages back to the ancestral community in heaven.
The year 2020 is actually year 10,062 of the Yoruba calendar.
June is the month of the Penumbral Lunar Eclipse, which will be visible on 5 June.
In Igboland, June is called Önwa-iri na atö and marks the period of Ọnwa Anọ, which is when the planting of yams begins.
In many Igbo communities this is the month of the Ekeleke dance festival which emphasizes optimism, sustaining your belief in Chukwu (God) through hardships and the coming of better days.
The origin of Ekeleke dance is believed to have emerged from women before it was adopted by men. The dance costume is very symbolic in the sense that it portrays the individual state of mind during the festival. The symbolic colour is ‘white’, the dancers are pure in thought, action and words. Throughout the dance performance, the dancers are meant to uphold the truth and nothing but the truth.
A lot of emphasis is placed on the costumes, make-up, props and carriage, which is why the dance is called Ekeleke meaning ‘Dressing’. The performance is a unique dance and is strictly for full initiates in the community. It is a dance believed to be for men who are ready to defend and uphold the customs, traditions and moral values of the community.
The performance and dance steps can only be taught by the Onyeisi (Head/Leader) Ekeleke who is the lead dancer and head of the performers. The Onyeisi Ekeleke is believed to be a direct descendant from the lineage of the founding Ekeleke dancers.
The inspiration to choreograph the Ekeleke dance is believed to have come from the gods.
The essential instruments used during the performance are three Ekwe wooden gongs called Ekwe Okpooku, Ekwe Nkwado and Ekwe Omume. These Ekwe are known to have communicative potentials.
The Ekeleke dancers use their various leg movements to interpret the social problems of the time. The dancers are seen as the communicating link between the leaders and the people.
Look out for our next edition where we will discover the Igbo tradition of Ọnwa Agwụ.