THE BOGEYMEN AT 2022 UBULU-UKU INE FESTIVAL
By Anthony Awunor
They came fully prepared. With very strange appearances and conceptions, the Ine Festival loving young men, this time vary drastically by the paraphernalia they used as costumes.
Their regalia ranging from bikes, goats, generators, mortars, pots, farming tools, bicycles, guns, etc sent jitters to both the spectators and participants alike at the just concluded 2022 Ubulu Uku Ine Festival in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State.
I was frightened watching some of them, particularly the one carrying a big bowl of burning fire on his head. I also imagined what would have happened to his skull if not, that he was wise enough to have remembered to place a thick- round piece of cloth on his head before placing the fireload right there. On top of the cloth was placed, a flat wooden material to further protect the skull from heat oozing out, from beneath the bowl. As if that was not enough, the young man still carried along a big farm bag with him to complement his costume. A dangerous play, one would say in a sane situation; but not in Ine Festival where everything done is propelled by the satan known as “ekwunsu”. In fact some Ubulu-Uku folks prefer to call the festival by its real name: Ekwensu.
Yes! It is clearly Ekwensu, largely due to the way morals are played down during the festival. For instance randy men can use such opportunity of the festival to touch a lady on her breast and nothing will happen. Obscene words and songs are used to expose metaphorically immoral acts perpetrated by some indigenes, which contravene the norms of the society. Ubulu people believe strongly that committing of such contravening acts results from Ekwensu and the festival is aimed at cleansing and ridding the community of such ills.
The other had his motorcycle fully wired with no fewer than 15 electric bulbs. The big generator tied to its back supplied bright light as he zoomed round town. He also had a huge fan on his head which served as air-conditioner in the midday sun. His registration number was simply INE FESTIVAL boldly written, to remind everyone about what was happening.
Another funny and interesting bogeyman was the fellow that used “oja” to tie a young goat at its back. While the festival continued, he strolled up and down the road with the kid resting on his back.
Then came “Prophet Isaiah”. Many Ubulu Uku people didn’t know that, the Holy Bible had since been introduced as part of the paraphernalia for the Ine Festival. It started few years ago and “Prophet Isaiah” brought one big one this year.
Most interesting was the gentleman that ran his show with a hand-driven truck. Inside that truck, he had an electric fan, gas cooker, jerry cans, cartons, umbrella, stick, and travelling bags of different sizes. He claimed that the truck is also registered with learners logo hung at the front. Perhaps, the learners logo was included, to tell the whole world that he was learning and therefore, anything can happen. This particular one had a field day as he attracted quite a number of men who run to him from time to time, to touch her fake breasts which she wore throughout the festival.
These bogeymen were many this year. They are uncountable as many others disguised themselves as women and vice versa, all in tattered costumes and varied disguises comprising masks. Those who did not wear masks used charcoal powder, white chalks and indigo-die for facial make-up in a grotesque manner.
Inasmuch as I appreciate the Ine lovers, I must be quick to add that such costumes were never in the picture two decades ago. However, culture being dynamic means that it can accommodate new things with time.
Be that as it may, Ine Festival , with its nature and implications is ever ready to accommodate anything under the sun.
I commend the youths for a peaceful outing which is most important. At the same time, while we bring in new things to the festival, I must also advise that, the youths should be more creative in things that are embedded in Ubulu-Uku culture and tradition. For example, regalia such as akwa ugbo, ibele, ekpili, akpele, itali, ugbolo, nkata, mbazu, akpa-ugbo, cutlasses, catapult, dane guns and other types of traditional dresses would do us a lot of good.
Ekwe, mgbiligba, okanga, agogo, cattle horns are all good stuffs for Ine Festival.
By so doing, we would be able to sell our cultural heritage to the world, sustain our original Ine Festival costumes and ultimately make it attractive to both the young and the old.