African StoriesHistorical Fiction Stories

The Ikperamah Festival

The evening was filled with the aroma coming out from different soup pots from different compounds. The pestle beating the helpless yam against the mortal produced a rhythm which could be heard all over the village. The village of Enwan was booming with festive activities.

The stranger, Mr. Eshi, who was visiting the village for the first time, sat in his compound observing the preparations that were going on in the village. He could see dark marks on the bodies of the girls and women. When he could not contain his curiosity anymore, he called his nephew, a boy of sixteen years who was busy with his phone.

“Ebuka, Ebuka,” he called and the boy ran to him.

“Yes uncle,” he replied on getting there.

“Sit down,” the stranger said, pointing to a nearby stool. The boy hesitated for a second before sitting down. “Tell me about the festival,” he said looking at the boy.

“Okay, what do you want to know about it?” the boy asked.

“Everything, if possible,” the stranger replied.

“Okay, the festival is called the Ikperamah Festival,” the boy began. “Long time ago, legend has it that a hunter from this village went for a hunt in the forest where his eyes met an unusual sight. He saw a group of gathered monkeys with the female ones in the centre. It seemed like they were dancing. The curious hunter who wanted to see what the monkeys were doing, hid himself behind a huge tree from where he watched them closely.

“One of the matured monkeys held a drum made of animal skin which he hit with a stick to produce a rhythm to which the females danced to with different dance steps according to the rhythm of the sound of the drum. When the hunter was satisfied with what he had witnessed so far, he shot at them, which made them run in different directions, abandoning the place and the mystical drum.

The hunter came out of his hiding place and took the drum which he brought to the village. He told the people what he witnessed and taught the females the dance steps, while he taught a few selected males the drum, and that was how the festival came into existence,” the boy concluded his tale and looked at his uncle who had an amused smile on.

“So, how is the festival observed and what are its rules?” the stranger asked sitting up.

The boy adjusted himself before continuing. “The festival is conducted once every year and it is usually announced by an elderly man who was saddled with that responsibility. He did this through the help of a group of females who would sing praises to the three heads of the three quarters of the village, which are Imievane, Imiezakor and Imiezua.

“Once the festival has been announced, a week of peace would be declared, meaning that there would be no public celebrations which involved loud music, noise, and no one is expected to fight or quarrel with anyone. Those who disobeyed were to buy a big she-goat at the end of the week.

“On the seventh day which marked the end of the week of peace, the young and old men would gather and perform a ritual, which involved setting some things on fire. It is called ‘the Driving Away Of Hunger.’ It involved going deep into the farm side because that was where the hunger will be driven to.

“The next day, the Imiezua people would prepare themselves for the main festival, and the preparations include, cooking mainly pounded yam, and the drawing of dark marks on the body of the females known as esu. No one is expected to go to farm on this day and those who disobeyed never lived to see the next day.

“The next day, the sound of the drum will summon the young maidens to the chief’s house. That day, indigenes who were abroad or living in other towns would be present and people from all walks of life would be present because of the festival.

“It was expected of the maidens who were already prepared to enter into the center of the square created for them by the ever active village vigilantes. They would take off their wrapper and enter the stage completely naked with beads adorning their wrists, ankles, waists, necks, etc.

“They were expected to put on anything that will make them beautiful except for clothes, and they would dance to the rhythm of the music by swinging their arms in the air.

“On this same day, the newly married women, dressed in different native wears would join the girls in the village Square, where the drummer would beat a particular rhythm for them to dance to, after which they were to leave the stage for the named maidens. It is a law that no lady wearing trouser should enter the stage and those who disobeyed this law would be undressed and made to join the maidens against their will.”

“But is that not risky?” the stranger asked interrupting the boy. “What if some of the people takes pictures of the girls with their phones and post it on social media? And what is the main purpose of the festival?”

“Well,” the boy continued, “nobody is allowed to take pictures or videos of the girls, and if anyone is caught in the act, their phones will be destroyed and they would be made to pay a fine by the elders.

“The main purpose of the festival is for the young men to choose their wives. A young man who was interested in any of the girls was expected to spray money on the girl during the festival, and after the festival had been concluded, he would meet the girl’s family to show his interest.

After the Imiezua festival, the Imiezakor quarter will do their own in the same way, but with a little difference in the end, which involved the a dance group dancing to entertain the crowds on the way to the square.

“The next day, after the Imiezakor, the Imievane will prepare themselves and have their festival the next day. This is the most interesting aspect of the festival.

“In this quarter, after the naked maidens have left the square to finalize it at the chief’s place, Imievane’s dance group would take over. This is the group that has in its possession the mystery drum, of which they made a replica from.

“They would beat the drum, producing different rhythms for the male and female dancers, and in the middle of this dance, something will come upon or two male members of the group, which would make them desert their group and reach for the nearest story building to climb, amid cheers and screams from the gathered crowd.”

“Ebuka, Ebuka,” a woman’s voice interrupted.

“Go and answer your mum first, then come back so that we can finish this conversation.”

“Okay,” the boy replied and stood up to go.

The stranger laid back on his chair with a satisfied smile.

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