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1.1       Background to the Study

Cultural festivals and events are progressively becoming arenas of discourse enabling people to articulate their perceptions on wider cultural, social and religious issues (De-Bres and Davis, 2001).

Cultural festival appears to be universal in present day social orders, filling the social timetable and the social motivation with a huge swath of occasions, happenings and displays. Celebrations additionally progressively take on a more extensive scope of jobs as their noteworthiness increments, stretching out from components to continue social gatherings, to instruments for guaranteeing the acknowledgment of a specific social talk to a methods for creating nearby pride, character and salary. The widening job of conventional and well known social occasions has pulled in analysis from the individuals who contend that the social celebration is having negative ramifications on the Christian people group (De-Bres and Davis, 2001).

Ikeji cultural festival is a feast celebrated by the community in Igbo land especially Arochukwu, Arondizuogu and Aro Ajalli. In Arondizuogu it is celebrated every April each year often falling alongside Easter. It is a festival that signifies the myth and power of the Aros all over Igbo Land especially during the slave trade era. It was their victories and achievement that motivated them into celebrating this festival and popularly is referred to as Ikeji which means the power that holds yam. Ikeji appears to be like a relay race that holds meaning from the past, runs through the present and it is geared towards the future and is one of the secrets held by the Aros to keep influence over the rest of Igbo people (Akobundu, 2016).

Cultural festivals are unique moments in the lives of particular communities when the vital components of their worldview are explicitly displayed through various cultural acts, amplified with colourful costumes and culinary delights. This becomes more interesting in relation to the Arondizuogu Ikeji Festival. Arondizuogu is a group of sprawling communities, spreading across three local government areas in Imo State, with its largest area located in the land obtained from Umualaoma town. For the Arondizuogu, the Ikeji Festival is an annual festival of thanksgiving, merriment and propitiation, which comes up either in the month of March or April every year. It is very rich, in both historical and cultural festivities, filled with scintillating performances from masquerades, memorable sights, comic acts and magical dances from different dance groups (Derrett, 2003).

The festival began as a ceremony to mark the end of the planting season and the beginning of the harvest season. The festival is a four-market days’ (out-izu uka) festival, which is equivalent to one week in the English calendar. Each of these market days: Eke, Orie, Afor and Nkwo, has its own significance and represents a particular aspect of the Ikeji festival. The present work on schedule is an attempt to retell the dimensions of the Ikeji Festival for the purpose of rekindling the values that underlie the colourful and scintillating event. The historical and phenomenological method of enquiry would be employed for the purpose of this research. The present work submits that the Ikeji festival is not only a yearly ceremony, but an annual event that retells the story of the Arondizuogu people and rekindles their shared values.

Modern African Christians are in a dilemma on how to understand the relationship between the Christian faith they have accepted and their Cultural Festival. This is in the light of the fact that the early missionaries who brought Christianity to the African continent presented the faith as being contradictory to the many African cultural and traditional practices they encountered. Many of these practices where termed as heathen and pagan practices and hence outlawed by these missionaries. This creates a chasm in which it is apparently impossible for the Christian faith to meet African Traditional religion and African cultural practises. In recent times these chasm is ever widening as Christians faced with the dilemma of engaging in their cultural practises are looked upon with disdain by their pastors and also by their fellow Christians as partaking in heathen cultural practices (Ezeogu, 2010).

In the arguments that ensues many want to maintain the teaching of the early missionaries which suggests abolishing the traditional practices, while some want to maintain their cultural roots and uphold those traditional practices that identify them as members of a particular African tribe and culture. Some are then in the middle and are termed as schizophrenics of faith as they live a double identity of faith; practicing their Christian faith in the morning and going to their traditional African practises, rituals and ceremonies at night in the likeness of Nicodemus, when nobody will see them and lay accusation of them engaging in pagan practises.

According to Achebe (1958) expressed in Things Fall Apart and the truth embedded in it: “the white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart”.

The issue of the apparent contradiction between the Christian faith and African traditional religions and beliefs has dominated writings of liberation theologians, black theologians/ African theologians etc. The issue also is seen coming up in political discourses when discussing colonialism and its effects on the religious beliefs of the native African people.

Ezeogu (2010)  interrogates the interphase between the Christian Bible and African culture as an in issue in African theology. Ezeogu first affirms the fact that Christianity’s rise in Africa has been very spectacular and Africa is on record the continent with the highest numerical Christian growth rate in the world.  However, for Ezeogu African Christians face some issues which has to do with how to understand the Christian Bible and their cultures. He posits two models of relationship between the Christian Bible and the African cultures which are Dialectic and dialogical.

For Ezeogu (2010) in the dialectic “the gospel and culture are opposed to each other, in perpetual conflict with each other, and are ultimately irreconcilable.” While in the dialogical model culture and gospel are viewed “as two compatible entities that could and that should be reconciled. According to this view culture and Gospel could blend harmoniously. They could dialogue, and such a dialogue would result in their mutual enrichment and efficiency.” For Ezeogu (2010)  the reality is that it is the dialectic tendency, which dichotomizes the Bible and African cultures, which has been dominant. However for him, “the dialogical paradigm is more in consonance with the true nature of both gospel and culture of openness to universality. Its promises are those of mutual enrichment of both gospel and culture alike.” Dialogue is important to realize this and for Ezeogu “to enter into this dialogue we need to have as aim olto unify, as much as possible, the African Christian world-view and experience (Kanu, 2015b).

Every society, in order to have any stability and meaningful development, peace and orderly progress, usually requires that its members adhere to an articulated set of values which provides a sense of group identity for them. For the Igbo, as in many parts of Africa, it is religion, albeit traditional religion, that provides most of the bases for the values and stands them out with a distinctive identity. There is no doubt that the traditional religion on which the Igbo societies were based gave meaning and significance to the lives of people in those societies. But those values have been thoroughly affected by historical factors, by encounter with Europeans and their Christian religion with its accompanying new systems of living. Howbeit, if a new religion has assumed major significance in the lives of a people, then it is very necessary to assess the nature of its activities and progress in order to establish the genuineness of its predominance and to see how far it has allowed itself or otherwise, to fulfill the requirements which the people demand of their religion. Assessing the impacts of Ikeji Cultural Festival in Arondizuogu and its effects on Christian Community tend to concentrate on manifestations of change, rather than on continuities (Lazarus, 1991).

1.2       Statement of the Problem

It can be argued that Christian ministerial reaction to most of the heritages of Africa rests more on the total bias, colonial inherited prejudice and indoctrination of the Christian religious minister and not on his profound intellectual study or rigorous theological analysis. For this reason also, it is difficult to get a reasonable number of African Christian religious ministers who can be positive social catalysts, rather what obtains is a class of young men and women who do not harbour even an iota of social or moral revolutionary zest even though they live and ‘evangelise’ in a very corrupt society which can be described as an out-station of hell (Emefiena, 2010).

There have been some conflicting view as it relate to the impact of cultural festival on Christian community when John Locke warned about three hundred and thirty years ago that “Christianity is a gentleman’s religion and a religion that is both in its essence and doctrine a religion of genuine peace, freedom justice and truth, African Christians and their ministers should resist the temptation to cultivate unfriendly attitude towards those they regard as ‘practitioners of pagan practices’ involved in cultural festival which has the propensity to develop into something that might be more sinister ‘and so in the actions of the greatest cruelty applaud themselves as good Christians,’ (Getz, 1997).

Ignorance is the mother of prejudice and prejudice begets disdain and, sometimes, hatred. The relationship between Igbo Christians and their brothers and sisters who they derogatively call ‘pagans’ is not a healthy one, as we have earlier noted. This is of great concern to many people, including this author. It does seem that Christian.’. are oftentimes the offending party owing to ignorance (Mbiti, 1970). When one reflects critically, it can be seen that Christian theology is not actually at war with substantial aspects of the African Igbo theology and religious practices, but the majority of Igbo Christians are, sometimes, simply to follow the crowd (Crowdianism – the unconscious habit of following the crowd in order not to be seen to be different, or labelled a ‘problem’) and join the bandwagon, and often, out of correctable ignorance; ignorance that can be overcome by subjecting one’s inherited spurious knowledge, dogmatic assumptions, religious naivety, over-zealousness, prejudice, and over-spiritual piety to IQU1SM, that is, intelligent questioning, or by simple study/research and honest and friendly dialogue  (Emefiena, 2010).

1.3       Research Questions

The following research questions were raised in the study as follows:

  1. What effect does inculturation and Reciprocity have on Culture and the Gospel?
  2. To what extent will Ikeji Festival rekindle Arondizuogu Values?

iii.       What are the causes and effects of cultural decay in Nigeria?

  1. What are the factors that gave rise to Cultural reinforcement in the Church?

1.4       Purpose of the Study 

The purpose of this study is to examine ikeji cultural festival in Arondizuogu and its effects on Christian community. The specific objectives of the study are to:

  1. Examine the inculturation and the Reciprocity of Culture and the Gospel.
  2. Find out the extent to which Ikeji Festival has Rekindled Arondizuogu Values

iii.       Investigate the causes and effects of cultural decay in Nigeria.

  1. Examine the factors that Gave Rise to Cultural reinforcement in the Church.

1.5       Significance of the Study

The research is important it teaches us the relationship between cultural festival and it influence Christian community. It will serve as a document that can be referred to in order to clear some doubt about the issue of moral decadence.

It will serve as documents that will enlighten the Christian leaders on the need to embark on teaching that differentiate the Church from cultural activities.

Finally, the study will also enlighten the public on the causes of moral decadence and how to find a lasting solution to such a problem.

This research will serve as a reference for future research work and also stimulate further research on proliferation of churches and increase in moral decadence. Its effect among other Christian community within urban and rural areas where little or no research has be done on the above topic, such research will help to unravel thee various factors, jeopardizing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and provide body of information about these factors. The study in addition provides invaluable opportunity validity of body of Christian based on how cultural festival has been able to influence the Church routine and practice.

The finding of this research will provide vital information for Pastors, Bishops, Evangelist, Missionaries and other Church workers on how to prove a high level of commitment in exercising their duties.

Finally, the findings will serve as eye opener discovering the state and activities of the Christian in the society and beyond in handling ikeji cultural festival in Arondizuogu and its effects on Christian community.

1.6       Scope of the Study

The study is designed to ikeji cultural festival in Arondizuogu and its effects on Christian community. The study is restricted to the Arondizuogu, Imo State.

1.7       Definition of Terms  

Christianity: As stated by Elwell and Comfort (2001), Christianity is an Abrahamic religion subject to the life and exercises of Jesus of Nazareth, as portrayed in the New Testament. Its devotees, known as Christians, acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and companion in need shockingly, whose coming as the Messiah was anticipated in the Old Testament. It is the universes greatest religion with over 2.4 billion enthusiasts or 31.5% of the absolute masses (Woodhead, 2004).

Religion: Religion is a social course of action of doled out practices and practices, morals, viewpoints, compositions, cleaned places, expectations, ethics, or affiliations that relates humankind to remarkable, extraordinary, or significant parts. In any case, there is no astute understanding over what precisely builds up a religion (Morreall and Sonn, 2013). Religions are shared collections of heavenly feelings that have been passed on from fans to changes over, that are held by followers to be viably significant and real and either subject to authoritatively detailed educating (dealt with religion) or developed social practices (Beckerlegge, 2001). In the two structures, there are religious specialists who epitomize formal pieces of the religion and who act in spots of power and organization, and there are certain services held for them to finish. The feelings make down to business implications for how life should be lived (Bird, 1999).

Church: Church and society are and will dependably be connected. A congregation is a network of individuals tied by normal life rules that make them unique in relation to the remainder of society however taken from the bigger network. It is it might be said a counter-network, “not a team whose individuals’ common social contacts stem just from the normal errand itself”, “not an intermittent experience of generally irrelevant people” (Mott, 1982), yet a network with social structures and standards exemplifying “designs for shared life that God wants for all of society”. Mott (1982) proceeds to state that “on the grounds that the congregation is the sign of the Reign of God, the standards that guide it epitomize the most noteworthy vision of human network”. It is these “standards” that separate the congregation from society while in the meantime associate it to a similar society.

The Ikeji Festival: The Ikeji Festival The Ikeji is an annual festival of thanksgiving, merriment and propitiation, which comes up either in the month of March or April every year. The Ikeji festival is very rich, in both historical and cultural festivities, filled with scintillating performances from masquerades, memorable sights, comic acts and magical dances from different dance groups. The festival began as a ceremony to mark the end of the planting season and the beginning of the harvest season (Juliet and Nico, 2019)

The Ikeji festival is a four-market days’ (out-izu uka) festival, which is equivalent to one week in the English calendar. Each of these market days: Eke, Orie, Afor and Nkwo, has its own significance and represents a particular aspect of the Ikeji festival.

The first day is Eke. At each Eke market, farmers and individuals bring the best of their farm produce and livestock to the market and are sold at reduced prices. Orie is the second day, which is set aside for feasting and slaughtering of livestock in advance preparation for subsequent days. On the third day, which is Afor, there is more merriment and display of small masquerades and small dance groups’ performances.

Nkwo is the day for the grand finale. This day marks the end of the festival and, as such, it is the most colourful of all the days. On this day, Nnekwu Nmanwu (big masquerade) appears, dressed extravagantly in their most appreciated regalia and costumes, dancing in their unique dance steps.

Nkwo-Achi is everyone’s destination as it is the central venue of the festivities. This colourful day showcases dance groups from different places. Each masquerade moves the great panache, attracting people’s attention in different ways. Whips made from the young malleable branches of palm tree, known as, ‘mgbajara or akpata,’ that are twisted nicely, are used to flog members of the group, to test their strength in withstanding opponents and intruders. They are also used to scare opponents as they use the whip to display fetish-looking acts. Some of the masquerades and their followers are seen carrying water in baskets, which defies the rules of science.

The juju contest, which is one side attraction at the event, is a particular spot at the central venue, where the act of ‘ito-ebule’ takes place. Here, a big ram is usually tied to a tree with a tiny rope, which ordinarily, the ram could break loose from but cannot achieve that due to some magical (voodoo) power (Juliet and Nico, 2019)

Among the participants or invited guests, someone is summoned to go and untie the ram. This can only be done or achieved by a man with the strongest or most powerful protection from any powerful ‘dibia’ (native doctor). He is expected to walk confidently to the ram and loosen it. As he does this, he is confronted by spiritual attacks from other participants, aimed at knocking him down, preventing him from achieving his aim, or even killing him. At the end of the day, whoever unties the ram wins the juju contest for the year. The winner takes the ram home for feasting. The children are not left out of the festival as they make small masks and sacks and wear on their bodies and faces to attract visitors and get small money (dash) from them. The ‘Nkwa egwu’ (musical instrument), which accompanies the big masquerades is a sight to behold as the instruments bring out soulful melodies as well as beautiful rhythms of sounds. The ‘Ekwe’ (wooden gongs), ‘ogene’ (large metal gongs), ‘oja’ (wooden flutes), ‘igbirigba’ (bells), and ‘okom’ (drum), and so on, put together sonorous enchanting traditional sounds that encourage the masquerades and dancers to bring out the best in them (Juliet and Nico, 2019).

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