AMASEIKUMOR: The Festival Of Peace, Where Adherents Confess Their Sins, Receive Blessings

According to the history of the Ijaws in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West  Local Government Area, what is today known as the Amaseikumor Festival has so many intriguing and sentimental features attached to it by its adherents.

Regarded as one of the few enduring ancient traditional events in Ijaw land, the festival is celebrated every year, by the Ijaws of Gbaramatu Kingdom and the elders of the Kingdom, traced its origin to  14AD, when it was claimed to be first performed by the progenitor of the kingdom and the Chief Priest, Pa. Obuko of Azama town.

The Festival is usually celebrated in the month of March, in Oporoza town, which serves as the headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom that also doubles as the host town to other communities under the kingdom and even beyond.

Amaseikumor, as the name implies in the local dialect, implies good living, peace, unity, prosperity and protection to the people of the communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom.

It is an ancient deity synonymous with the marine environment, and has been perpetually, celebrated by the entire Gbaramatu communities in accordance with certain laid down rules and regulations, associated with it.

The festival which is, as old as the Kingdom itself, is usually celebrated for seven days (although penultimate edition was reduced to four days for security reasons). The festival period always witness elaborate traditional and cultural activities, during which Gbaramatu chiefs are expected to be kitted in their unique traditional regalia, even the people of the Kingdom are not left out, as they also present themselves in nobly attires too.

From previous experience, the festival has three distinctive cultural stages, and culminates in the last stage that always features a thanksgiving ceremony to round off the festival.

These unique cultural activities that make the Amaseikumor Festival thick includes: Gbaraun Egbesu Ogele, Ibolomobo-ere, Amaseikumor and the thanksgiving service.

The first day of the festival is the Gbaraun Egbesu Ogele day, which is an unusual setting.  It is a day when all the indigenes of the Kingdom, regardless of age, creed, sex or other defining social status, partake in a unique procession round the community.

What sets this day apart, is the confession of sins by all the sons and daughters of the kingdom both home and abroad, after which the Pere intercedes on their behalf and pray for their forgiveness.

The Ijaw nation frowns at blood covenant, while murder is regarded as a sin against the God and the goddess of the land.  Adultery must not be mentioned amongst them let alone committing it, evil thoughts against one another is forbidden as well.

The period also gives indigenes and non-indigenes from all over the world the opportunity to witness the performance of the great Amaseikumor masquerade during which the king offers prayers for the whole kingdom.

The festival is gender-friendly and so on the penultimate day of the festival, which is the Iboloumobo-ere,  old women across the entire Ijaw nation gather in great number, to pray for blessing and peace in Gbaramatu kingdom, Ijaw nation, and the nation as a whole, after which the Pere (king) of Gbaramatu kingdom crown it up with another round of prayer session, for the whole kingdom.

Despite the fact that the people of the Kingdom participate in the festival on their own volition, it is mandatory for all the communities in Gbaramatu kingdom to attend and take active part in the celebrations.

This is because the Amaseikumor festival is a participatory event that features several masquerades from different communities in the kingdom; with masquerades from each of the communities, being given the opportunity to display their skills during the period.

The highly revered Amaseikumor Festival can be regarded as the most important and highly celebrated cultural festival in Gbaramatu kingdom, through the years and its significance, it’s not lost on an average Gbaramatu person, who holds the celebration in high esteem.

According to the beliefs of the indigenes, the festival have through the years, heralded unprecedented peace to Gbaramatu kingdom and the lives of her people. This has therefore established Amaseikumor as a deity of peace. More so, it has served as a binding force for the people of the kingdom, who are always more united, and enjoy abundant blessings after the celebration.

These blessings, according to the adherents, flow in diverse ways. For instance, there are usually abundant flows of blessings to fishermen, hunters, farmers, traders, etc. in addition to good health, safe deliveries of pregnant women and good neighbourliness.

The people of the Kingdom also regards the  Amaseikumor Festival, as the  key to the security of the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom, as they believe that  after the festival,  people are usually, protected from premature death, accidents, ill-health and strange diseases, etc.

They also believe that it is a standpoint and a symbol of unity that offers the entire people of Gbaramatu, the opportunity to gather and unite as one during and after the festival.

This is more so, as the communities in the kingdom do gleefully, actively participate in the festival with unbridled joy and happiness in accordance with the customs of the festival.

It is a festival celebrated indeed to unite, restore and re-affirm brotherhood of the entire Gbaramatu communities, as the people firmly believe that unity is strength.

Amaseikumor Festival has no doubt endured and continued to retain its main features despite, the modernity of all aspects of life in the area, especially, political, economic, sociological and technological development.

This is because the Ijaws of Gbaramatu have not allowed the advent and adoption of modernization, to distort their cultural values, as they still continuously preserve their traditions and cultures.

By Brakerekebina Birinimigha

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