Significance of New Yam Festival in Igbo Society of Nigeria and In-Diaspora:
Emume Iwa Ji na Iri Ji Ohuru
Dr. Patrick E. Iroegbu
Across Igboland and among the Igbo of Nigeria in the diaspora, the month of August, as it is now, is gladdened with the celebration of New Yam called iwa ji and iri ji ohuru. This is best pictured in the framing of the ceremony by Chinua Achebe's work as far back as in the 1950s.
As Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (1958) describes: "The pounded yam dish placed in front of the partakers of the festival was as big as a mountain. People had to eat their way through it all night and it was only during the following day when the pounded yam "mountain" had gone down that people on one side recognized and greeted their family members on the other side of the dish for the first time."
This brief submission explains the significance of the bountiful nature of meals for commensality in the celebration of new yam festival in Igbo society and among the Igbo wherever they may live outside of Igboland. It answers the question, what is new yam and why is new yam such an important ceremony and identity of the Igbo of Nigeria? Why are Igbo children particularly ritually cleansed before partaking in the eating of new yam? The essay adopts a straightforward approach drawing from experience and participation in new yam festivities at home and in diaspora.
New Yam festival in Igboland of Nigeria or among the Igbo and their friends in Diaspora is always marked with pomp and pageantry. The occasion of Iwa Ji and Iri-ji Ohuru or new-yam eating festival is a cultural feast with its deep significance. The individual agrarian communities or subsistence agricultural population groups, have their days for this august occasion during which a range of festivities mark the eating of new yam. To the Igbo, therefore, the day is symbolic of enjoyment after the cultivation season. Yam culture is momentous with hoe-knife life to manage the planting and tending of tuberous requirements. Yam farmers in Isu Njaba of Igboland know this well.