Iwu Festival is a prominent cultural exhibition of the Ubulu people, known to have existed since the inception of the people as inhabitants of Ubulu-Uno, Ubulu-Uku and Ubulu-Okiti communities in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State.
According to the works of Ngozi Fortune Onwordi, “The very first Iwu festival in Ubulu kingdom sprang up from a disagreement between two early settlers in the kingdom that would have resulted to war between the two highly respected lineages.
Ezemu the progenitor of Ubulu-Uku kingdom and Anugwe the great yam farmer who had rejected royalty and opted for a simple peaceful life. When Ezemu became king, he had declared a resting period during which he would commune with the gods and obtain wisdom to lead his people. He had chosen to cook a special kind of yam called Iwu which he would eat and also sacrifice to the gods.
“Following this, he had sent out an age grade peer group throughout Ubulu land to ensure that the days of silence was not just observed by him but by every household in Ubulu land. The group had gone to work and by the design of fate around Abuedo found one of the many sons of Anugwe singing at the top of his voice on a palm tree while he tapped palmwine. He was arrested by the group and taken to the palace.
“However, when Anugwe his father returned and was told the news of his son’s arrest, he was enraged. He had settled in Ubulu long before Ezemu. How could he be treated like a coward?
He gathered all his sons and they marched angrily to the palace to free his son. He had taken a very long cane in his hand and so did all his children. “ị waa oke aṅya, ayi eweli itali gwọa ị ala” they sang as they marched to the palace. They had planned to use the cane to flog members of the group who arrested Anugwe’s son.
“However, when Anugwe and his sons arrived at the palace and sought to see Ezemu, he found a cooking pot on the fire where the great hunter cooked his Iwu. Infuriated, he kicked down Ezemu’s cooking pot from the fire. His sons chanted loud praises alluding to the bravery of their father.
The great herbalist who looked on was also thrilled and instead of engaging Anugwe in a fight, he chose the path of peace and joined his sons to dance and celebrate Anugwe’s bravery. It was the first sign that the gods had gifted him wisdom to lead ndi Ubulu. It was a dance that they proceeded to dance all through Ubulu land and that was the beginning of what would become the Iwu festival.
“The festival is believed by the natives to bring together, not just Ubulu people but so many other kingdoms in celebration of virtues such as love, purity and peace.
“Sadly, some aspects of the highly revered festival is now considered as idolatry. And some of these aspects that are misunderstood have been either abandoned or misinterpreted. Well, if there’s any evil in the very first Iwu, then it was a good evil”, posited the piece by Onwordi.