Culture in every essence of it refers to the core identity of a people, showing the relationship between the existing generations and those that were in preexistence. The culture of a people describes them in wholeness. It tells a tale of the land and the man.

The Igbos of Nigeria is a tribe known for its wealth of culture. Given the vastness and diversifications of the Igbo tribe, several cultures has come to play, representing the core richness of the specific owners.

From time Immemorial, Age grade has been a significant identification of the Igbos.  Age grade is an association of people of equal or about the same age, operating within a given territory or area with the aim of individual, collective and societal transformation/development.

An age grade comprises group of persons born in the same year or age bracket of one to six years, even more. Its pertinence has been glaring in the conflict management and social control in the pre- colonial Igbo society.

The organization, structure and activities of age grade practices in most Igbo communities differ. So also, is the initiation ceremony.

The IFUNAKWA festival is an indigenous initiation into Age grade and Manhood. It is particular to some towns in Awgu local government of Nigeria, such as Ugbo, Obeagu and Amoli.

However, the discuss is centered on IFUNAKWA as a tradition of the Obeagu town of Awgu local government area of Enugu state Nigeria.

Obeagu, the legendary descendant of Nevo n’Ugama, a town which birthed Six Villages; Uhueze, Eziama, Enugwu-n’abo-n’obuo, Amuoji, Ebenebe and Ogwuagbom, has over the years, welcomed entrants into the age grade system through a festival called Ifunakwa.

A festival, UGAMATV gathered, was at inception, being celebrated once every twelve years, it was reduced to the interval of Nine years and Subsequently, till the Now, Six-yearly.

This Festival has so far, launched Ten Age grades, namely according to their seniority; Chinedu, Oganiru, Oguadinma, Ikenga, Igwebuike, Azubike, Ifeadigo, Chidera, Chibueze , Chinemeze and Osinachi Age grades. The Chinedu Age grade is the oldest in record having about 56years on their caps, Osinachi Age grade, however is the youngest for now.

A respondent, Sir Godwin Egungwu told UGAMATV that the IFUNAKWA festival is one that welcomes young men into manhood in Obeagu.

“It is a sign of maturity and coming of age. Once a young man is sworn into an age grade through the IFUNAKWA festival, he has become a taxable indigene of Obeagu. If this particular young man commits a crime, he shall receive the full wrath of the law as he will be tried, judged and sentenced as a grown man, no longer as a minor.”

“By this initiation, he has automatically joined the UMUNNA, (the kindred), he is liable to any payment, levies and fines as apportioned to him by his kindred and the community at large. His opinions begins to count in any gathering as he is entitled to serenity while he speaks, he is given audience to air his views, depending on the situation on ground, he can then make biddings .”

“If he has the resources, he can then proceed to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage, he becomes entitled to lands and other assets due to him from his immediate and extended family. Communally, he is entitled to anything due for any man who belongs to an age grade.”

“IFUNAKWA, accords respect to young men in Obeagu. Young men that are yet to perform the traditional rites, are considered “Children”, their ages notwithstanding. He could be likened to effeminate as he has not been sworn into the league of men.”, Egungwu said.

The males of Obeagu that are considered due for the IFUNAKWA ceremony must have attained the age of 18 years. He must also be the next in line to be initiated into an age grade in his nuclear family.

“If an older brother is yet to be initiated, the younger brother must wait till he is done with his rites, then commence his in the next six years. Every family must do this sequentially, according to seniority.”, Egungwu said.

To commence the rites, the young men are duly sensitized about the perks of being an age grade entrants as well as the consequences. The older age grades as well as their kinsmen, take turns in educating them about being a man in Obeagu.

They are given plethora of rules which are all benched on taking and accepting responsiblities.

Several trainings are done prior to the D-day.

On the faithful day of the IFUNAKWA festival, all the initiates from the six villages, converge at the Square, which has already been designed and decorated to accept them.

Chants “ IHOOOI, IHOOOI, IHOOOI” is being heard all over the large square as the initiates jump and dance in unison to the sounds of Ikoro, Ogene and Igbo, the local music making instruments.

Their families, friends, other curious onlookers and guests are seen cheering their people, while taking pictures for memory’s sakes.

The entrants are usually culled and arranged in uniforms as and according to their respective villages.

This year’s IFUNAKWA festival took place on the 5th of April, 2021.

A cross section of the entrants

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