Like other African community, the Annang people, or the whole of Annang community in Akwa Ibom State place a high expectation on the Ekpo festival. The Ekpo festival was considered as the link between the living and the ancestors, the Ekpo festival is the time where the ancestral spirits in the structure of Ekpo masqueraders seem public to confirm the people ordered pattern of life of the Annang people.
The symbolism of Ekpo masquerade festival goes more than a mere celebration; they’re the initiators of high-quality governance in Annang land a long time ago.
THE HISTORY OF EKPO FESTIVAL IN ANNANG COMMUNITY
The idea of Ekpo was to produce high-quality governance that excels human being, however, expected to return from the ancestors and established by the founders of Annang tribe. it’s also to indicate that the deities, particularly the ancestors, rule even after their death, it’s a form of respect for the ancestors that provided the system of governance in Annang culture. Ekpo culture thus is predominantly all-male affair. solely the male provided leadership, this brought in some level of patriarchy. The males rule, however, didn’t mean that they didn’t offer an area to the ladies in the group.
The Ekpo was primarily to confirm that smart life was obtainable to all. And virtually every child in Annang community was forced to be a member. Ekpo group begins to induct young youngsters from above the age of 6 and 7. this is as a result of school that taught the youth the core values which may assist them to produce quality leadership in the community. they’re but in numerous grades. there’s are the masqueraders for the youngsters that are much more respectable than the adult ones
The youngster’s masqueraders are seen as a continuum from the world of reincarnation. it’s believed that they have the ability to produce a child to a barren woman and also the avenue to continue with reproduction in life. From this level, they advance to a different age grade that has rules and sequence. The grand Ekpo is made up of the elders of the community. These elders inaugurate laws and make choices for the community. They also ensured that the governmental system isn’t toyed with which the idea system of the Annang people was sustained.
Ekpo truly is a spirit, in additional words the spirit of the ancestors. These ancestors are believed to be closer to God. The Ekpo is the image of their ancestors and that is what they represent in the economic, political, social and religious life of the people.
In all, Ekpo idea is as old as the Annang community. Its origin is as old as humankind. It dates back to thousands of years. And this can be why it’s tough to truly modify the idea. It represents in totality the Annang group, what they symbolize and what differentiates her from neighbors.
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There are totally different sorts of Ekpo: Akanawan Ekpo, the ugly, fine, Eka , Teacher Ekpo, Akpan Ekpo, Amokikpa Ekpo, Iyon Ekpo, Awadatang Ekpo, Ekoong, Utuekpe, Akpan Ekpo, Atat, Obon, etc. The ugly ones are the masqueraders whose duty was to drive evil away from the community.
However, the fine ones brought indelicacies to the community. However, the key of the Ekpo can’t be disclosed, for they’re far beyond human knowledge. thus, in essence, the Ekpo cult has their own code, a kind or writings solely renowned to them, that contains their signs & symbols. The drums provided the kind of music that attracts the spirit of the Ekpo. The Ekpo are thus the ancestors who bring fertility to the whole community.
The Ekpo doesn’t come back to the open except on the day the Annang community is celebrating the New Yam festival. in any case the onerous and tedious work and also the harvest, a new yam festival is well known to the people and it is celebrated on August every year. Before the new yam is consumed, it’s been taken to the shrine where the spirits can appear and partake in it. The Ekpo are going to be invoked by the community head who offers sacrifice declaring that the yam is suitable for consumption.
The yam is pounded and served on leaves. Then the Ekpo mix it with oil and offer it to the head of every community to commence the new yam festival. This indicates that the ancestors have come back to be a part of the celebration.
From that day forward, the Ekpo season begins. And this will last for two months. throughout that festival period, movement would be restricted to women and men that don’t seem to be members of the group. however on market days, the Ekpo wouldn’t come, so people can go to their businesses.
Toward the last couple of days of the Ekpo festival that usually a big market day, there was normally a giant stage performance within the village square. And every family will offer totally different grades of Ekpo in the senior cadre. They will have a chanter called (AKWAI EKPO) who will go round the market talking concerning every one of the Ekpo presents with the NKROK. The masqueraders can then perform a special dance one once after the other. sacrifice cannot be poured once more here for this has already been done at the shrine.
After the celebration, the whole Ekpo masquerade will go back to the underground where there’s a separation between the dead and the living. On that days no one was alleged to go out so as to give respect to the spirit of the ancestors. This feast marked the end of the Ekpo season. this feast is not only celebrated in Annang community, is also associated with the Mkpat Enin Ikot Abasi, Ibibio and Annang peoples in August.
ISO EKPO NKUBIA (NKUBIA MASK)
ISO EKPO NKUBIA (NKUBIA MASK) the foremost terrible mask of the Ekpo cult in Annang land. Its main duty was enforcement within the community. This specific mask (over 600 years old) is displayed at the National Museum of Annang tradition and Culture in Ikot-Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State.