The Traditions of Zuru



Uhola festival in the Lelna land like any other cultures of the Nigerian tribes is done to mark the end of the year or the farming season. It is also primarily celebrated for thanksgiving for the year harvest and it is equally to mark the end of the childhood and that K’lela boy or girl that undergoes the festival at the age of 14-17 years is due for manlyhood they both can marry and have wards.

However, this festival must have developed by the Lelna from the cultures of other people with whom they had contact during seasonal migrations.

The findings here is derived from elders of different clans particularly amongst Lelna people in Zuru Emirate with emphasis on Dabai which is the heart of the Lelna, Waj, Manga Pani, Senchi, Dago, Rumu, Ribah and Rikito etc respectively, however, there are other tribes like the Fakkawa in Fakai Local Government, Dukkawa in Sakaba and Dankawa in Danko area each celebrate Uhola in the way and manner it suits them though with variations in the periods of the celebrations.

The festival is mostly celebrated within the months of November and December except on special cases though some areas do exceed the months mentioned above because some areas celebrate theirs before harvesting their crops while some do that after the harvest, the elders do it by the order of the second announcement of the date.

As already mentioned earlier, Dabai has the responsibilities of managing traditional political and religious aspect of the Lelna people right from their earliest history. This is so because most of the shrines of the major gods are situated at Dabai. The Uhola festival involves the appeasement of the gods by pouring libation at their respective shrines, which is considered extremely essential. For instance the god of rain is thanked for the rainfalls and then requested to cease further rains to enable the crops yield well. It is believed that too much rain do not make for good yield. It is therefore celebrated as a sort of send-off of the rain by appealing to the god of rain through 1t3 shrine at announced date towards the end of the year. It is normally in the month of October or early in November.

The ceremony takes place at the shrine of god of rain which is, known in Cilela as “Kabun Menke“. This means ‘the Hall of Rain, and the chief priest is called “Govn Menke” or “Gn’nmnk“. Meaning the chief rain-maker. All ceremonies relating to the rain are done by the priest in a communal worship. This is known as ‘Gut man ‘Menke” meaning, send-off of the rain. After this, the appeasement of other gods at their shrine follows.

These gods include ‘GQvuk ‘dada’ and “GQvuna Isa” etc.

Who then permits the appeasement of other smaller gods. These celebrations are said to be for the purifications of the community in preparation for Uhola celebrations. They are carried out to thank the various gods for their guidance through the year. Uhola on the other hand is to jubilate for the peace the gods have offered the entire community since the beginning of the year.

After the ritual ceremonies then comes another ceremony to announce the Uhola festival. It is the celebration of the burning of the bush known as ‘Dwa M’dhutu in C’leIa! This is done at the shrine called‘D’hutu. It is the shrine of god of snakes. On the day of the burning of the bush, the priest weeds around the shrine, which is a small thatched, round, hut. It is on this day that Uhola day is announced. There is always a gap of about a month between “the burning of the bush” and the Uhola festival day.

DabaI is also a seat of the ritual and the festival activities in Zuru Local Government of which Uhola is one of the most outstanding. Zuru Uhola mecedes all Uholas in the emirate. The history has  it that any Uhola within emirate that precedes that of Zuru, its elders clans men will die that year en masses. So far that principal reason  Uhola will hold first October then that of Zuru people then followed by that of  Dabai. Dabai  Uhola is normally celebrated along with that of Rikoto. These normally come up around the months of November and December. Then other Uhola is followed such as, Peni, Manga, Senchi, Ushe, Dongo, Rambo, etc.

DoNgo and Rambo as earlier mentioned. Those around Waje, Ribah, Gwazawa, Rambo, Kanya come up in either February or April.

Having talked about the festival in general, so concentration should now be on the actual performance of the festival in some cases Dabai Ubola may come at the same time with that of Zuru, Manga, Senchi Ushe, Pani and their immediate neighbours. But in other cases the Zuru, Manga Uhola may come before that of Dabai, Rumu, Rikoto and Daban same.

These traditional ‘cities’. In close association with Dabai serve to alert the other neighbouring traditional ‘Cities’. Dabai Uhola serves as proper story ceremony to the main Uhola. After the appeasement of the various gods the Uhola is then announced by the town crier. The announcement comes when the traditional leaders are satisfied that the gods have accepted their offerings and in consequence have approved of the festival.It is believed that without the god’s guidance, and
supervision over the ceremony the leaders are bound to err and this will result to misfortune and disaster in the society.

As a result for the Lelna to perform any successful ceremony without provoking a wrath of the gods they are usually grateful to the gods who guided them. The final thanks offering to the gods is the ‘Govu na Isa’ and Dwa m ‘dhutu’ respectively. It is followed by other offerings to individual gods at their respective shrines, by clan or family heads. The elders also pour libation to their ancestors for their family house blessing.

The Uhola festival is a festival to mark the peaceful year the gods have guided the society through. It is usually a merry-making and convenient period expressing thanks to the gods for yet another year of peace and harmony in the community. A year of peace is one devoid of any nature disaster such as unnatural mass death of the inhabitants of the community.

But when there is any such calamity especially break out of  smallpox in the community the Uhola is not celebrated that year at all. In place of this sacrifices and offering are made for the gods at road junctions and at their respective shrines asking them to restore normalcy and for guidance. If such disaster happens to befall only,to one clan or family, it is that clan or family that may not participate from that year’s celebration. In this case they perform ritual of reconciliation with their gods. In some cases, when disaster befalls a clan in which the Chief priest belongs, the clan will be responsible for the cleansing of the society.

It is important to point out that the Uhola festival is more of merriments than it is ritualistic.

Uhola, as already mentioned, takes place all over the local governments but at different times depending on how fortunate the community was in a year. When discussing the variation in the time of celebrations in Zone C Uhola always stands out, as their celebration take place in February. By this time all the harvests is over. The celebration has no definite number of days set aside for it. For Zone A and B who celebrates theirs in December and January respectively, the celebration lasts for two days as the people are yet to harvest their crops.

A various other preparations takes place before the actual days of this exciting festival. From the day the Uhola is announced everybody especially the youths get very excited as they look forward to that day. It is a hard time for parents and husbands because it is their responsibility to provide ceremonial requirements such as, foodstuff, victuals dresses for their children and wives. Boys between five and fifteen years are placed on special types of diet of mixed guinea-corn called “C’Ruku‘Dame‘ and meat. This practice is still found in areas like Kyabo today. This is known in C’lela as ‘Ya’ or ‘Nomansiri. Parents put in extra efforts to meet up the financial needs of this festival, as it is generally a thing of pride to parents for their sons to be most plump on the festival days. It is not unusual to see boys who have grown so fat that they hardly walk with ease. Yet they have to walk majestically to the rhythm of the music played in their praise by their relations.

The highlight of the occasion is the “Dance of the year”, because it is the last dance of transition between teenage life and adult hood as they are soon after that regarded as adults in the community.
The youths put on the most valuable outfit the parents can afford on that day. Where a girl already has fiancé, it is his responsibility to provide his betrothed with what she needs for this last dance. This means that soon after the ceremony they become husband and wife.

Each head of the family makes sure that all requirements are provided for the family most especially the younger ones. Animals to be slaughtered for meat are provided for some days before the day of each festival. The provisions for the festival depend on the affluence of each family in question.
But it is voluntarily compulsory, that every family should slaughter an animal (Dog) on the eve of Uhola festival. Food and meat are generously offered to visitors and passer-bys. Food is wastefully abundant in rich families about four days to the day of the festival, till the festival is over.

Another striking aspect of the festival is that several days to the day of the ceremony arrangements are made in the houses of the teenagers who will do the last dance. The dance usually begins at about ten 0- clock in the evening and continue till dawn. Merriments start on the eve of Uhola festival.

During this time drumming, praise-songs and mock-songs are rendered for the youths. Such songs are usually chosen by the relatives of the youth, and in most cases they relate to the parent boys past life and the wishes of the parents for his days a shead. The mock-songs are to ridicule his age-mates, who have violated the norms of the society especially on the side of the girls. Such violations includes girls becoming pregnant before marriage or proved to have carnal deals with men. Some songs are therefore sung to mock them. Boys, who run away from the farms to the cities or urban areas, are also ridiculed. Such boys are regarded as being lazy, irresponsible and unable to maintain a farm or a family.

On the day of the festival, both boys and girls accompanied by a long procession of singers and drummers make for the village square. During this procession, all sort of grievances are let out. It is a period of neither fear for shame. Such grievances are expressed in a form of light-hearted songs. This serves to warn people against the bad things they do. Moral lessons are taught by play-way method as the songs are not limited to the offenders and their families but are extended to the whole clan. The dance and song procession take almost the whole afternoon with the dances richly adorned and expensively costumed. The male dancers decorate their hats with green and yellow.

Post a Comment