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USORO AKPAKPA (CORN FESTIVAL) IN IBIBIO LAND (C. 1700 – 2017)
Background to the Study
In Ibibioland corn or maize like in other parts of the world and Africa, was introduce through cultigen. The four Christopher Columbus Voyages from Spain to America, Africa and Asia between 1492 and 1502 brought about global exchange in people, plants, animals, languages, technologies even in diseases. This is known or called Columbian Exchange.
This exchange brought maize or Corn1to Africa and by extension Ibibioland between the 16th and 17th centuries by the Portuguese.2 Maize is native to Americas.It first came to Africa in the 16th Century and it became a key crop grown during the slave trade. Maize penetrated the interior of tropical Africa from the coastal region, but the timing and mode of it’s introduction into various tribes in the region cannot be established, but the commonly repeated assertion that the Portuguese brought maize to tropical Africa from the new world. There is a reference to corn growing along the coast from River Cambia, Saotome, River Congo, Ethiopia, Zanziba and River Ruvuma in the 16th century. It was not only mentioned but described as an important food stiff and a major provision for salve ship between Liberia and the Niger Delta during the 16th century.3
Maize was introduce to tropical Africa at more than one point and at different times.4
Nigeria has a long history of expedition by European explorers. In the 1470’s Portuguese adventure.5 When the Portuguese landed the coast of the area that would later be known as Nigeria, they immediately realized that the land was highly fertile for agriculture, arts and other indigenous civilization.6 A strong mercantile relationship developed with trading in tropical products such as ivory, pepper and palm oil with the Portuguese for European goods. The Portuguese influence spread far and wide. In the 15th century the first batch of Portuguese traders arrived in the City State-via Cross and Calabar River7 and traded with the sub-Ibibio group. They later moved to the hinter land and traded with the mainland Ibibio on palm oil.The trade involved the exchange of tropical products for European manufactured goods like Gun Powder, textile and drugs. The trade also involved the exchange of foreign crops like maize, sweat potatoes, cassava with the people of the area.8
In Ibibioland, maize received the kind of religious attachment it enjoyed in it’s first domesticated land Mexico where the religious belief of the native people of Mexico, like the Mayan and the Atzec,upheld the importance of corn or maize. The people of Mayan of Mexico were known to worship a handsome maize god.9
The pre-colonial Ibibio economy depended to a large extent on land. From the earliest time, the Ibibio attached great importance to land. They regarded it as their first mother. The soil was the source of everything. The Ibibio also believed that without the land, they would be no life. The land became the very centre of their live, and that of their communities. They would do nothing to defile the land and if this happens, they immediately expiated the sin by offering sacrifice.
The land was consulted before farming takes place every year and sacrificeswere offered to ensure good harvest.If the harvest was good, sacrifices and feast of thanksgiving were offered, and if the harvest was bad, a sacrifice of appeasement was offered. This practise culminated into the various sacrifices and festivals undertaken by the Ibibio.17 The offering of sacrifices to the gods and ancestors translateinto ceremonies and festivals. Consequently, many festivals have religious origin, highlighting cultural and religious significance in traditional activities.18
Hence, every year the Ibibio communities were dotted with sacrifices and traditional festival celebrations to mark one occasion after the other. Each occasion was marked by sacrifices, songs, dances, parades and festivals. Such festivals included but were not limited toUsoro Abasi (God’s Festival) Usoro Anantia (Anantia goddess festival) Usoro Usuk Udia (New yam festival) Usoro Utuak Ndok (Masqurade festival) and Usoro Akpakpa (Corn Festival).
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Usoro Akpakpa (corn festival) was a distinct culture festival in Ibibioland. While this cultural festival appears widespread, that of Ibibioland had peculiar distinction wrapped up in rituals. Such ritual which encased the culture and tradition of Ibibioland was to face extensive challenges when Ibibioland came under British colonial rule. However, retention of indigenous cultural practices survived colonial interferences. The ritualistic composition and preservation of this distinct cultural festival has not attracted the attention of scholars compared to the New Yam festival.
AIM AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The study aims to examine the origin, development and practice of Usoro Akpakpa in Ibibioland. The objectives of Study are to:
i. trace the origin of Usoro Akpakpa in Ibibioland,
ii. identify the features of Usoro Akpakpa in Ibibioland
iii. examine the challenges and continuities in Usoro Akapakpa in Ibibioland overtime; and
iv. assess the response of Ibibio people to changes in Usoro Akapakpa.
METHODLOGY OF STUDY
The study relied heavily on oral primary evidences supplemented with secondary evidences such as books, journal, articles and research work on the subject. An informants were made up of those who had knowledge or had participated actively in the corn festival. Primary colonial documents on the festival appears inexistent given the lack of attention given by European explorers, traders, missionaries and administrators to the festival. M
Material evidences from the festival were also studied and interpretation given. Moreover, ethnographical information such as songs and proverbs which captured the cultural and spiritual essence of the festival were utilized. Furthermore, interdisciplinary reliance on anthropological studies of the area was needful. An understanding of such cultural practices in Ibibioland required the interdisciplinary borrowing from Religious and Cultural Studies, Sociology and Anthropology, Law as well as Music.