The Forthcoming Ukelle New Yam Festival: Fostering Ancestral Heritage
Posted on September 15, 2023
UGO SOLOMON UGO
The Ukelle people known as Constituency II in Yala Local Government Area celebrate a rich tradition that connects indigenous people of Ukelle to their ancestral roots through Likpeh Ukelle. This annual event is not just a mere harvest festival; it is a unique cultural celebration that strengthens the bonds of brotherhood and preserves the heritage of this vibrant nation noted for its agrarian nature.
Ukelle day is indeed a historic day of festivity in Wanokom, Wanikade, Wanihem, Ijiraga and Mfuma/Ntrigom. Ukelle history is intertwined with agriculture and yam often considered the king of crops in Nigeria, plays a pivotal role during the festival.
Typically, Ukelle New Yam Festival takes place on 16th September which is always a new year for the Ukelle nation. It is a sacred tradition that was handed down as an ancestral heritage.
At its core, the festival is also a thanksgiving ceremony to the ancestors for a bountiful yam harvest. It begins with elaborate rituals or prayers offered to the gods, seeking their blessings for the upcoming farming season. This spiritual aspect of the festival underscores the Ukelle people’s belief in the interconnectedness of the living and the kindred spirits.
Likpeh is not just a religious event; it is a cultural extravaganza. Elaborate ceremonies and performances are held throughout the celebration. These includes traditional dances, music and colourful attires that reflects the Ukelle people’s unique identity. It is always a time where the entire Ukelle Nation come together to showcase their heritage.
One of the most significant aspects of the festival is the sense of unity it fosters among the Ukelle people. Families and friends gather to share meals prepared from the newly harvested yams. This communal dining experience strengthens social bonds and reinforces the importance of family and community in Ukelle society.
Ostensibly, the Ukelle New Yam Festival plays a crucial role in preserving ancestral heritage. It serves as a platform for passing down traditional knowledge, stories and skills from one generation to the next. Elders impart wisdom and young members in various communities across Ukelle land learn about their history, culture and values.
Beyond the cultural significance, the festival has an economic impact as well. It attracts visitors and tourists from far and near boosting the local economy through the sale of arts, crafts and traditional cuisines. This economic infusion helps support the Ukelle people and their way of life.
Though challenges of rural-urban drift in recent years have witnessed some Ukelle youths migrating to urban areas in search of better opportunities which has led to a seeming decline in participation. However, efforts are being made to adapt the festival to the changing times, ensuring that it remains relevant and continues to thrive with the new think tank of those in the urban centres commiting to the new yam festival celebration for 2023.
Likpeh Ukelle stands as that which reflects the resilience of the Ukelle people and their commitment to preserving their ancestral heritage. It is a celebration of not just yams but of culture, community and spirituality. As the world evolves, this festival remains a timeless reminder of the importance of honouring one’s roots and sharing the beauty of tradition with the generations to come.