The iwa akwa ceremony is an age long tradition that is performed in varieties of some places in Igbo land especially in okigwe, Mbano, ihitte Uboma, obowo and some part of Mbaise all in Imo State.
It is an ancient initiation ceremony into manhood that it’s origin cannot be specifically determined as it is said to be as old as man. It involves only men but women can participate in the dance and cultural display for the fun of it.
The standing age to participate in this age long ritual is from 25-32 but some people may perform it from 32-39 years. Although these age brackets differs from one community to another as some pegs the age from 21-26years. However, eligibility requirements basically include being of the right age and family background. The participant’s mother has to have been married properly to the community and be identified by the women of the community, and the father has to have properly passed through the initiation stage in his days. The participant also shouldn’t have any link or heredity with Osu (outcast).
It’s importance to the growth of culture and unity in Igbo land cannot be over emphasized as it marks the male folks physical and biological maturity within the community and nation at large. It helps in shaping young adult male to assume responsibility as prior before now one wouldn’t marry until he has performed the iwa akwa ritual.
It ushers youths into elders council and also prepares them to participate in the policy cum decision making of the community. In traditional setting anybody that hasn’t performed the iwa akwa ritual cannot vote or be voted for
neither can he get married. peradventure he gets married without the approval of his kinsmen he cannot contribute to the affairs of umunna or get share of communal lands or benefit as punishment. In the case ones death without performing the iwa akwa ritual, the umunna will not participate actively in his burial.
Chief R.O.J Kenkwo (KSM) JP
a custodian of Ihitte Uboma culture posited that the iwa akwa ritual is performed every 2-3 years depending on the community involved and a man before the official iwa akwa ceremony passes through different stages such as:
IV.okoro mma akpara
Once he is due for iwa akwa he drops his sword indicating that he is ready.
So many preparations are put in place towards the success of Iwa akwa ranging from settling your immediate seniors with drinks, cash during same to your kinsmen to mark your official registration into adulthood by virtue of the iwa akwa ceremony, the celebrant is also expected to inform his maternal home of the ritual and extending cash and drinks to them.
Also inviting friends and well wishers on the day set aside by the Eze of the community and his cabinets for the iwa akwa ceremony. The celebrant is expected to get a gorgeous and expensive wrapper material for the ritual ceremony depending on your financial wherewithal.
Enough merriment is expected thereafter where the celebrant host his kinsmen,guest associates etc. Immediately after the iwa akwa ceremony the male celebrant is now considered a full fledged man and is now allowed to make contributions and partake in decision making as regards to the progress of the community.
Many men wait till they’re very wealthy before they come home to perform their Iwa Akwa, while some initiations are even done in absentia, when the participant is unavoidably absent.