Iwa Akwa is an age long tradition of Igbo people celebrated in most Igbo communities. In Igboland, Iwa Akwa, also known as 'cloth wearing', is an age-long tradition that symbolises an initiation into manhood. It is a ceremony that entails the passage of a young boy transforming into a full-fledged man. In some Igbo communities for one to be recognized as a man, he must undergo Iwa Akwa initiation ceremonies.
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When a young boy reaches a certain age around 21-26 years, and the family deems it time for him to partake in Iwa akwa, the elders make prior investigations to make sure he is eligible. This 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).
Successful participation is a proof that the man can now take up civil responsibilities within his community and family circles. 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. The ceremony is also open to women at times.
Now, the ceremony has faded across Igboland, but is still performed once in every three years, in some towns in Imo state.
After the prior investigations, the participant joins an age group and the family proceeds to prepare for the ceremony. Preparations include buying wrappers (George) from the market that is of very high quality and getting the reception event ready.
The activities include performing tasks dictated by the seniors who have gone through the process in previous years, spreading of the wrapper in front of their family compounds, blessing of the wrappers by a spiritual leader, wearing and procession along the streets on bare feet. All these will be followed by big reception celebrations in the respective family compounds from evening till whenever the family decides to end it.
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Successful participation is a proof that the man can now take up civil responsibilities within his community and family circles.
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. The ceremony is also open to women at times.
Now, the ceremony has faded across Igboland, but is still performed once in every three years, in some towns in Imo state and in .
In Obowo, Imo State
Iwa Akwa is the most celebrated festival in the entire Obowo community. Every male child of Obowo looks forward to this adult initiation ceremony as well as becoming part of an age grade system. Every Obowo male is easily identified via his age-grade, this ancient festival which is celebrated once in three years mostly between December and January is one festival to always look out for as it is both colorful and entertaining.
In Ihitte Uboma, Iwa Akwa is celebrated every two years between the ages of 25 to 26 years. The festival has over the years put Ihette Uboma in world map as one of the most prominent destination for cultural tourism lovers.
Ehime Mbano is one of the communities that celebrates Iwa Akwa, the festivals which is celebrated between the ages of 21 to 26 years is the biggest festival celebrated among the people of Ehime Mbano in Imo State. Iwa Akwa attracts tourist from every part of the country who come in their numbers to witness the festival.
Obeagu, a sister community to Ugbo is another town that celebrates this prominent Iwa Akwa festival, popularly referred to as Ifu na Akwa by the indigenes, the festival is celebrated once in Six years between the age of 24 to 30 years usually during Easter period.
Iwa Akwa in Ugbo also known as Aju Festival is the most cherished of all events in Ugbo and the most famous festivals in Enugu state. Aju, which is celebrated once in three years between the age of 21 to 24 years is a weeklong festival that attracts tourists and spectators from all over the country and beyond to Ugbo.