- The 16th century Okrika custom celebrates the virtues of chastity
- The poignant cultural event is reminiscent of ancient Africa before colonisation
- The beautiful maidens are ushered in by their mothers and family
In the heart of Ogu kingdom, situated in the Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, an age-old tradition has once again garnered widespread attention on social media. The annual Iria festival, a solemn ceremony marking the transition of young virgins into womanhood, unfolded, capturing the fascination of both local residents and external observers alike.
Rooted in the rich history of the Okrika people, the Iria festival has been a venerable tradition since the 16th century, taking place predominantly during the months of December and January. The event is distinguished by its significance in welcoming young maidens into the realm of womanhood, a cultural spectacle that has endured the test of time.
Beyond its ceremonial essence, the Iria Festival has evolved into an annual competition within the Okrika community of Rivers State. Families eagerly participate in this age-old rite, seizing the opportunity to showcase the virtue of chastity. Parents proudly present their virgin daughters, who undergo a meticulous initiation process that includes a sojourn in the revered fattening room.
Here, the young women are nourished with a diet of wholesome meals, featuring a blend of pounded yam, pounded plantain, and fresh fish.
The festival, replete with its symbolic rituals and cultural significance, serves not only as a source of natural entertainment but also as a poignant manifestation of tradition. Each passing year, anticipation builds among both locals and visitors, eager to witness not merely a glimpse but a profound revelation of the ceremony, notably the unveiling of breasts-baring maidens embarking on the transformative journey into womanhood.
This year’s rendition of the Iria Festival has once again captured collective imagination, with images from the event circulating widely on various social media platforms, further cementing its status as a cultural phenomenon worth celebrating.