In pictures: Wearing fancy dress for big yams in Nigeria

It has been one big party this week in the town of Arondizuogu in southern Nigeria, with feasting and parades to give thanks for the last harvest and to usher in the new planting season.

The Ikeji Festival, which last for seven days, brings together many thousands of ethnic Igbo people, from far and wide, to the town in Imo state.

During the festivities, some men are authorised by secret cultural Igbo societies to dress up as ancestral spirits in what is called a masquerade.

They are accompanied by a bell bearer, who explains to the crowds the messages the spirit world wishes to pass on – usually blessings for a bountiful harvest to come.

The masked figures perform for the crowds as they go down the streets – and as part of the rituals, chickens and goats are sacrificed to the ancestors to encourage them to grant their blessings.

Wooden or metal boxes, which are believed to contain “juju” (magical powers), are paraded on some men’s heads through the 20 villages that make up Arondizuogu, as another way of communicating with the spirit world.

The festival is an annual event – the dates are decided by the village monarchs and elders. Some years it coincides with Easter celebrations, though they are not linked. Body painting is part of the fun…

Some parade participants use powdered dye, palm oil and charcoal to cover their bodies.

It is a time for everyone to dress up – although women do not traditionally take part in any of the parades. They watch from the sidelines and some prepare special feasts for the party goers.

And it’s certainly not a celebration without food. Business is brisk for the vendors who sell barbeque chicken and beef to visitors.

Part of the festival’s rituals include the cleansing of bodies to wash away the previous farming season and prepare for the next.

Popular local staples like yam and cassava, as well as various vegetables, will be planted in the coming season.

One man poses with his “okpu agoro”, a red, black and white woollen bobble hat worn by men from the Igbo community of south-eastern Nigeria.

Each masquerade group is accompanied by musicians using instruments such as gongs and drums – and the celebrations tend to last until late in the evening each day.

Source BBC.com
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