The farmers are returning to the village with a great harvest. The king has summoned all the villagers and our neighbors to show the blessings upon his kingdom, to thank Chi-Ukwu-Kere Enigwe (the Big God Who Created Heaven), to thank Ana, the Earth goddess, Our Mother for the yield, for letting the crops grow well. This year’s Ofala is better because it is a new year, because of growth. After all, we have lived to see it. These 3 days will see no rain. The rainmakers have assured the king. They are at the corner burning their special leaves, fanning the flames, and chasing the rain clouds away.
And the king has guests from afar to show the splendor of his kingdom- the kings from Bini, Ashanteland, the kings of the Northern hills, and Nde Yoruba. The king will be surrounded by his chiefs in council, all wearing gigantic headgear full of plums of exotic birds of paradise. Igwe will march out as the Great Lion of The Forest, prancing through the village square, flashing his ceremonial sword in the air to salute the people. Nde Iyom, the titled women of the land will be there in a special tent, all resplendent in in white, waving their hands decked in elephant tusk bangles, stamping their feet weighted by gigantic, hollowed elephant tusks. It will be 3 days of festivities. Musicians entertain the teeming crowd, and all age grades will come out dressed especially to entertain and to pay homage to Agbogidi, Igwe, Our Father. Round the king’s court are the sculptures and monuments of his forebears, of all the great kings that have ruled since the times after we left Obodo Idu n’Oba. But that is a story for another day.
Many communities along the coasts in Western Africa call this the New Yam Festival or La Fête de la Nouvelle Igname. The great harvest is celebrated. All the gifted craftsmen and women, the artists of the king’s court will also show their works in a room by the king’s court. The story of these times will be told to our children’s children. Let the future generations never forget our ways passed down since time immemorial. The colors of people's dresses flitter and flirt in the dazzling sunlight. Each new year is ushered in after the harvest. It is from there that Ana is reborn, and all life begins. This story has some truths and some not-truths, but nothing of these words is a lie. We can’t tell all that happens in the days. Only a few seers greet the spirits of the dead who intermingle with the living. As is required, the living and the dead gather to give glory, to exchange gifts. Life is the great passageway to the other side of the river Ulashi, which flows to the great waters at the Earth’s falls. So, it is not just about history, but who is telling it. I am the one who knows these things, who sees these things. The inner eye is awake. Agwu na apa m. Ukpaka gbaba. So much can be said, and more is inferred. Yet words won’t say everything. I am a witness. And I worship with brush swirling in every direction, putting down the dust and delight, the mood and the songs, the narration of the best days of our lives. It is more than an oil painting on fabric. It is history, our story. Igbo amaka. Thank God for the great harvest. A kingly harvest.
Ofala (A Kingly Harvest), 79x81inches, Oil on canvas, 10/2023