BY PHILIP OJISUA
FOR the people of Ososo, Akoko Edo Local Council of Edo State, there couldn’t have been a better way of ending 2009 than to celebrate womanhood.
Called Oviko, the age-long ceremony celebrates the coming of age of the community’s maidens, whose age ranged between 13 and 15.
With the initiation to womanhood over, these young maidens, who used to walk round the streets partially naked, now have to comport themselves in the community. They will now be considered mature ladies and also, accorded some measure of respect and responsibility. The grand ceremony, which held at the public square, was well attended by the young and old. It was cadenced by pomp and pageantry, which the people get to see once in five years.
For five days, the maiden, who participated in Oviko, were regarded as queens. They were exempted from domestic chores, and nobody was allowed to touch or beat them immediately they mounted Ude, the traditional the Oviko seat.
During this period, the Oviko stood out because they were gorgeously dressed with beads round their necks, complemented by colourful local fabrics. They also wore very beautiful hair-dos. Senior daughters of participating families wore very unique hair-do that distinguished them from the rest of the participants, who were not first daughters. Their hair had beads across the head.
Mothers of the Oviko also invited their mothers’ friends, who joined them in dance on the first day of the cceremony. The final day was colourful and entertaining. There was heavy sound of celebration, everywhere.
BESIDES the oviko, there is also a special ceremony, known as Itakpo, which is dedicated to the rites of passage for young boys into manhood. Unlike that of Oviko, which is done at certain interval depending on the numbers of maidens available for initiation into womanhood, that of the young boys holds once in seven years.
Within that seven years, the young men are expected to produce a lot of farm products that qualify them into adulthood. It also shows that they can keep their families. The Itakpo guarantees them a voice within the council of elders of the community.
The first year, whenn the group goes to the farm is called Osumeh, and this lasts for six years while the seventh year, which is the grand finale, is where every participant shows his farm produce with heap of pounded yam, bush meat and Ato, a locally brewed drink.
Every participant in the ceremony is also expected to observe certain rules such as abstaining from sexual relationship and other associated evil acts, which are detrimental to the community’s well being.
The final ceremony, just like the Oviko ceremony, also elicits a lot of excitement and theatrics. Once the man has been pronounced as having met all the requirements, he is finally accepted into manhood and he dances into the warm embrace