The Arts

July 10, 2024

Unyeada Fishing Festival 2024 celebrates rich cultural heritage, skilled fishermen

Unyeada Fishing Festival 2024 celebrates rich cultural heritage, skilled fishermen

L-R: Chief Frederick I .U. Isotuwuene, While Chief Fredrick, Paramount head of Isotuwuene Chieftaincy House. Oro-Uboon (Chf.) Eugene L. Elleh, Chairman Otuo King Makers Assembly. Pastor Chief Timothy W. Ntideng, General Secretary of the Unyeada Kingdom Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers. Chief Iyo Oguiko Ijong, Chairman 2024 edition of Ijok-irin festival.

The town of Unyeada, located in Andoni, Rivers State, Nigeria, came alive on Friday, 5th July 2024, as it celebrated the annual Unyeada Fishing Festival, also known as Ijok-irin in the native Obolo language.

This longstanding tradition, which has been cherished for hundreds of years, holds significant cultural value to the community, as highlighted by Pastor Chief Timothy W. Ntideng, General Secretary of the Unyeada Kingdom Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers.

The day’s festivities kicked off in the early hours of the morning with the traditional canon firing signaling the start of the activities. A high-spirited parade of young men, symbolizing their transition into adulthood to join the ‘ogbo-anange’, showcased vibrant displays of tradition, including singing, chants, and dances that resonated throughout the town.

As the day progressed, the festival entered its second phase at noon, featuring a decorative showcase of traditional fishing tools and the rare aquatic catches of the courageous Unyeada fishermen. The exhibition wowed spectators with displays of live mega-sized fresh fishes, large adult dolphin teeth, water antelope tusks, and other fascinating treasures from the sea.

A central cultural highlight of the festival was the ceremonial presentation of the traditional salad ‘ogo’ to visitors. According to the tradition, elderly women performed a captivating dance as they carried the tray of spicy palm oil-drenched fish meal to offer to the king regent, who represented the king of Unyeada Kingdom. This traditional ritual added a touch of heritage and respect to the event as the Ogo traditional salad was then presented to dignitaries in attendance.

Master of Ceremony, MC Octopus, acknowledged the presence of high-profile government officials, traditional rulers, visitors from neighboring communities, the Ijaw nation, and Andoni’s sons and daughters who traveled from afar to partake in the celebrations. The festival buzzed with excitement, as traditional music, masquerade displays, and vibrant dances filled the atmosphere with joy and camaraderie.

In the opening remark, His Eminence, King (Dr.) Israel U.Otuo IX JP, Okaan-Ama and Paramount Ruler of Unyeada Kingdom represented by Oro-Uboon (Chf.) Eugene L. Elleh, Chairman Otuo King Makers Assembly, expressed his gratitude to the government for recognizing the Unyeada Fishing Festival as a tourism hotspot in Rivers State. In response, Barr. Tomonialadieokuma Ishmael (Permanent Secretary Ministry of Culture and Tourism) applauded the efforts of the 33 communities of Unyeada Kingdom for consistently organizing the Unyeada fishing festival for centuries. He noted that, “the elephant sanctuary  is known. The Ikuru beach is known; the coastal line of Andoni is also known… We (the government) are thinking of a ferry from Andoni to São Tomé and Príncipe that will further develop good tourism in the area”.

“We came here to see this thing (the Unyeada Fishing Festival) and we have seen it. Everything here we have seen will be reported to the governor; he will be aware of what we are doing here and in no distance time, the name of Unyeada will be on the globe”.

Mr. Gogo Abel Ujile, the festival coordinator, shared plans for a Guinness World Record attempt for the ‘longest fishing cast,’ aiming to showcase the exceptional skill of the Unyeada fishermen on a global platform. This record-breaking attempt promises to demonstrate the expertise of the Unyeada fishermen and further solidify their reputation.

In summary, the Unyeada Fishing Festival 2024 was a vibrant and culturally-rich event that paid homage to the town’s heritage, celebrated the skilled fishermen, and brought the community together in a spirit of joy and tradition. Hosted by the warm and welcoming people of Unyeada, the festival was a resounding success, with congratulations pouring in from Eritage Africa and Pixpectiv from the Niger Delta Goldfish Network (NDGN).