Categories: Ebira Traditions

The Origin and Celebration of Ekuechi Festival in Ebiraland


Ebira is a tribe spoken by the Ebira ethnic group in Kogi State, Nigeria. The people that speak this tribe are known as the Anebira, meaning, Ebira people.  The Anebira have many customs, traditions and myths which have been passed down from generations to generations. Among such tradition is the Ekuechi festival, celebrated by the ebira men across every part of ebira land.

Celebration of Ekuechi Festival

In Ebiraland, Eku is used to mean “great ancestors or ancestral masqurades” and chi to mean “to descend from above”. Ebira people also believe in the existence of Idaneku which is used to mean “the land of the dead or the land of the ebira ancestors”. They believe that when people die, their primordial spirit transcend to the idaneku. In this way, Ekuechi  can be translated as the return of our ancestors or the ancestral spirits of the Ebiraland to earth. The masquerades that participate in the Ekuechi festival are believed to have connection to the afterlife, where the ancestors of ebira dwell and watch over the living. They use this connection with the afterlife, to deliver good messages and blessings to the people.

The Ekuechi festival is known to be the most popular traditional festival celebrated in Ebiraland. It is also known to be a festival for only the Ebira men. Ekuechi is a customary event held every year by Anebira in the far and wide in Ebiraland in commemoration of their custom and tradition. In fact, some Ebira people dispersed or living in other parts of Nigeria love returning home when the festival is near to celebrate it with their relations, families, and loved ones. Many Anebira travel very far distances to witness the Ekuechi Festival.

The festival is usually celebrated towards the last quarter of the year to the first month of the following year. The festival is a great event usually anticipated by every Anebira. The period for the celebration of the ekuechi festival is announced by a masquerade (known as eku in ebira) clothed in red garment. The masquerade is called Ekuoba which is a very tall masquerade dressed in a red garment and attire featuring a group of women called onoku also dressed in white garments and costume. The onoku women accompany the Ekuoba masquerade by singing and dancing as the ekuoba makes a declaration to the entire people of ebiraland announcing the start of the Ekuechi Festival.

The festival is celebrated from night till morning and it is to span for 12 hours within the hours of 7pm at night to 7am in the morning. As mentioned earlier, this festival is a festival celebrated by only men, as a result, majority of the Ebira women do not like when they are celebrating this festival because they are not allowed to go out and participate in the fun of the festival. Going out is considered a taboo and against the tradition. The reason why the women are not allowed to participate in this festival is all because of the myth behind the origin of the Ekuechi festival which will be explained later in this article.

During the celebration of this festival which starts at night, many young men of ebiraland, household heads, and community leaders come out to celebrate by singing and dancing. Many popular and famous singers, drummers and traditional performers also come out to display their talent in commemoration of the festival. Also, the night masquerades known as the Ekurahu will also be present to dance, sing, and render prayers and blessings.

Origin of Ekuechi Festival

The origin of Ekuechi is rooted around the myth of the creation of mankind. This is what the Ebira people believed. It is believed that after the creation of man and woman, Ohomorihi (God) sent for the man creation, but he didn’t respond to the call telling Ohomorihi that he was busy with his assignments. Ohomorihi viewed this as a sign of arrogance but overlooked and instead, called for the woman creation. The women heed Ohomorihi’s call and she was given an egg-like substance to known as Irakwo to give her husband. This Irakwo holds the secrets of life and many supernatural power. Fascinated by the great power that the Irakwo holds, the woman creation was driven by greed and instead of delivering it to the husband, she swallowed the Irakwo to keep the powers for herself. After that, she then possessed untold powers with abilities to transform to any creature. When the man discovered about everything, he communicated to Ohomorihi about it. Ohomorihi saw the light of the situation and granted the husband the ability to create an occultic masquerade known as Eku with connection to heaven and enough supernatural power to counterbalance the power possessed by the wife. As a result of how everything started, it became a taboo for the woman creation in the Ekuechi festival.

We hope you enjoyed this read. Please do not forget to share with your Ebira friends. Thanks for reading!





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