Posted by Amanda Ibironke on Sunday, June 8, 2014 Under: Fashion, Tradition & Culture

The Ijaw is the major ethnic group that populate the Niger Delta of Nigeria. They are mostly found in the forest regions of the Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers States within the Niger Delta in Nigeria. Some are resident in Akwa-Ibom, Edo, and Ondo states in Nigeria. The Ijaw people number about an estimated 3.4 million. They have long lived in locations near many sea trade routes, and they were well connected to other areas by trade as early as the 15th century. They can be identified by their language which has however been dispersed over time as the people migrated from their central locations several hundreds of years ago. Although the Ijaws who constitute Bayelsa State are now pre-dominantly Christians (95%), with Catholicism and Anglicanism as the dominant religious denominations, the Ijaw have elaborate traditional religious practices of their own. The Ijaws are mostly represented by the Kalabari, Okrika, Ibani, Nkoro although aspects of their culture can be found among the Ogoni, Andoni among others. It is worthy to note that the current President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, is an Ijaw man.

Dance is a major instrument of cultural expression amongst the Ijaws.  This is displayed in the rich avalanche of various cultural dances in Bayelsa State. As a leisure loving people, Bayelsa has no specific festival of dance; however there are variety of traditional dances performed during festivities and social functions. Among these dances include;

FISHERMAN’S DANCE - This dance is a contemporary piece which teaches about the occupational predisposition of the Izon (Ijaw) people of the Niger Delta. It is performed at important ceremonies and occasions. During the dance, variety of movements depicting different stages in fishing expedition is displayed to the admiration of the audience. Paddling (the journey for the fish site), casting of nets, taking the catch into the canoe for their wives to put in their fishing baskets is artistically displayed. This is in addition to washing of the periwinkles and rejoicing over a fruitful fishing expedition.

EKE-GENE - This is a dance which originates from Epie speaking people of Bayelsa State. Eke-Gene which literarily means ‘Big Dance’ has a medley of about six local gongs with various dance patterns. This is one of the most spectacular dances in the repertoire because of the colourful costumes and its beautiful dance steps.

NGU SEI - Ngu Sei is literally translated ‘Pot Dance’. This is due to the fact that the main instrument of the dance consists of earthen ware pots of various sizes and shape. Some quantity of water is put inside the pots and beaten with pads made of bamboo or foam. The songs and dance steps tells stories of the relationship between man and the water spirits, family life and farming and fishing culture of the Ijaw people.

EGELE - There are two groups in this dance. They are the Anda-Egele and the Omu-Egele. The Anda-Egele is singing and dancing to a particular song during wrestling contests. While the Omu-Egele is singing, dancing and chanting of war songs in remembrance of wars fought by the forebears. This various dances accompanied by masquerade displays are usually seen during festivals and special occasions.

EGBELEGBELE SEI - The Egbelebgele Sei means ‘Horn Dance’. The major instrument that gives rhythm and melody of different tones are horns blown by instrumentalists. The dance is a fusion of traditional music and dance, and acrobatic dance steps. It is performed by virgins within the ages of six and thirteen years.

YELASEI - This is an installation dance by seven maidens. The scintillating nature of the dance is expressed in various movements and patterns portraying the installation story. The performance of this dance is mostly at social gathering and it highlights the rich cultural heritage of the Ijaw people.

WIND AND TREES DANCE- Wind and Trees dance is a festival dance showing the forest and the forest people playing together thus depicting how wonderful God’s creatures are. It is mostly danced by male and female dancers showing the footsteps of the wind and trees; and people who move in the forest. 

Credit – NACD

In : Fashion, Tradition & Culture 

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