In Igbo culture, the Iwa Akwa, an age-long tradition, symbolises the initiation of boys into manhood celebrated every three years. The ritual marks the transition of a young boy into a full-fledged man.
When a young boy reaches a specific age, his family believes it is time for him to participate in Iwa Akwa. The elders conduct preliminary investigations to ensure he is qualified. The qualifying conditions essentially include being of the appropriate age and having a suitable family history. The participant’s father must have gone through the initiation stage in his days. The person should also have no connection or ancestry with Osu (outcast).
The participant is assigned to an age group when he meets the satisfactory requirements. Only then can the family begin preparations for the event. Preparations include buying wrappers (George) from the market that is of very high quality and getting the reception event ready.
Iwa Akwa is an adult initiation ceremony that draws its origin from the Obowo local government area of Imo State. Other communities in Imo and Enugu also partake in the Iwa culture. These communities are Ihitte/Uboma, Ehime Mbano, and a portion of Ahiazu Mbaise, all of which are in Imo. Communities in Enugu that practice the Iwa Akwa culture are Obeagu, Awgu, and Ugbo.
Furthermore, the Iwa Akwa age bracket is between those born within the period of three years. For instance, those born in 1993, 1994 and 1995 will likely have their ceremony at the same time.
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Although the Iwa Akwa is clearly an initiation that takes place between the ages of 24-26 years; the people of Ihitte, Uboma, Ehime Mbano and Ihitteafoukwu expect initiates to have attained the age of 30.
Iwa Akwa activities include executing responsibilities mandated by elders who have gone through the procedure in past years, such as spreading wrappers in front of their family compounds and donning and procession around the streets on bare feet. The event is followed by a big reception party in participants’ respective homes until dawn. s
Successful participation demonstrates that the man is now capable of taking on civil obligations within his community and family circles.