The Ofala Festival also called Ofala Nnewi, is an annual ceremony practiced by the indegenes of Onitsha in Anambra State, South-Eastern Nigeria. The term ofala (English: authority of the land) is derived from two Igbo words – ofo (English: authority) and ala (English: land). The festival which is described as the most important surviving traditional ceremony of Onitsha indigenes is celebrated within two days mostly in December and January in honour of the Obi (English: king).
According to oral history, the Ofala Festival can be traced back to the 1950s. It is originally celebrated twice – a day after the coronation of the Obi and after his death which is called “the last Ofala”. Due to external factors like civilization, social and political issues, it is now celebrated annually.
Ceremony and purpose
The festival usually starts with twenty-one gun salute followed by an all night Ufie music and other cultural activities. On the second day, thousands of men and women are gathered at the palace of the Obi dressed in traditional attire. Prior to the gathering of the crowd, the red-cap chiefs dressed in native wears arrive at the palace independently and proceed to the Obi’s throne in order of seniority. The highlight of the festival is the arrival of the Obi in his royal regalia to the hailing of the crowd.
During the ceremony, songs and different styles of dance are performed by people dressed in colorful traditional wears. The festival which is also an occasion for the Obi to honour individuals with chieftaincy titles is celebrated as a way to keep the heritage of the land alive.