Ihiagwa Autonomous Community is one of the communities in what is traditionally known as Oratta Clan, which now encompasses Owerri West, Owerri North and Owerri Municipal Local Government Areas of Imo State. Ihiagwa is located after Nekede Community in the South West of the Capital City and bounded on the East by Amaeze Obibi Ezena, West by Obinze, North by Nekede and on the South by Eziobodo and Okolochi
Odu Ihiagwa is a yearly festival, unique to the people of Ihiagwa. The festival predates the first Christian Missionary activity in Ihiagwa. Odu Ihiagwa is only a socio-cultural celebration that has no link to any deity, shrine or fetish practices. It marks the beginning of new yam harvest. ODU IHIAGWA Festival is heralded by a very short but remarkable period referred to as Onunu the period marks the end of farming season. During the Onunu period which lasts for four days, nobody in Ihiagwa goes to the farm and indigenes of Ihiagwa stay at home to take stock of the year’s farming activities, clean up the household and prepare to usher in the harvesting season which is marked by the ODU FESTIVAL. ODU festival comes up two weeks and four days after Onunu.
The uniqueness of the ODU Ihiagwa FESTIVAL lies in the fact that it sets out the calendar for the Harvest and New Yam festival for Ihiagwa and other neighbouring communities in the then Oratta clan. Ihiagwa is traditionally referred to as AGUZIE Afor because of the community’s role and function of determining the yearly farming Season and festival calendar for communities in and around Oratta Clan. This traditional pace setting role is not shared with any other community in Oratta Clan. It is a role demonstrated yearly when the OHA Ihiagwa pays homage to OTAMIRI deity and returns with the information and directives guiding the activities of the people for the year.
ODU IHIAGWA is celebrated by the rolling out of the “NKWA” a traditional dance only performed by the people of Nshi-Ato-Iriegbe who are the custodians of the tradition. The “NKWA” drum is as old as the community itself and the dance is only performed at ODU Festival. “NKWA” instruments which comprises of ;
(1) The big drum which is about 1.2m high with diameter of about .45m beaten by Umu-Agu’s family in Iriamogu village.
(2) The small drum of about .4m high and diameter of .18m is beaten by Umu-Anoruo family in Iriamogu village.
(3) The wooden gong which is about .45m in length is beaten by Umu-Igbakiri also in Iriamogu village.
It is danced to, by only four people from selected families, one each from Nkaramoche and Ibuzor village, while Okoma and Iheshilam kindreds in Iriamogu village will produce the remaining two dancers. This dance is for the eldest male from each group appointed by tradition to dance to Nkwa.
The Nkwa dance is regarded as sacrosanct and cannot be performed by a person with blemish or of any known socially unworthy character. It is not a war dance like the Ogbudu. You cannot dance to Nkwa with blood stain on your hands. Persons who are deemed worthy to perform the NKWA dance are usually highly esteemed and respected on account of their assumed purity.
During the ODU IHIAGWA FESTIVAL the oldest male members of other Ihiagwa villages join the oldest male from Iriamogu village to pray for the community and declare the emergence of the new yam season for IHIAGWA and other communities around Owerri.
The period of ODU IHIAGWA is regarded as a very peaceful time when no body is expected to pick a quarrel or engage in physical fight with his brother or neighbour, no matter the height of provocation. In olden days the penalties or consequences of desecrating the Odu period can be very severe not only on the offender but on the family also.
ODU IHIAGWA FESTIVAL promotes peace, brotherhood and respect amongst members of the communities. Notwithstanding the indigenous factor, visitors and foreigners are often invited by families to partake in the observance of the ODU IHIAGWA Festivals and enjoy the rich culture, tradition and hospitality of the IHIAGWA PEOPLE.
During the ODU IHIAGWA celebrations, Elders, Traditional Rulers and other Heads from neighbouring communities visit Ihiagwa as a show of respect and traditional acknowledgement of IHIAGWA as the AGUZIE AFOR. The ODU Festival is not a pagan or fetish festival. It accommodates both traditional worshipers and Christians. It has no fetish content but is has deep immense cultural significance. Ihiagwa people embraced Christianity over 100 years ago but still celebrate ODU without double standards.