I am glad to publish this literary travelogue written by Izunna Okafor. Fans of Christopher Okigbo have said so many wonderful things about the return to Idoto. I am happy a participant responded to our call for submissions by sending us a report of this literary event. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did.
As literature may be incomplete without adventure, it interests me to write, in a tone of travelogue, my memorable experience as I witnessed the second edition of the popular Return To Idoto River, amidst other fellow Nigerian writers and poets alike.
It was indeed a great moment spending my day in the midst of fellow writers, as we all thronged at Ojoto, the country home of one of us — Late Poet Christopher Okigbo of blessed memory.
This was the “Return To Idoto” (Part 2), which is a periodic poetic festival and fanfare held in memory of the great poet — Late Christopher Okigbo who died in 1967 during the Civil War.
Late Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo was a contemporary of Late Prof. Chinua Achebe, as punctured in Achebe’s “There Was A Country” while phrasing the age-long piece — “Father Don’t Let Him Die”.
As a prime witness, I boldly pen that this year’s edition was indeed memorial, poetical, convivial and more importantly full of adventures, as we all toured round Idoto (amidst melodious libations) visiting the strategic places that were both topical and significant to Okigbo’s life and writing/books.
The tour literary started with echoes of sweet libations which pierced into every letter and corner of the ancient Ojoto kingdom.
After pouring some slams of dulcet epopees garnished with epical saga and melodious libations right at the front of Late Okigbo’s memorial grave, we then set out to ‘Okwu Ụkpaka Ojoto’ (the well-engendered shrine of the historic Idoto Spirit) where the Ezemmụọ Chief Patrick Obieze welcomed us with the ritual of breaking the kola nut amidst incandescent incantations.
This was right inside the Okwu Ụkpaka Ojoto shrine, which before we entered, we were well cautioned to ensure we were innocent, while the pregnant and menstruating women were denied entrance, in concordance with the dictates of the Idoto goddess and the statute shading the shrine. And we who entered all ate the broken kola nut, having initially used Ńzú to (individually) draw free diagrams on the ground, as demanded by the Chief Priest who was at the head of the kola nut breaking ritual.
Here (outside the shrine), great poets also cracked their epics amidst libations chanted by three red-dressed women, one dangling the bell, one screaming aloud the libation as we marched, and the other popularly known as Ọgbanje leading the way with an arcane ornamental staff, showing the preparedness of the people for the journey.
And from thence we journeyed diametrically to the Okwu Idoto (The Temple of Idoto, the female goddess), where we also muttered and buried a plethora of poetries, right before the temple. The temple was decorated with pieces of red and white clothes, with with a tall cynosural tree sheltering the alter and her pulchritude.
From the Okwu Idoto, we headed antipodally to a fossil ‘Ụkpaka Tree’ under which we were told the Late Christopher Okigbo used to sit and repose, and sometimes compose his poems back then whenever circumstances necessitated. And there, epical ‘poesies’ were also showered by great poets, right proximal to the great stemmy ụkpaka tree…
Finally from there, we adventured down to the enigmatic and esoteric Idoto River where we poured the best of the poetry at its peak and climax, both right before the historic river and under a snug cum cozy arena naturally sheltered by live bamboos, with one elderly man and a traditionally-minded young lad readily seated as they entertained us with dulcet melodious and humble tunes which flared out as they romanced their local instruments of ịchaka and ikolo (ekwe ọdịnala), proudly registering their welcome gestures to us and exhilarating the bizarre pride of the Igbo cultures and traditions.
It was indeed a memorable adventure and in fact, the best I have ever witnessed in this recent time, both as a creative writer/poet and a journalist.
Thanks to Sir Chuka Nnabụife, who made my dream of being part of this year’s edition a reality.
In case you may wish to know, among the poets and authors who peregrinated these with us were:
Denja Abdullahi (the National President of Association of Nigerian Authors).
Ikeogu Oke (the Winner of the Nigerian Prize For Literature 2017)
Amarachi Atama (the CEO of Nwaadadịọramma and ỌJA)
James Eze (an author and Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Willie Obiano)
Odịlị Ujubụọñụ (the author of ‘Pregnancy of The gods’ and two-time winner of ANA Prize For Literature)
Sir. Chuka Nnabụife (a poet, a journalist, an actor, and CEO/Editor-in-Chief of the National Light Newspaper).
Prof. Ngozi Chuma-Udeh (a poet/author and the Dean Faculty of Art Chukwuemeka Ọdụmegwu Ojukwu University Ịgbarịam, as well as the Secretary-General of ANA, Anambra Chapter)
Maxim Ụzọatụ (a Poet and Author),
among numerous others.
May this trans-generational fire of poetry and creative writing never die in our own generation…. Amen…
All in all, Return To Idoto (Part 2) was indeed a memorable experience.
Watch out for the Return To Idoto (Part 3)