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Akwa-ocha: a Dying God’s Gift to Anioma People

Akwa-ocha or Oto-ogwu as it is known in Ibusa is a fabric of the Anioma People. It is a fabric made from wool and exists in wrapper. A typical Anioma Akwa-ocha usually combines two colours which are mostly red and white but may require other colours. The Akwa-ocha of today may bear the inscription “Anioma state” on it.

For centuries, Akwa-ocha has remained the identity of Anioma and thus has reflected in the cultural life style of the people. The use of Akwa-ocha goes beyond mere outfits as it is a also a reflection of the social aspect of Anioma. The conduct of marriages, naming ceremonies, chieftaincy conferment, burial and funeral rites may require the availability of this fabric to perfect. For this reason, the Anioma fabric becomes the most sought after material necessary in the discharge of the social requirements in Anioma. In Ibusa, people taking up the “Alor”, “eze” and other titles are compulsorily expected to appear in this fabric. Ot-ogwu is also necessary for the burial of the dead (“Itu-uni rites”) A traditional dancing group is expected to appear in Akwa-ocha to complete ly define his cultural heritage.

In Asaba, Issele-uku, Ibusa, Okpanam what readily comes to the mind when the fabric is mentioned is funeral rites. This particularly creates a situation in which the youger generation fails to see the local fabric as theirs. They see it as old fashion meant only for the aging. Most observers believe that Anioma role-models have nothing to sell out the idea of the fabric as outfits to the younger generation.

Another reason is because the fabric is readily comes as a wrapper and children will always want to dress in contemporary style. It has been observed quite pointedly that these fabrics are mostly woven by aging women who continue to recycle old designs in doing this with even their children unwilling to learn this trade. With this fabric challenged by the factors listed here, its future is gradually dying because its appeal to the youth is fast declining and this great inheritance may soon become a thing of the past if nothing is done. A typical funeral rites reveals that rather than tie the Akwa-ocha to the waist, the youth mostly leave them hanging loosely and carelessly on their shoulders or simply not wanting to have anything to do with them.

If the reason behind this is that Akwa-ocha is too thick then the fabric should be made to fashionably exist in contemporary style like the “Asho-oke” of the Yoruba people. Traditional Rulers of Anioma should place high priority on the use of this fabric. Fashion designers should evolve trendy styles using Akwa-ocha, this will appeal to the dress sense of the youth but must be done in such a way that it will appeal to both the old and the young.

We want to see this fabric worn to weddings, marriage ceremonies and birthday parties. Let Akwa-ocha speak for us.

By Emeka Esogbue