- Background to the Study
Traditional Festivals can be events usually and ordinarily staged by a local community that centres on some unique aspects of culture, music, plays, dances, acrobatics, puppetry, myths, rituals etc. Festivals are usually organized annually or at agreed period, where people of a particular community come together to dine and wine in order to celebrate and share common traditions. Traditional festivals in Isoko South LGA, Delta State have not gained tourists attraction as a result of the way they are celebrated by the people. Enough awareness has not been created to attract tourists neither did the government encourage traditional festivals.1
In most African societies, cultural festivals have their roots in the early history of the communities where they are celebrated. The periods of traditional festival celebrations are also times of cultural reflections as they reminisce certain historic events in the history of such communities. Beyond festivities and merriments, cultural festivals are traditional means of building a wealth of knowledge about the past of a community and of reconstructing any aspect of that history.2 A festival is a complex social phenomenon. It spans a period of time during which individuals and groups are involved in diverse activities in a variety of places. One cannot see the whole of a festival or know what is happening in the lives of persons at any given moment or even throughout the festival.
Oworo festival is a festival that is held once in three years between March and April. Oworo means river in which women who are menstruating are not allowed to go close to it. During this festival, a sacrifice is made to appease the gods of the land and the new wives are allowed to come out with white wrappers and they will be covered with umbrella to the river, these women will have to dance in order to appeal to the gods of the land. They make use of drums, clapping of their hands and singing of songs, if none of these is been done, no one will be able to go into the river to fish, anyone who tries to go in forcefully will be injured by the woods in the river. However, if after dancing and performing the required sacrifice and the gods accepted that, there will be enough fish in the river but if not there will be woods in the river.3
Before the advent of the British to the Niger Delta the communities in Isoko were frequently engaged in conflicts between and amongst themselves owing to disagreements resulting from ownership of land and struggle for crude power to have dominion over others. The salutary point however, was that wisdom prevailed in the long run, and as a result the leaders initiated and entered into covenants between themselves to ensure sustainable peace. Some of the covenants are still in existence today and they are respected by the communities that covenanted as they were respected in those days. For example, the covenant between Erowa, Iyede and Aviara is highly respected and feared. It promotes peace and understanding among the people of these communities; no evil or harm is done to each other under any circumstances.4
Aviara town is the central town of a big clan, Aviara clan in Isoko SLGA. It’s an old town with a pool of highly educated descendants in Nigeria and in the diaspora. A big section of the town has reserved residential estate`s appearance with clean tarred roads, streets and closes.5
- Objectives of the Study
The objectives to be accomplished in this research are as follows:
- To study this festival in its socio-cultural context.
- To highlight the tourism potentials of the fishing festival in Aviara, Isoko SLGA, and
- To show how these festivals could be harnessed to improve the life of the people.
- Scope of the Study
This work focuses specifically on Oworo fishing festival in Aviara, Isoko SLGA, in Delta State of Nigeria; with a view to bringing it to the limelight as well as highlighting its social and economic importance to the people of the area.
1.4 Research Methodology
Historical methods using primary and secondary sources were used for the study; Ethnographic research method was used in this research. The researcher participated in the festival. As a participant and eye witnessed in the festival for first-hand experience and information. Primary data was obtained through oral interviews, In Aviara, the researcher interviewed elderly people on why they celebrate this festival. Secondary sources were obtained from published and unpublished works.
1.5 Limitation of the Studies
The distance posed a problem to the researchers who had to travel all the way from Ilorin to Aviara in Delta State. The process of getting the information on the study area was time consuming and the time frame given to write the project was short. The cost of getting information in terms of transport fare to the study area and also the risk of travelling were challenges for the researcher which were however overcame.
1.6 Justification of the Study
The work will add to existing knowledge as well as serve as reference for future scholars; it will be of paramount importance, not only to the local people of Delta State, and the government but also to researchers interested in the study or management of cultural resources and cultural heritage. Local festivals in Delta State serves social, educational, political and economic purposes to the people of Delta State and also to people around the world. This research work would help to create awareness to tourists both locally and internationally about this festival of international repute; it will also create awareness about the economic benefits of local festivals of the people of Aviara SLGA, Delta State. This work should also be of immense importance to the tourism potentials, and the rich cultural heritage of the Aviara people of Isoko SLGA Delta State.