Africa

In pictures: Wearing fancy dress for big yams in Nigeria

Men participating in the streets of Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

It has been one big party this week in the town of Arondizuogu in southern Nigeria, with feasting and parades to give thanks for the last harvest and to usher in the new planting season.

A man in a fake beard and video camera in Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

The Ikeji Festival, which lasts for seven days, brings together many thousands of ethnic Igbo people, from far and wide, to the town in Imo state.

Man in a traditional masquerade costume along with a bell ringer in the streets of Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

During the festivities, some men are authorised by secret cultural Igbo societies to dress up as ancestral spirits in what is called a masquerade.

They are accompanied by a bell bearer, who explains to the crowds the messages the spirit world wishes to pass on - usually blessings for a bountiful harvest to come.

A man in a masquerade costume performing in the streets of Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

The masked figures perform for the crowds as they go down the streets - and as part of the rituals, chickens and goats are sacrificed to the ancestors to encourage them to grant their blessings.

A man carrying a "magic" wooden box on his head through the streets of Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

Wooden or metal boxes, which are believed to contain "juju" (magical powers), are paraded on some men's heads through the 20 villages that make up Arondizuogu, as another way of communicating with the spirit world.

Men covered in purple paint walking next to a car in a street parade in Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

The festival is an annual event - the dates are decided by the village monarchs and elders. Some years it coincides with Easter celebrations, though they are not linked. Body painting is part of the fun...

A man with a face painted with charcoal in a street of Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

Some parade participants use powdered dye, palm oil and charcoal to cover their bodies.

Two women in headwraps with a little boy in a street of Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

It is a time for everyone to dress up - although women do not traditionally take part in any of the parades. They watch from the sidelines and some prepare special feasts for the party goers.

Man selling chicken in a street of Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

And it's certainly not a celebration without food. Business is brisk for the vendors who sell barbeque chicken and beef to visitors.

Man being washed as part of rituals in Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

Part of the festival's rituals include the cleansing of bodies to wash away the previous farming season and prepare for the next.

A masquerade group parading through the streets of Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

Popular local staples like yam and cassava, as well as various vegetables, will be planted in the coming season.

Man with a read woollen hat pulled over his eyes in Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

One man poses with his "okpu agoro", a red, black and white woollen bobble hat worn by men from the Igbo community of south-eastern Nigeria.

Man in a masquerade costume in Arondizuogu during the Ikeji Festival in Nigeria

Each masquerade group is accompanied by musicians using instruments such as gongs and drums - and the celebrations tend to last until late in the evening each day.

Photos by BBC Igbo's Chiemela Mgbeahuru

Related Topics

More on this story

Around the BBC