Cultures and traditions are extremely important to any civilization’s historical existence. Many tribes and communities, which have existed for centuries, take these cultures and traditions especially seriously. They take pride in their history and customs and have carried them out for generations. One of these customs is the Boat Regatta Festival, celebrated predominantly in the Ijaw ethnic nation.
The Regatta Festival started in Nigeria as a way of celebrating the success of a king when he returned to his kingdom with a new conquest. However, the celebration’s cultural, traditional and historical significance has changed with the centuries that have lapsed since the start of the tradition.
The people have continued to respect and honour the customs and practices of the past for several centuries. However, they have, here and there, also added a touch of modernity to the historically significant festival. Here is everything you need to know about the Boat Regatta Festival, celebrated in the Ijaw ethnic nation.
Ijaw people, also known as the Izon people or Izon Otu, are a tribe found predominantly living in the Niger Delta. The tribe has lived in Nigeria for several centuries. Ijaw Ethnic Community has crafted and sustained several traditions which define the community for the world. One of the most crucial and noteworthy practices that have survived history worth centuries is the Boat Regatta Festival.
The festival is an important part of the community’s annual calendar. Several communities, sub-ethnic groups and smaller tribes within the Ijaw ethnic nation take the initiative to participate in the competition. The Boat Regatta Festival, or the Boating competition, brings forth the spirit and creativity of the people. Before the Boat Regatta, the competitors take their time to decorate and adorn their competing partners, the boats.
The community members of the Ijaw Ethnic Nation give a lot of respect to the community’s people. This is because the boats are a source of livelihood and pride for the competitors. The people of the Ijaw, Ekpeye, Oron, Ogoni, Isoko, Igbo, Nembe, Kalabari, Okrika, and Igbani and Eleme communities take ardent measures to care for their boats and keep them in good shape for the annual festival. The rest of the year, the people prepare for the next staging of the festival.
At every staging of the festival, the people of the Ijaw, Ekpeye, Oron, Ogoni, Isoko, Igbo, and Eleme communities take the time to decorate their boats with colourful trinkets. The people are also dressed in colourful clothes to celebrate the rivers and their history.
The Ijaw ethnic nation is predominantly living in the riverside areas of Nigeria. Since the fifteenth century, the Ijaw, several sub-ethnic nationalities, including but not limited to Ijaw, Nembe, Kalabari, Okrika, and Igbani, have lived in and around the Gulf of Guinea. Large clusters of the community are living in the riverside states. The settlements include
- The Bayelsa state
- The Delta state
- The Rivers state
- The Ondo state
- The Edo State
All the states, as mentioned earlier, are situated in or around the rivers Benin, Escravos and Forcados and several other rivers. Accordingly, the community has spent most of their lives among the rivers. Thus, the annual initiative of the community to celebrate the Boat Regatta pays tribute to the roots of the community. Historically, boats and rivers remain an important part of the community culture. Accordingly, every community settlement hosts their special version of the boating contest.
Every staging of the Regatta differs from the other since every sub-community adds its elements to the festival. While the essence of the idea is to pay tribute to the roots of the Ijaw Community, their staging has changed drastically over the years. With every new generation of the Ijaw ethnic nation, the boating festival has taken a new form.
At first, the earlier tribes staged these boat regattas to celebrate the conquests. However, the annual festival has taken a more ceremonial and competitive form. The communities of Ijaw, Ekpeye, Oron, Ogoni, Isoko, Igbo, and Eleme usually host the event when the river’s waters are at high tide. Accordingly, the tribes celebrate the festival at the height of the rainy season (between May and June).
This is when the rivers are perfect for staging the festival. The brightly ornamented boats floating against the background of rich green foliage are an awesome spectacle. Apart from the cut-throat competition at the boating competition among Ijaw Warriors, the Reggatta festival also consists of several other cultural performances.
The festival is a huge, smashing hit among the people of the community and those from other states. It is a crucial part of the cultural festivals and or ceremonies in Ijaw land. The community members
At the yearly staging of the contest, in any of the following states, Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Ondo or Edo, the community arranges a large buffet of cultural activities. The governments of these states also take an inherent interest in the community’s activities. The governments allow and facilitate the annual stagings of the Regatta through communal funding. Additionally, several prominent members of the Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Ondo or Edo states attend the festival and enjoy the pleasant weather, excitement and energy they witness.
The Boat festivals are a crucial part of the state’s tourism sector. The boat regattas are an important attraction for the people during cultural festivals and ceremonies in Ijaw land. They bring many tourists to the country, especially the state, thus boosting the industry. The government also plays an important part in making the festival a great success for the people. They assist the communities in hosting a high-scale, multi-day event, which adds to the authenticity of the practice.
The festival remains one of the country’s most culturally rich, aesthetically pleasing, and historical events. In line with this, Nigeria has some other festivals that highlight the country’s culture, tradition and ethnicity. To the people of Nigeria, upholding and protecting their religious and traditional practices means a great deal. Accordingly, the country has a variety of events aimed at promoting and paying tribute to the history and struggles that brought them to the present.
Accordingly, it is worth mentioning that this is also true in the case of the widespread Ijaw Community. The communities predominantly lived in riverine settlements in the past. For over four centuries, their occupation was mainly fishing. Even in modern times, they have sustained their age-long fishing profession. The community’s people have maintained their livelihood based on their ancient, respected job.
This amazing and richly endowed community of people perform, amongst other cultural exhibitions, the “boat regatta”. As mentioned earlier, they are a tribute to the long and rich history of the community. In these boat regattas(boat paddling competitions), cultural groups, clubs, and fraternities compete with one another.
The winner gets the glory of victory and is among the most respected people. The Ijaws carry out these beautiful traditional displays as a constant reminder of their riverine cultural heritage. The Niger Delta and the largest country of Africa is full of many such interesting facts and stories