SOME OKU RITUALS.
- 1. Visit of the Fon of Oku to “Mawes” (lake Oku)
- In Oku, the crowning of a lineage headship caries obligations which include a rite of initiation, duty of appeasing the gods of the land and communicating with the lineage ancestors. The Fon as overall landlord performs rites on the behalf of the whole community especially when the general interest is threatened for example by much rain, prolonged drought, high death rate, poor farm yields or when the security of the land is at stake. Some of these rites are being performed by family heads called Fai. Certain rituals are only performed at the palace “Ntock”. They include the announcement and celebration of the old Fon’s death and new Fon’s first public appearance and his visit to the “ewy esang” (market of maize). He visit Mbam village in Oku, the shrine of “Mkong Mote” at Lumetu traditional forest and performs a ritual called “chiyse Ntekse” (letting – sleep villages). Then comes the cleansing of the road from Elak, the capital town to Tolon. There is a general visit and offering to the gods at their respective shrines all over the Fondom culminating in the visit to the secret lake Oku (mawes). This day is always an important day in the life of an Okucian. The day is characterized with colorful traditional music, dancing and offering of sacrifices. There is a trip round the lake with the new Fon to introduce him to the goddess of the lake.
- 2. Making peace with the spider in Oku.
- The earth spider (Heteroscoda crassipes) known in Oku as “Nggam” indeed is venerated for its ability to link the human world to that of the gods. Harming an earth spider or killing it, will accordingly get the victim into real trouble with the earth gods “emyin me ntie” which might result in a serious illness and eventual death. When the cause of the illness have been identify by the diviner, the ritual of appeasing the spider “maan nggam” will be carried out under the direction of a specialist “ wel kemaan” who knows the ritual. This ritual is always performed were there is an anthill known in Oku as “kekfukfu.
- 3. Twins and twin ritual.
- Twins are referred to in Oku as “Ghon emyin” literally children of gods. They are given special care and are surrounded by special rites. Prior to the reign of Ngek Zuelam (1910 – 1940) the whole issue of twins was a secret known only to the midwife as they were eliminated immediately after delivery because the Oku people did not believe that two normal children could come out of a single mother’s womb. But there was a case that the Fon ordered for their lives to be spared for experimental purposes. When the news reaches other villages of the tribe, people streamed into see them for themselves. So they are being surrounded by special rites today.
- 4. “Ewuy Kembaa” (Annual grass cutting)
- Some houses in Oku are built with bamboos and roofed with grass. They can either be residential, shrines or customary and traditional houses for assemblies, meetings or rituals. These kinds of houses are found all over the land of Oku. Young men always start from such type of houses.
At the palace, there is the “Nday Ebveiys” (house of fire). Annually there is a grass cutting ritual which if not all, most of the population and notables are present. It is being used for the repairs of such houses. The population is being lead to a hill site with savanna vegetation which has been reserved for that purpose (traditional means of conservation). When the crowd returns to the palace, there is the massage from the “kwifon”, the Fon, Palace water, kola nuts “fufu corn” and vegetables gotten from the kilum rainforest is being shared to people to feast and rejoice. There are always magicians to deflect rain from falling in the scene of the event that day. After this ritual, the land is blessed and crops will be doing well in the land.
- 5. Annual visit to the “Mkong-Mote’s” shrine ( God of the kingdom)
- Mkong mote is believed to be one of the greatest gods of the land that is often sworn to and prayed to him for protection. Mkong Mote had reign in Oku as one of the Fons and is said to have had powers and a lot of mystery characterize his reign. During his reign, Oku experiences a boom in all works of life, all sectors in the land and always emerge victoriously in all inter tribal battles for expansion. It is equally said that when Mkong Mote died, he transformed himself to a snake and moved to the secret traditional forest at the food of mount Kilum. He was traced by the chief priests of the land and it is said that his path was marked with cam wood making it possible for his dwelling site to be traced by the chief priest. A shrine was set up in that part of the forest. It is a secret forest today and no activity is allowed near the shrine. Every year the Kwifon society visits the shrine to offer sacrifice. This is always done at about 3 o’clock am by only members of the society and notables of the palace. The next day after the ritual is always a traditional public holiday through out the land of Oku that no farming, construction or any activity that has do with the soil is carried on. Peace and prosperity is bound to reign after the ritual.
- 6. General “echisee emyin” (appeasing the gods) all over the kingdom.
- This is usually performed in the respective shrines all over the land and by the various chief priests. Most of the gods are being appease once in a year.
ARTS AND CRAFTS.
Okucians are very talented and gifted in arts and crafts. Painting and drawing are the order of the day, commonly carried on by men. Graphics, images of people and animals are manifest. Wood carving is a common income generating activity, well developed and widely practiced in the land of Oku. Carving is strictly reserved for men, as women are often forbidden to enter into carving labs. Thrones, chairs, beds, statues, animals, masks and skeletons are being carved, some of which are destined for exportation, while others are displayed in the well renowned carving museums and craft shops in the villages of Elak, Manchok, Keyon and Ngashie. To an extent, one can also find works of bronze, brass and blacksmithing.
Both males and females are actively engage in weaving. Traditional woven dresses, baskets, bags and dishes are common in the Mbam village of Oku, where the raw materials of grass and raphia are available. In Oku, equally can be found works of scripture, clay, embroidered products.
There are juju masquerade dances for funeral celebrations. In the palace is also found the Ngele society of princes. It is notable for it colorful masquerade dances during festivals, rituals, and funeral celebrations