Many decades ago; cinema, gramophone, radio, television, and internet services were non-existent in Igbo land, and children had no schools for formal learning, where they could also run around, strengthen their veins and arteries as well as build their muscles.
The Igbos of those days, therefore, instituted the culture of playing under moonlight (Egwu Onwa) in place of the above mentioned sources of entertainment and recreation. The Egwu Onwa culture served as a means of bringing joy to adult members of the community after the day’s work, and also as an opportunity for children to play around and strengthen their bones and muscles as they grow and develop.
Today, this beautiful culture of playing under moonlight (Egwu Onwa) is among the least observed cultures of the Igbos, primarily due to several technological inventions and global civilization that has eroded several indigenous cultures. However, I’m still going to describe the beautiful culture of playing under moonlight (Egwu Onwa) as it was practiced in the past.
Egwu Onwa delights everyone across the length and breadth of Igbo land, from the youth who is full of exuberance to the aged whose hairs have all turned grey. Each evening that the moon makes an appearance across the sky, a call-to-action is made to every member of the community using songs and instrumentals composed with gongs, drums, flutes etc which invariably serves as open invitation and announcement that the night will be fun-filled. Every member of the community then begins to observe the moon element until it appears to shine forth in full blast.
As soon as the moons begins to shine forth in full blast, the exact moment for playing under the moonlight dawns. At such moments, everyone who has had her dinner ecstatically troops out of her home to the community square. While those who are yet to complete their domestic chores of the evening speed-up activities and increase the tempo of work in order to finish in time and leave home for the community square where Egwu Onwa usually takes place.
Typically, before 8pm, most families in Igbo land have enjoyed their dinner, and are ready to join other families and friends for a communal playing under moonlight.
Young maidens take special delight in hanging out in groups as they interact among themselves, share some juicy gossip, admire handsome young males of their community, and even attempt to catch the attention of some good-looking dudes. While the young men take joy in challenging each other (either as individuals or groups) to wrestling bouts, acrobatic displays, special stunts, dancing and musical performance particularly to impress the young maidens who make up their major spectators.
During Egwu Onwa, the elderly members of the community sit in groups around campfires sipping and sharing local drinks while reminiscing and talking about the events of the past. Sometimes, they delight in teasing each other of misdemeanors of the past (i.e Ima Njakiri). Some of the elderly ones, socialize the children into the cultures of the community by gathering them in groups and telling them traditional tales and folk stories under moonlight, and sometimes they deepen the wisdom and intelligence of the young by playing the games of riddles and proverbs with them throughout the night.
As for the sick, they also seat around special bonfires while they observe the colorful life and activities taking place around them. The Egwu Onwa experience had been reported as having therapeutic effects on the sick who seem to respond better to medications after sharing a night with the healthy under the moonlight.
There is no specific time for the conclusion of a night-out under the moonlight. It goes on until one is tired and ready for bed. However, at dawn, the young maidens of the community are expected to assemble for sweeping and tidying up of the community square following an Egwu Onwa night out.
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