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Traditional Uses Of Owewe (Cannon) In Idumebo And Orhua Of Edo
Saturday, 21 January 2012
By Esther Elijah Abiye Art - Arts
IDUMEBO is one of the towns in Esan West Local Government Area of Edo State. It shares border with Egholo in the north; Ujeme in the west; Uhumudumu in the east; and Uke in the south-east.
Idumebo is made up of four quarters namely Ogili, Odogbe, Idemidora and Idigbun. On the other hand Orhua is one of the boundary towns in Uhumwode Local Governmemt Area ofr Edo State. It is bounded at the North by Iruekpen at the west by Ozalla and east by Umokpe. Orhua is made up of nine quarters namely Idumu ore, Idimu Ogho, Idumu Igun, Idum Ogwa, uben Zuben, Ugboso, Uban, Ugo and Agor.
Origin of Owewe (Cannon)
In most cases, artistic offering is meant to meet the social and religious needs of the people, Owewe (cannon) is not an exception. Oral tradition has it that Ebohon (a warrior) from Benin who resided in Okemuen in the present day Uhunwode Local Government Area and Inalenbo of Idumebo had a misunderstanding, which latter snowballed into a war, so each went to reinforce. Inalenbo consulted and went with Ogbede to war against their opponent. In the course of the war, Ebohoa ambushed and eventually captured Inalenbo, but Ogbede vanished.
The captive was taken to Okemuen, several attempts were made to secure his release but to no avail. Then Inalenbo’s daughter, Isede volunteered to go to Okemuen for the release of her father. She secured her father’s release but was held hostage and later got married to one of her captors. With passage of time, Inalenbo died and by tradition, in-laws have a role to play in burial ceremony of the deceased. They came enmasse with (Owewe) cannon and had several shots fired. This was very remarkable, being the first time Idumebo had contact with Owewe (cannon). Orhua on the other hand had contact with cannon (owewe) by virtue of its cultural affiliation with the Binis who in turn had trading contacts with the Portuguese that introduced cannon into the culture.
Description of Owewe
Owewe is hollow and cylindrical in shape and has a short pointed end, the cylindrical part is about 38cm long and the narrow tip, that is inserted in the earth, is about 10cm long, the Owewe (cannon) is 1cm thick and diameters is 4cm wide. It is made of iron.
The shape and size could vary from one community to another. The cannon cannot be effective except used with Ibielemon (gun powder). The bark of a special tree (Igen) is dried and grinded to powder. This is made effectual by the admixture of traditional preparations to produce the gun powder. A thread is used to line the pierced point and when ignited, and the fire gets to the loaded content, this forces the Owewe (cannon) to explode. The desired number of shoot is determined by the number of cannon used. Owewe is normally made by a blacksmith.
Ono Fo-Isisi (cannon operator)
This is the specialist in cannon shooting, this art could be learnt through apprenticeship or hereditary, that is the practice is transferred from father to son. It is normally a male affair. The Ono Fo-Isisi (cannon operator) must be brave and skillful. The uniqueness of owewe sound is determined by the skills of the operator. The operator displays expertise in the arrangement of the cannon for unique sounds. He could arrange them in clusters, in alternate position as well as in a straight line.
Another determining factor is price. This is in line with the saying that he who pays the piper dictates the tunes, the higher the price the higher the quality of sound and vice versa. To engage in the art of cannon shooting no ritual is involved but the operator must be smart and brave to stand the horrendous sound the cannon produces.
It is a fact that Idumebo and Orhua celebrate cannon shot. Owewe is used during coronation of traditional rulers. In Idumebo, during Ilodion ceremony (the traditional head), several shots of Owewe are fired in Orhua during the Adionwere ceremony, that is (the coronation of head of each quarter), cannon shots are regular features at such occasions.
Cannon shots are also used to disseminate information, for instance, on appointed days of community meeting, cannon are shot to remind attendees of such meeting of their appointment.
Also during burials in both communities, cannon shots are a major feature. To start burial ceremony, cannon shots are fired and during burial when the corpse is on a motorcade from mortuary to the residence, cannon shots are fired at strategic places. If the deceased took a wife for himself or his son from that town, when they get close, the wife alights from the vehicle amidst cheers and jubilation and several cannon shots are fired in honour of the deceased. So also during the interment, several shots are fired to bid the deceased farewell.
Another use of cannon in Orhua is during Ughedion (Age grade) ceremony. Here, member normally engages the services of cannon operator (Ono Fo-isisi) who adds colour to the celebration by firing several cannon shots as a mark of honour to the celebrant.
In Orhua, during the festival of manhood, cannon are fired in honour of the celebrant. This festival signifies graduation from boyhood to adulthood.
The use of Owewe traverses the political and social life of Idumebo and Orhah peoples. The dynamism of modernity has added colour in the use of Owewe, as it has evolved to be a way of life of the people. The sound of the Owewe continues to resonate in the social and political life of the people, adding glamour and glitz to their celebrations.
During Ihuenren festival that is performed by Ugo quarters of Orhua, Owewe is very prominent. It is used to announce the beginning and the end of the festival. Ihueren festival is a three-day festival of virgin cleansing before their marriage and general thanksgiving.
• Elijah Abiye discussed this topic with the National Museum Study Group, Port Harcourt, recently
Author of this article: By Esther Elijah Abiye