A priest uniting Tiv people through food festival

By Hope Abah Emmanuel

Since its inception in 2015, when Kyegh Sha Shwa (KSS), a food festival was first celebrated in Daudu in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, the gathering at the feast has continued to grow in leaps and bounds.

Like a wild fire, KSS has progressively spread over the past four years as increasing number of people annually indicate interest to participate in the fun-filled event.

Our correspondent reports that the festival was conceived and initiated by a priest of Makurdi Catholic Diocese, the Reverend Father, Solomon Ukeyima, basically as a gathering for the Tiv people wherein they consume their customary foods and beverages, make merriments and promote other forms of their culture.

At the 5th edition held in the last week of the just out-gone year and tagged KSS Gboko 2019, the feast attracted more people at home and abroad to the traditional home of the Tiv nation.

The just concluded edition which was unique, bigger and glamorous, attracted Tivs from all walks of life.

Firstly, the event was unveiled in Lagos with scores of Tiv indigenes living abroad flown into the country to grace the occasion ahead of the main festival in Gboko which featured after the Tiv in Abuja requested the Convener to give them a KSS treat.

“The core aim of KSS is to come together, reason together and grow together,” Fr. Ukeyima told Daily Trust Saturday.

Interestingly, the KSS, apart from religious gatherings, had over the years of its existence pulled together more people than any other public outing/festival of the Tiv nation.

Why Kyegh Sha Shwa was conceived

Fr. Ukeyima however explained that Kyegh Sha Shwa (KSS) is a famous soup among the Tiv. Literally, he said it is “chicken in Sesame” (soup) and suitable for consumption with pounded yam.

He noted that when prepared by the best of Tiv cook, a visitor, even eating for the first time would naturally, seek to know the chef who prepared the delicacy, usually, to show appreciation with a token for the meal.

“Kyegh Sha Shwa is a special delicacy of Tiv people of north central Nigeria. For me and like minds, it is more than a meal; we have elevated it into a festival as we are trying to revive the Tiv culture of unity. It is our attempt at reconcilliation; to come together, to reason together and identify ways of bettering the lot of our people,” he said.

The clergy opined that the festival would further promote the cultivation of the Sesame crop, an export commodity known to be one of the high pricing food commodity in the Nigeria agricultural market and hugely produced by the Tiv farmers in the past.

“But the passing of time has however affected its production to such extent, that the crop presently witnesses commercial scale production only in areas of Guma, Gwer West and Gwer East, as against its hitherto cultivation throughout the 14 Tiv speaking local government areas of Benue State.

“For a Tiv man, Kyegh Sha Shwa is a special meal; it is not offered to everyone. For you to be treated to it means you are special visitor. But, then sesame (beniseed) is going extinct.

“So, when I thought about the divisions in the land and lack of avenues for cultural interaction and how this important commodity and the delicacy meant a lot to the Tiv, we named the festival Kyegh Sha Shwa,” Ukeyima said.

He added that the idea came while serving as the Priest in charge of St. Francis Mission Daudu, adding that, “the people cultivate yam and sesame in large quantities and you know the two go together. That was why I choose KSS.”

Brisk business, culture and tradition bloom at the feast one interesting thing is that entrepreneurs are now taking advantage of the festival to promote their businesses and brands. The festival has also been harnessed as a huge market for those selling cultural wares and accessories.

The event also provide opportunity for Tiv sons and daughters to brainstorm on ideas which could better the lots of their fatherland.

And that’s why apart from the year of inception, successive editions of the festival had witnessed presentation of papers topical issues that affect the people.

In 2017, the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Gboko, His Lordship Williams Avenya, was the Guest Speaker with Professor David Ker, delivering a guest speech at the 2018 edition.

The sitting arrangement were usually in groups and normally done after the guest speaker had delivered his message while participants duringmeal time eat from a common dish to depict the originality of the Tiv people’s table manner.

Participants at the festivals were  served a special breakfast known as ‘Iber sha Akpukpa.’ During the whole day event, the attendees would also be permitted to use their individual calabash procured at the venue of the fiesta as personal container to fetch a local beverage popularly referred to as ‘Burukutu’ to quench their taste before they are served the main course meal for the day.

Young people were also seen taking advantage of the day to exhibit their sense of Tiv cultural dressing by adorning themselves with the popular black and white attires and other native accessories.

One of such young cultural enthusiast, Iorliam Shija, posited that the pounded yam with Kyegh Sha Shwa remains irresistible delicacy as he stressed that the meal could be quite delicious and satisfying.

Shija added that he always appeared at the event in a unique style and had always caught the attention of other attendees with his sense of dressing which depicted the “olden day Tiv man”.

Young people at the event took part in an eating competition known as ‘Uka Uka’ which involves eating pounded yam with meat in the absence of soup. Interestingly, this year’s unlike the previous editions held for two days. The Convener, Fr. Ukeyima had earlier led procession ahead of the main event on December 26 followed by a cultural night which featured the popular Kwagh-Hir puppet theatre of the Tiv people at the JS Tarka Stadium in Gboko.

Enthusiasts excited over funding, non-apolitical gathering

Since the reverend father initiated the festival, cultural enthusiasts have been contributing to the success of KSS through their collective funding.

Fr Ukeyima attributed the success of the event to people of goodwill whom he said sent in their financial donations while others did theirs  through kind in form of prayers, donations of yams, local breed of chicken and sesame, amongst others. He however pointed out that no one was ever taxed for the event.

“Although the festival has souvenirs, none is a condition precedent of attendance. Of course, those intending are encouraged to dress in traditional attires but no one is compelled to do so,” the convener said.

He added that, “KSS is incurably apolitical and by the Grace of God, it will remain so. It is simply a gathering of the Tiv, irrespective of their political affiliations.

“At KSS, you find people eat from the same plate showing unity and reconciliation. Politics has remained the greatest weapon that tears our people apart and that is what we are trying to heal.”

For Kate Hembafan Iordye, a lover of the festival, she always looks forward to every end of the year to attend the “refreshing even. KSS holds a special place on my mind,” Iordye said.

No doubt, this year’s event provided for the fun-seekers including foreign nationals who also graced the occasion thrilling moments of fulfilment which would last in their memory for a very long t

Source link https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/a-priest-uniting-tiv-people-through-food-festival.html

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