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Every year, in the months of July and August, the people and communities of Yakurr set aside 32 days for communing, appeasing and feasting. The tradition is Ancient and has gone on for longer than any living Yakurr son or daughter can remember. The reason for all the merriment? None other the most revered festival LEBOKU!!!
Although new Yam Festivals are socio-cultural festivals that are recognized and celebrated across the diverse ethnic populations of cross River State. The scale and grandeur of LEBOKU distinguishes it and fully captures the cultural and tourism value of the event. Its significance lies in the importance the Yakurr people attach to Yam (a tuber that serves as food and is eaten in various forms), as the king of the crops.
Today, LEBOKU has also metamorphosed from simply celebrating Yam, to a season of great merriment, home-coming, stock-taking and deep reflections, especially for the ten communities that comprise Yakurr.
To the people of Yakurr, LEBOKU also represents a thanksgiving to God for the fertility of their land. This display of appreciation has great spiritual affinity with the cultural and historical antecedence of the Yakurr.
The activities during the festival buttress the people’s strong belief that it is a combination of hard work and divine help that makes them successful, as well as providing succors during wars; blesses the people with wealth; provides the barren, with children and provides spiritual protection to those who seek help.
The specific dates for the celebration of the different aspects of LEBOKU are usually decided by the observation of the main phases of agriculture cycles and ceremonies, which makes the culture even more intriguing.
In addition, LEBOKU marks a period when the Yakurr tradition and culture are reprise and intercession is offered, especially for a moral order in the from of Ekeledi (folklore and maiden’s dance that expresses the values of LEBOKU). The ceremonies tie in with the Christianity through a thanksgiving service, often held during the season of Yam harvest towards the end of the year.
The headquarters of the LEBOKU celebration is Ugep. Here the Bina (council of tradition rulers and custodians of culture, tradition and advisors to the Obol Lopon, Paramount Ruler of the Yakurr, converge to take decisions. The respective roles of the Bina (usually 23 of them) vary according to the social context and particular fields of competence with regards to specific functions or ritual. Deciding the date for the grand finale of LEBOKU is major function of the Bina and it is usually arrived at component of LEBOKU.
The general LEBOKU day celebration or grand finale is often preceded by several ceremonies and activities, some involving traditional processions