The Cultural Significance of Cow tail switch (Mpamshe) and  Ostrich feather(egenise) in the Beauty culture of the Yakurr people:

The Cross River Basin is a melt pot of diverse cultures and people that have intermingled and interwoven over hundreds of years and therefore, manifested in producing one of the most unique and vibrant rich cultural tapestry in West Africa.

The Yakurr people of Cross River State is  one of such groups in the Cross River Basin that has a vibrant and rich cultural heritage that is phenomenal as it is unique.

On the 20 August 2023 is the Ugep New Festival and one of it’s highlight is the parade of the maidens gaily and beautifully decorated and attired.

The Yakurr has delicately struck a balance between men and women to the extent that

misogynist would be red with anger on knowing  how much respect and dignity the Yakurr culture accords women.

The Yakurr culture is both patriarchy and matricharcy all rolled into one and how the people were able  to evolve such a classical and unique culture that blends two mutually benignly antagonistic groups into such a harmonious co-existence  will certainly intrigue social anthropologists to research on.

For instance, during the New Yam festivals two days are dedicated for the celebration of men and women separately.

The women festival is known as Janen-boku (women) which will be celebrated on the 19, August 2023.

In the same vein, the men festival known as Ledomboku will be celebrated on 20, August 2023.

But the parade of the maidens interestingly usually takes place on Ledomboku (men festival) not on Jaden-boku!

I want to elaborate on two beauty items and decorative materials that  form part of the dressing code of  the maiden. In my previous writings I have  touched on the spiral bangle(brass) worn by the maiden on their  ankles, camwood (Ekoh) used to the feet of the maiden and the Nsibidi (Aeblemi) which is painted on the back and stomach of the maidens.

Another decorative item which forms  part of the dressing code of the maiden is the Ostrich feather that is affixed in the head of the maidens.

The feather of the Ostrich bird is a highly valued and prized cultural artifacts in Africa throughout the ages.

In ancient Egypt, the Ostrich feathers were often used to make fans for wealthy or important people in ancient Egypt. Therefore, the delicate elegance of the ostrich feather has traditionally been a symbol for luxurious extravagance. Undoubtedly, the Ostrich feather in Yakurr culture is symbolic of wreath and status. The Ostrich feather is known as egenise.

The cow tail switch or fly whisk is also part of the dressing code of the maidens.

The cow tail switch  is held by the maiden on her right.

The cultural significance of the cow tail switch in Yakurr is; it is deemed authoritarian and spiritual.

Although the Yakurr people are not pastoral people, their use of the cow tail switch demonstrates that they were once upon a time pastorists that lived in the African open savanna before migration took them to the region of the African tropical rain forest.

@ Okoi Obono-Obla

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