East Ham thanks God at Nigerian yam festival

Game of Thrones actor Nonso Anozie joined the celebrations Picture: RNJ Photography

Game of Thrones actor Nonso Anozie joined the celebrations Picture: RNJ Photography - Credit: Archant

More than 800 people, including Game of Thrones actor Nonso Anozie, gathered at the White House to celebrate Iri-ji on Saturday.

Anozie, famed for playing the role of Xaro Xhoan Daxos in the fantasy series, as well as portraying West Ham Inter City Firm football hooligan Cass Pennant in Cass, honoured his Nigerian hertiage by marking the most important date in the calendar for Igbo-speaking Nigerians.

The Igbo Cultural and Support Network (ICSN) led the event for London’s Igbo diaspora at the East Ham venue, with organiser Chinedu Onyali saying their twelfth annual celebration was the biggest in the UK.

“Iri-ji is the most celebrated festival in the Igbo-speaking part of Nigeria,” he said. “It’s a thanksgiving to God for a good yam harvest.

“Wherever there are Igbo people in the diaspora the festival is celebrate and ICSN have established themselves as the biggest Iri-ji in the British Isles.”

The festival marks the end of harvest and the start of a new work cycle, linking Igbo communities together as agrarian and dependent on yam, a vegetable native to Africa.

Saturday’s celebration focused on the importance of the yam as the first crop to be harvested in Igbo culture.

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It began with the breaking of the kola nut, which Chinedu said is essential to begin any gathering.

“It is said that if kola is not offered and broken that you have not gathered,” he said. “It is said that he who brings kola brings life and after the breaking of the kola nut came the cutting of the yam.”

Chinedu explained that, once these formalities had opened the celebration, those gathered were entertained by dance troupes, singers, a saxophonist and a fashiong show.

“Amidst all this, delicious food was on offer,” he said. “People on the day definitely got their money’s worth.

“The night ended with a disco where people got to dance the night away.

“It was a great event – stay tuned for details of the thirteenth annual Iri-ji taking place in October 2016.”

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