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Ohafia War Dance: The Traditional War Dance of Ohafia People

Updated on February 10, 2020
tony55 profile image

This author loves to research and write about traditional cultures.

The Ohafia People

The Ohafia people are found in the Eastern part of Nigeria in Ohafia local government located in Abia State. The ethnic population are Igbo people renowned for their brave warriors. They have unique tradition, music, dances and attire.

On festivals days they showcase the best of an ancient traditional for an excited audience. People that witness the dance glimpse a thrilling performance of rhythm, beat and sound of an ancient tribe. Only men are permitted to perform the dance and beat the drums.

Ohafia traditional dancers

Ohafia traditional dancers
Ohafia traditional dancers
Ohafia traditional dancers
Ohafia traditional dancers

History of the dance

The Ohafia tribe of Abia state were renowned fighters in ancient warfare. The dance reminiscent of celebrations after a successful battle as a victory dance to honor warriors of the tribe. Notable head hunters a warrior was honored in for the number of human heads he brought back from war. Proven fighters they were also known as mercenaries who fought for the oppressed.

The Entrance

On a modern stage a contemporary audience waited patiently as the season offered trappings of fun and enjoyment. They see a well-lit stage with assortment of traditional musical instrument, flutes, traditional drums, trappings of an unfolding thriller.

At a corner dancers in different attires standby eagerly waiting their turn to perform. lights deem giving an eerie feel only a small light illuminates the stage. Suddenly a sounds sent a chill through the audience a fearful shriek in the still room to test the faith of strongmen.

The hideous sound reverberated through the terrified audience as a distressed call of a tortured embattled soul. As the continuous wailing waned some people stood in anticipation while others sat rigid, frozen to the spot.

The esoteric moment sustained then appeared a frightful wild-faced old man stripped to the waist in loin cloth tied to one side of his hip. Like the bloodthirsty warlords of old he brandished a long machete in a menacing purposeful way. Some made straight for the exits while a few fainted at the spectacle others clapped in anticipation.

History of Igbo People

The Dancers and Attire

The old man seeming lust to kill was obvious with purpose and meaning. Children burst into tears holding tight to mothers. Suddenly a wave of melodious sounds filled the theater as drumbeats reached an alarming crescendo within minutes.

The attire

Then more men bare chested with loin cloths entered the stage their faces especially the eyes covered with goggle-like chalk markings. Some had two short chalk marking on either side of the chest.

Apart from the loin cloth sometime tied at the waist they wore local cap. On their elbows they had raffia and all were bare footed. One man on his head carried a long heavy laden structure full of ritualistic items. While another held a live chicken by the legs in one hand brandishing it with reckless abandon.

The outfit

  • bare chested
  • loin cloths
  • eyes covered with chalk markings
  • two short chalk marking on either side of the chest
  • local muffler cap
  • elbows with raffia
  • bare footed
  • long heavy laden structure

Ohafia War Dance

The Dance

As the drums roared with purpose the able bodied men dance to the beat. They wriggle their bodies in a mesmerizing muscular dance. They one carrying the laden wand of concoction dance as though he carried a feather. The one with the cock danced to the tune waving the cock at the dances.


  • drums
  • flute
  • gongs
  • sticks

The dance

Who are not permitted to perform the War Dance?

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Primary instrument used in the performance are the drums and flute. The collocation of drums, gongs and sticks complimented the trilling sound. They trilled the audient transporting them to an ancient culture of their forefathers. The audience watched transfixed spell-bound in awe of the ancient dance. For those that exited at the sight of the machete holding old-man they missed an unforgettable performance.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 femi


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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      This is an interesting account of a traditional tribal dance.


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