The Ohafia war dance otherwise called iri agha in Igbo language is a popular war dance performed in several parts of Eastern Nigeria.
The dance that is mostly performed by a group of muscular men in commemoration of their strength in fighting and winning wars in the past has its root from Ohafia.
Historically, the ancestors of the Ohafia people were renowned to be mighty men of war who were always on the lookout for wars to take part in. The Ohafia warrior tradition, which remains one the fundamental identity of the people of Ohafia, is hinged in the performance of iri agha – the practice of beheading a fallen enemy at the war theater.
A human skull is regarded as a proof of a man’s bravery and strength. In Ohafia only those who brought home a human head could join the Ogbu – Isi society and also wear an eagle’s plume which is a symbol of courage.
The Ohafia War Dance is headed by a lead dancer carrying a basket full of human skulls while holding a short cutlass in one hand and a small palm shoot in his mouth.
Meanwhile the other dancers accompanying the lead dancer are dressed like fierce warriors and mime the cutting off of human head while dancing to the music from the akwatankwa musical instrument thus portraying Ohafia as a land of brave warriors.
The War Dance up till date is also performed to celebrate an individual’s achievement particularly those who are adjudged to have excelled in either private endeavour or public service.