Ritual and Performance Aesthetics in the Ukpe Festival of the Weppa-Wanno People of Edo State
The study identified the ritual and performance aesthetics in the Ukpefestival of Weppa-Wanno people of Edo State, It also examined the aesthetic features of the ritual performance in the festival and analysed the significance of Ukpe festival in the cosmology of Weppa-Wanno people. This was done with a view to establishing that Ukpe possessed indigenous dramatic elements. The study employed both primary and secondary sources of data collection. The primary source included the 2012 and 2013 performances of the Ukpefestival. These editions were observed and the video recordings and pictures taken were used in the analysis. In addition, Interviews were conducted with eight purposively selected main custodians of the Weppa-Wanno tradition and Ukpe festival. These custodians included three high chiefs, two titled women and three performers who had rich knowledge of the festival. The secondary source included books, journal articles and the Internet. The data analyses were carried out using the theoretical framework of semiotics by Ropo Sekoni and Charles Sanders Peirce. The choice of semiotics was based on the premise that it formed the bedrock upon which meaning inherent in any given sign can be decoded. The study established that the festival employed ritual and performance elements such as performance space, audience, characters, action, dance, procession, masks, songs, drumming, and elaborate costuming. All of these elements coalesced in the aesthetics of the festival. The study also revealed that the aesthetic features of Ukpe ritual performance served as major determinants in the artistic evaluation of Ukpe as an African performative art. The study further revealed that Ukpe festival promoted the cosmology of the people through artistic expressions. The study concluded that Ukpe encapsulates many cultural signs that provide meaning and entertainment while offering newer perspectives on the artistic vibrancy of Weppa-Wanno people and their cultural productions.