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The origin of boat regattas in Izon land is traced by Henry Bellgam to the advent of the first European traders who arrived in the Niger Delta in the 15th Century. In his article “Boat Regatta” (21) Bellgam asserts that Kings and Chiefs of the Niger Delta travelled in boats either for the purposes of visiting their counterparts in the neighbouring city states or to convey their commodities of trade in boats from one market to the other. The boats carrying these valuables were paddled by men from the kings’ or the chiefs’ households. These treasure boats (Alali-Aru) were provided with security by another boat manned by warriors, the war boat (Omu-Aru). After the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1807, a new legitimate trade in Palm produces and Palm oil flourished. The Niger Delta Chiefs became the major marketers in this legitimate trade. The markets for the commercial venture were established in the hinterlands where the chiefs who retained their slaves had to travel to sell Palm kernels and oil. This was a highly competitive venture which required able-bodied well fed men to paddle fast to make sure that they arrived early at the markets. The able-bodied men in the chiefs or kings households practiced the paddling movements to synchronize them with traditional drumming, songs and dances in the different war-canoes. Bellgam asserts that it is these creative practices that gradually developed into the aesthetically designed ceremonial events through which sports, entertainment and heritage of the people are showcased.


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