Thursday, 8 June 2017

NIGERIA: Eyo Festival

This year’s Eyo festival was a double one as it was also staged to commemorate the life and times of the late Oba Yekini Adeniyi Elegushi Kunsela11, of Ikate Kingdom.

For those who turned up at the Tafawa Balewa Square for the final parade of the various Eyo groups that represented chieftaincy houses , called Igas, and the five major eyo masquerades, they did so because they don’t know when the next festival will be staged.

Five major eyo masquerades As Eyo is not a yearly festival. It is held in commemoration of the passing of an Oba, or of well respected and admired Lagosians who contributed to the progress and development of the state.

So the celebrations that cumulated at the TBS on Saturday began Friday night in the heart of Eko as Lagos Island with the building of a raffia and mat enclosed tent erected for the performance of some rites by the Eyo Laba, at Enu Owa in Central Lagos.

Many other Eyo groups also inspected the tent called ‘Para’ which was meant to declare the festival open as other Lagosians in party mood gathered at the Oba’s palace entrance for the rites to cleanse out evil and usher in peace and prosperity.

It was gathered that the big masquerade, the Adamu Orisa left the Para midnight to pay homage to Oba Akiolu amongst others to signal the opening of the festival.

Most of the residents were awake all night partying waiting for the drumming of Gbedu and Koranda, which are beaten only during the Eyo festival in the early hours of Saturday.

As the Eyo groups began their procession first to Para and then to the Oba’s palace, the sky opened up and they had to go round Lagos Island, through Tinubu Square and Idumota and ended up at the TBS in the rain.

The masquerades in their immaculate white regalia (Agbada, Aropale, ) and accompanying palm frond (Opambata) and caps (Aga) to match danced round Lagos Island in the downpour that had them drenched and stained them with red mud.

At the TBS, Governor Akinwumi Ambode, Oba Ridwan Akinolu, former Governor Bola Tinubu, Oba Saheed Ademola Elegushi, and other dignitaries as well as people waited for the procession .

The residents, who did not open shops, described the rainfall as a sign that the gods of the land were pleased with the celebrations and with the present administration of Lagos state led by Gov. Akinwumi Ambode.

The crowd was entertained all through the procession with local music by Ola Oni as the various families, Eyo Igas, like that of Bajulaye, Ermelo Kati and Assure, and the five major Eyo Orishas came out in their beautiful regalia in different colours.

The Eyo groups can be identified with the colours of their caps (Aga) as the Eyo Adimu Aga was white with black stripes or black with white stripes; Eyo Laba was red with white emblem; Eyo Oniko had yellow and black hat with their insignia in same colours; Eyo Ologede had banana as its emblem and its colours were yellow and green and Eyo Agere had purple hat.

As the five major Eyo Orishas, Adimu, Laba, Oniko, Ologede and Alagere, appeared on stage, there was stern warning that nobody should use their camera or phone to capture their procession.

At the end of the day, most of those who turned out went back home with that fulfilment of having being part of yet another Eyo festival.

Mr Jacob Kehinde, an indigene of “Eko’ the Yoruba name for Lagos city, said that the array of white regalia and costumes was a true replica of the culture and traditions of the indigenes of Lagos Island.

According to him, the festival was a theatrical display and pageantry that highlighted and showcased the rich indigenous history of the people and Lagos city.

Every thing done in this festival is showcasing what we have as a people and what our culture entails. Lagos is a tourist attraction centre and we must use this medium to showcase sites while we celebrate Lagos as a state, he said.

Also, Mr Taofeek Adebisi, a freelance journalist, advised Africans and the general public to seek knowledge rather than attributing Eyo festival to a fetish practice.

I was born and breed as a Muslim on the mainland of Lagos and over the years I have been made to believe that Eyo masquerade dance is diabolical. On the contrary, it is not true because I have been going around the town with the guys dancing since 10p.m. on Friday night and I have not seen anyone pouring libations to any deity. Eyo is all about fun and nothing else, but, pure fun, he said.

The Eyo Festival, otherwise known as the Adamu Orisha Play, is a Yoruba festival unique to Lagos, Nigeria. In modern times, it is presented by the people of Lagos as a tourist event and,due to its history, is traditionally performed on Lagos Island.

The word "Eyo" also refers to the costumed dancers, known as the masquerades that come out during the festival. The origins of this observance are found in the inner workings of the secret societies of Lagos.

Back in the days, The Eyo festival is held to escort the soul of a departed Lagos King or Chief and to usher in a new king. It is widely believed that the play is one of the manifestations of the customary African revelry that serves as the forerunner of the modern carnival in Brazil.

On Eyo Day, the main highway in the heart of the city,from the end of Carter Bridge to Tinubu Square is closed to traffic, allowing for procession from Idumota to the Iga Idunganran palace. The white-clad Eyo masquerades represent the spirits of the dead, and are referred to in Yoruba as "agogoro Eyo" (meaning: "tall Eyo").
An Eyo Iga Olowe Salaye masquerade jumping.

The first procession in Lagos was on the 20th of February, 1854, to commemorate the life of the Oba Akintoye.

Here, the participants all pay homage to the reigning Oba of Lagos. The festival takes place whenever occasion and tradition demand, though it is usually held as part of the final burial rites of a highly regarded chief in the king's court.

Among the Yorubas, the indigenous religions have largely lost the greater majority of their traditional followers to Christianity and Islam. Be that as it may, the old festivals are still almost universally observed as tourist attractions which generate a lot of revenue for government and small businesses around the Lagos Island venue of the Eyo festival.

It is during these occasions that their traditional monarchs and nobles exercise the most of their residual power.

A full week before the festival(always a Sunday), the ‘senior’ eyo group, the Adimu identified by a black, broad-rimmed hat, goes public with a staff.

When this happens, it means the event will take place on the following Saturday. Each of the four other important groups — Laba (Red), Oniko (yellow), Ologede (Green) and Agere (Purple) — take their turns in that order from Monday to Thursday.

These are some of prohibited items at the festival:

Okada motorcycle taxis
Bicycles
Sandals
Suku - hairstyle that is popular among the Yorubas, one that has the hair converge at the middle, then shoot upward, before tipping downward.
Smoking

The masquerades are known to beat people who use any of the prohibited items at sight with their staffs.