DEITIES OF THE AGOGORO EYO FESTIVAL
By: Alaba kehinde
The word Eyo also refers to the costumed dancers, known as the masquerade, that come out during the festival. The origins of this observance are found in the inner workings of the secret societies in lagos. It is widely believed that the play is one of the manifestations of the customary African revelry that serves as the forunner of the modern carnival in Brazil. On Eyo day, the mainhighway 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 masquerade represent the spirits of the dead, and are referred to in Yoruba as Agogoro Eyo (literally “tall Eyo”). The first procession in Lagos was on the 20th of February, 1854 to commemorate the life of the Oba Akintoye.While Orisa Ogunran is a male Adamu on the other hand is a female. In the manner of a spirit being visiting the earth on a purpose, the masquerade speaks in a ventriloquial voice, suggestive of its otherworldliness; and when greeted, it replies: “Mo yo fun e, moyo fun ra mi”( I rejoice for you, I rejoice for myself).This response connotes the masquerades as rejoicing with the person greeting it for the witnessing of the day, and its own joy at taking the hallowed responsibility of cleansing. If we could take an up-to-date record of staged Adamu Orisha plays in Lagos, it should be close to one hundred celebration since its inception.
This papers seeks to discuss the celebration of the Eyo Adimu festival, the different types of theOrisas and there functions to the celebration and finally the significance of the Eyo regalia to Agogoro Eyo festival in Lagos. THE ORISHA’S OF THE PLAY…..a brief history.
Although its history is shrouded in mystery, from very humble beginnings in lagos, the Adamu Orisha play which is performed by the senior member of the Awe Adimu and under the authority of the Oba of Lagos, has grown to be perhaps the biggest cultural and tourist event in Nigeria. The Awe Adimu is the conclave of the elders of the Adamu Orisha cult. There are two Orishas in the Awe Adimu. The one is the Orisha Adimu, while the other is the Orisha Ogunran which is said to be a male spirit and rarely ventures out. After a joyous outing, the Orisha Adimu is welcomed back to her sanctuary with the song:
“Kaa bo o, ka a bo
Kaa bo o, ka a bo
Omo a bile soro
Omo a bile soro kile lanu
Ka a bo !!”
We do know over that over 300 years ago, when Lagos was focal fishing village and a stop-over en route to different parts of Nigeria and West African coast, there was a market at Oke’pa, the location of which today, is around the former Federal Secretariat in Ikoyi. The market attracted buyers and sellers from many villages who came to trade items from Benin, Badagry and Ijebuland by boat. The market was a beehive of activities particularly rites were performed for an Orisha masquerade which resided near Oke’pa. During its festival, the masquerade blessed the traders and admonished perpetrators of evil. The masquerade was the Orisha Adimu and had been brought from a village near Benin kingdom by the Ologun Agan. And so began a culture that has lasted till this day. The Adamu Orisha would appear on “Abo Oja” being the Saturday which has the next day after the market day. This is why the Eyo festival is largely held on a Saturday. The festival generated so much interest that people would travel from many parts of Lagos, to Oke’pa to watch the celebration. It was perhaps unwieldy for the Oba and his court to make the tedious journey to Oke’pa and no one occasion, on the return trip by Oba Dosunmu from Oke’pa to his palace on Lagos Island, a lion appeared to his entourage. Not long thereafter the Oba directed that the tradition play be brought from Oke’pa to Idunmodokun in Ita Ado on Lagos Island. This led to the oriki:
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