Bashorun Gaa; the tragic hero of Yoruba mythology and one of the most formidable kings of the  old Oyo Empire conveyed in many ways, my childhood fascination for the mythical, almost unbelievable ancestry of the Yorubas.

Television heightened the hyperbole through superb productions of epic folkloric stories of a 14th century Yoruba kingdom which became so powerful that its tentacles stretched right across West Africa.  Words like Alaafin,  Ilari, Bashorun,  Eso, the powerful Oyo Mesi and the mysterious Ogboni took up immense amounts of space in my theatrical imagination.

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Today,  Oyo Atiba in  Southwestern Nigeria is the historical and cultural representation of the old Oyo empire  destroyed by Fulani conquerors in the 1800s. Truly one of the Yoruba heartlands, this is a  town seeped in  symbolism; both ancient and cultural. Yet, it is also a city alive with a dynamic identity of its own.

One of  its historical icons is the  Alaafin of Oyo, the traditional ruler and monarch of Oyo.  Even today, the Alaafin paints a flamboyant picture echoing the status, ceremonial  and cultural significance inherent in  the institution of monarchy among the Yoruba people.

The royal monarch of Oyo- The Alaafin-  with his wives and court  on ceremonial duties in Oyo town.

The royal monarch of Oyo- The Alaafin- with his wives and court on ceremonial duties in Oyo town.

Another icon is the bustling  Akesan market or Oja Oba (the king`s market) located only a few minutes away from the Aalafin`s palace.

Juxtaposing the old and new side by side, Akesan market embraces the visitor in an  atmosphere which is traditionally  energised and authentic yet  reminiscent of today`s society.

A mobile herberlist selling a whole collection of different potions and powerful concoctions.

Akesan Market Oyo – A mobile herbalist selling a whole collection of different potions and powerful concoctions.

Everything you need for your herbal remedies in this stall selling barks, roots and much more.

Akesan Market Oyo-Everything you need for your herbal remedies in this stall selling barks, roots and much more.

Oyo is also an important urban centre for the production of Garri, one of the cheapest staples in the Nigerian diet.

Garri- making industries in Oyo are vital both to the local farming economy and also in terms of the skilled and unskilled jobs provided for local people and Akesan market provides a lively trading outlet for local farmers in and around Oyo township.

Fresh Cssava tubers to be processed into Garri -n Oyo town

Fresh Cassava tubers to be processed into Garri -n Oyo town

Cottage Industry making Garri in Oyo town- small industries like this feed millions of Nigerians.

Cottage Industry making Garri in Oyo town- small industries like this feed millions of Nigerians.