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It seems inescapable that I should begin this visual documentation of the Yoruba heartlands in the ancient city of Ile-Ife. Read the rest of this entry »

Nestled in the southwestern part of Nigeria is the ancient town of Ile-Ife.  Often described as “the cradle “,Yoruba civilization began here as  far back  as 500 B.C.


There is a deeply spiritual element to this town.  According to Yoruba mythology, ile -Ife was founded by Oduduwa. Odùduwà was the first Ooni (ruler) and king of Ife. Today, his royal highness Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the current  Ooni of Ife is first among all Yoruba kings in status, hierarchy and respect.

Festivals

Ile-Ife continues to  maintain a cultural relevance as the bastion of Yoruba cultural heritage and tradition. Every day of the year, there is a festival to  celebrate one of  the over 300  deities worshipped by traditional priests and devotees in the town.

Often the festivals extend over more than one day and they involve both priestly activities in the palace and theatrical dramatisations in the rest of the kingdom.

Olojo Festival

One of the most iconic of these festivals is “Olojo”. Historically the King only appeared in public during the annual Olojo festival and it is a spectacular affair! Visitors and tourists troop into the town from all over Nigeria and the Yoruba diaspora: Brazil, U.S.A and Cuba.  The climax of the  Olojo festival takes place at Enuwa Square outside the grand palace of the Ooni of Ife.

The clock Tower in Enuwa Square outside the Ooni`s palace where the celebrations take place.
Why Is Olojo Celebrated?

Olojo is celebrated in remembrance of Ogun- the Yoruba mythological god of iron and the first son of Oduduwa. Ogun is a fiery god worshiped and revered by many indigenes of Ife including farmers, blacksmiths hunters, and smelters who  all traditionally make their living using iron implements.

Traditional Rites

The exact date and timing of the festival is one that is considered carefully and very much depends on the movement of the sun from west to east in the 9th month of the lunar year.The decision as to which weekend in October will be the weekend of celebration is the sole responsibility of the Olojo chief priest.

As part of the activities leading up to the grand celebrations, his royal highness, the Ooni of Ife hibernates for seven days in complete seclusion, not communicating with anyone except the ‘spirits’. During the festival and only for a few hours, the Oòni appears, wearing a special beaded crown called “ Ade Are” .


The King leads the crowds to Ogun`s Shrine-  Okemogun to pay homage and make traditional sacrifices  and prayers for the town and it`s indigenes.

 

 

On the final day of the festival, the palace of the Ooni is agog with activity. Groups of traditional craftsmen and women, Ife high chiefs, their court, children and the grand children of the numerous royal families all come out amid colourful outfits, music and dance. It is a proud day for all indigenes of the town.

 Olojo festival is full of colour, pomp and ceremony and one of the most thrilling sights are the  Lokolokos thrill the crowd and quite honestly bring an added element of drama and a cultural authenticity to the event.

Olojo festival is quite simply a fantastic cultural experience. It not only celebrates the history and beliefs of the people of Ife, it also validates  the traditions and ethnic identity of an entire race-the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria.

It is a proud day Ile-Ife indigenes. They come out in strong numbers to pay homage to the Ooni in his palace.

 

Ile Ife  in Osun State Nigeria continues to hold on to its cultural relevance as seen in its annual festival Olojo.

 

The Olojo festival is a must to see for all cultural enthusiasts.Over  the last few years, the festival has drawn tourists from all over the Yoruba diaspora including Brazil, United States of America and Cuba.

Chief Egbeji Elesinje of Ife

Chief Egbeji Elesinje of Ife on his way to the Ooni`s palace to pay homage.

The climax of the festival takes place at Enuwa Square outside the grand palace of the the Oòni (King) of Ife-counted first among Yoruba kings.

 

The clock Tower in Enuwa Square outside the Ooni`s palace where the celebrations take place.

The clock Tower in Enuwa Square outside   the Ooni`s palace in Ile-Ife  where the celebrations take place.

 

 

Why Is Olojo Celebrated?

Olojo is celebrated in remembrance of Ogun– the Yoruba mythological god of Iron. Ogun was the first son of Oduduwa, the legendary father of all Yoruba people.

A  bronze sculpture depicting Oduduwa

A bronze sculpture depicting Oduduwa

Ogun is a fiery god worshiped and revered by many indigenes of Ile Ife including farmers, blacksmiths hunters, and smelters who  all traditionally make their living using iron implements.

 

Iron implemets used by  traditional artisans in Ile-Ife

Iron implemets used by traditional artisans in Ile-Ife

Traditional Rites

The exact date and timing of the festival is one that is considered carefully and depends on the movement of the sun from west to east in the 9th month of the lunar year.

The Ooni with his entourage

The Ooni with his entourage


The decision as to which weekend in October will be the weekend of celebration is the sole responsibility of the Olojo chief priest.

As part of the build up to the grand celebrations, the Oòni  hibernates for seven days in complete seclusion, not communicating with anyone except the ‘spirits’.

During the festival and only for a few hours, the Oòni appears, wearing a special beaded crown called Ade Are” .

Ile Ife traditional ceremonial crown of the Ooni

Ile Ife traditional ceremonial crown of the Ooni

He leads the crowds to Ogun`s Shrine-  Okemogun to pay homage and make traditional sacrifices  and prayers for the town and it`s indigenes.

shrine of the god of Iron - Ogun- Oke mogun

shrine of the god of Iron – Ogun- Oke mogun

 

The Lokolokos

One of the most fascinating sights at the Olojo festival  are the Lokolokos. These are the bodyguards of the Oòni who get a chance show off their prowess  and fierce demeanor during the festival.

They  run up and down in the centre of the town square brandishing long canes to remind  young men in the crowd to “behave”.

 

The Lokolokos are strong, fierce and loyal to the  Ooni.

The Lokolokos are strong, fierce and loyal to the Ooni.

 

The Lokolokos thrill the crowd and quite honestly bring an added element of drama to the event.

 

 

 

Many women groups came out to celebrate- each group in its matching outfits.

Many women groups came out to celebrate- each group in its matching outfits.

Olojo festival is full of colour, pomp and ceremony.

Groups of traditional craftsmen and women, Ile-Ife chiefs and their court, children and grand children of the royal families all troop in with music, gunfire and full traditional dress to mark the day of celebration.

 

It is a proud day Ile-Ife indigenes. They come out in strong numbers to pay homage to the Ooni in his palace.

It is a proud day Ile-Ife indigenes. They come out in strong numbers to pay homage to the Ooni in his palace.

It is a day not to be missed if you have an interest in Yoruba culture or traditional ways  of celebrating ethnic and cultural identity around the world.

 

 

Read more about Olojo here Olojo Festival in Pictures

Read more about the history of Ile-Ife  here 

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