The Risawe of Ijesha Land Chief Adefioye Adedeji.
The Risawe of Ijesha Land Chief Adefioye Adedeji.
We Africans are so easily broken down by tribes, a weakness the Europeans exploited to enslave and still use to divide us. A weakness the Europeans exploited to capture the American continent from the natives. The beef between the Igbos and the Yorubas go as far back as I can remember, a civil war was fought in the late 1960’s to solve our differences.
The Igbos and the Yorubas have the highest rate of intermarriage amongst all the ethnic groups in Nigeria. Only fitting that our leaders and media continue to stoke the fire the Europeans used to burn us for political and monetary gains. – @OgbeniAyotunde
One of the festivals that unite Yoruba people from different communities is the Egungun festival. Most people regardless of religious affiliations participate in the festival for the exciting atmosphere and the songs, dancing and the colorful costumes of the “ara orun” (ancestors).
Egungun is believed to be the spirit of our ancestors coming to shower the world with blessings. Egunguns speak in strange voices, people especially children believe Egungun comes from “orun” purposely for the festival.
Oloolu is a popular and well-respected Egungun in Ibadan, Oyo State. His followers are male, during the Oloolu festival a public service announcement is made on radio and television of his scheduled route (which is always in Old Ibadan neighborhoods like Yemetu, Oluyoro, Itu Taba, and Oja Oba) as it is an “ewo” (forbidden) for women to see him. This is a tradition Ibadan residents are well aware of and follow.
Oloolu does not wear a mask so his followers know his identity. Oral history passed down from generations says Oloolu used to wear a mask and that this mask possess mystical powers that helps Oloolu detect the presence of women nearby and will warn accordingly. It was said that his mask was sold long ago to European explorers and was never replaced.
My memories of Egungun is quite different from that of Oloolu of Ibadan and of course I would perhaps not have anything to say given women are not allowed in the festival. My fondest memories of the 1980s, is the Egungun Festival in my town. The seven day Egungun festival in my town is the only festival I know that unites my town’s people.
My family lived in the heart of the town, our house is by a 3 way crossroad or “orita meta”. Orita meta is of special significance to the Olorishas, orita meta is where an “ebo” (food for the gods) is placed. Because of this Egunguns in my town would always pass by my house so my siblings and I do not have to make any trip to get a glimpse of their colorful and elaborate costumes.
There are a number Egunguns in Modakeke, I cherish my memories of Lémojágbà from Isale Agbara. He is the youngest and the most energetic of the Egunguns. He runs about a lot chasing the excited children and adults alike, not too surprising that he always had the largest crowd dancing and singing after him.
As part of his way of getting the town excited Lémojágbà was also known for breaking clay pots (Ìkòkò) so on the day of his outings everyone will make efforts to tidy up and get their clay pots out of view.
Lémojágbà is considered to be a senior Egungun so as tradition he and other senior Egunguns will come out to mark the first day of the festival. It usually starts with prayers and sacrifices to the gods at Igbo Igbale, asking the gods for peaceful festival.
My parents have always been Christians, my mother very much so however, she understood the satisfaction that everyone derives from the excitement leading up to Egungun festival, because of this my siblings and I are super obedient around the festival time so were many children in my neighborhood.
After the usual rituals at Igbale, the Egungun will parade key areas in town. They will eventually make their way down Alapata Street, and in front of my house where the Egungun performs to the cheering crowd. The “Gangan” (Talking drums) is used to communicate messages.
My mother’s rule allowed my two older siblings and I to follow our favorite Egungun down the road up to Mama Alakara (just before Ile Danru), the distance of about 300 meters away from my house.
Needless to say most people who speak negatively about Egungun today have never witnessed the festival or those who did perhaps don’t see the beauty in our culture and traditions. Folakemi Odoaje for #JujuFilms
As a child I was fascinated with tribal marks, something about it appealed to me, maybe both my parents having tribal marks was part of the fascination.
There are a couple of narratives around the origin of tribal marks in Yoruba land. One narrative is how Sango started the practice using marks to reward or discipline his slaves, eventually realizing how beautiful it was favored the practice. Tribal marks were also used for identifying origins of slaves during the slave trade, not unlike the branding of cattle.
When I was about 14 years old, I told my mother I wanted tribal marks, this thought was triggered due in part to the events in my community. I wanted something that could make me easily identifiable in case of pending ethnic crisis. My mother understood my thinking and her way of getting me informed was to have me witness an Akomola (informal surgeon) perform the procedure then decide if I was will to go through with it.
According to my mother tribal marks are an expression of beauty but at the same time she understands why the practice has been under threat for a long time. None of my siblings have tribal marks naturally we would have gone for the ones on my father’s cheeks given the Yoruba patriarchal tradition.
The sensitivity around the old age practice came about due to western influence at the time when local people were shown the dangers of the practice as well as drawing connections between mortality rates and tribal mark practices. The argument against tribal marks was mainly the unhygienic condition it is performed.
In Yoruba land children usually do not remember the horror behind the marks on their faces as it is commonly performed within three months of birth growing up either loving or loathing them.
My mother did not spare me the gory details involved, many children fell very ill due to infections. She talked about her younger siblings, she was old enough to remember when their tribal marks were done, as beautiful as she thinks they were, and a bit of pride if you belonged to a big or influential clan, she thinks the immediate aftermaths on a child is not great.
Memories of oozing wounds and irritable children are still fresh in her mind, she was happy my father was against the practice. I did not need any more persuasion after my mother’s tale of the children who did not make it. So the thought was discarded just as it came, I don’t believe my pain threshold was strong enough to go under the knife without anesthesia | Folakemi Odoaje for #JujuFilms