OLOWO of Owo Sir Olateru-Olagbegi at Igogo Festival (1960s) – Tola Adenle


Late Sir Olateru-Olagbegi, Olowo of Owo at a 1960s Igogo Festival dressed in the traditional effeminate dressing for the festival: pleated hair, a beaded top  and big skirt!

Picture source unknown but I had three Olateru-Olagbegi school mates/friends: Kemi, Clementina & Olamide while I knew a few others; it could have been from any of them or I could have bought it as I did attend an Igogo during the  1963 long holidays, and spent holidays there with a brother who headed a secondary school.  


This is a blast from the past!

I did not want to lose this beautiful picture when I found it last December during leisurely holiday period as I went through a bunch of old pictures. 

I posted it immediately so that I would not lose it, and have left it on the blog meaning to say something about it but never have!  I’ve warned readers over and over again with my dinosaur-era mindset trying to keep up with cyber-age technology; driving an old run-down jalopy on a 20-lane super highway!

With the stats showing – again – this morning that two people had checked out this picture with no story, I am finally doing something, no matter how little, about it!

The Annual Igogo Festival at Owo is a celebration with a very long history dating back centuries, and today, it continues to generate interest not only from Owo indigenes at home and abroad but even foreigners.

ALL Yoruba MAJOR festivals are usually held around the time of new yam harvest which would mean mostly July/August – or, latest September.   It is the same with Igogo.

Here is a clip from Ondo State website.  TOLA, April 12, 2013.


Six hundred years ago, Olowo, the King, fell in love with Orensen, a very beautiful woman. Unfortunately for the King, she was a goddess who could not live with a human. She was forbidden to see women pounding spices, draw water, or throw a bundle of wood to the ground.

Because of his love for the goddess, and in order to marry her, the King promised her that his other wives, in front of her would follow these same restrictions. After several years, the King’s wives became jealous and revolted. They did everything they were not supposed to do in front of the goddess, who then cast a spell upon the entire kingdom. The goddess promised that people of Owo, would die of famine or sickness if the King and his chiefs did not celebrate every year a ceremony in her honor. The drums should beg her pardon and sing her praises. One also had to offer her a sacrifice of a man and a woman.

This ceremony, IGOGO,[IGOGO FESTIVAL] still exists, but the human beings have been replaced by a sheep and a goat.

This is an annual festival in Owo which lasts a total of 17 days featuring a number of ceremonies including the blessing and release of new yams. The festival is in commemoration of the king’s wife who turned into a tree while being pursued by the king’s slave to return to the palace after her rival violated her taboos in her presence.

The Olowo, usually during this festival dresses in Coral Beaded Crown and in addition plaits his hair like a woman. It could be seen here that Owo has some traditional linkage with Benin.

The Olowo leads his people including the Chief Priest and the male youths from Iloro quarters to dance round the whole town. During this 17 days period of celebration, drumming is banned in Owo and instead, metal gongs (Agogo) are used. This was where the name ‘IGOGO’ was coined.

The Igogo festival which comes up in September annually is a cultural display of the culture of the people with its main aim as to align youths with the cultural norm of the land.

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20 Comments on “OLOWO of Owo Sir Olateru-Olagbegi at Igogo Festival (1960s) – Tola Adenle”

  1. Tunde Says:

    Yes, the information is true that young girls called Udan Olughore (Virgins) danced round the town not completely naked/nude but only displayed the upper body with the lower parts covered with laced coral beads. Have pictures in black and whites if needed.That was then and it’s modernised now. In the meantime,you can read more on Igogo on this weblink if permitted here.



  2. composition207 Says:

    Please am currently writing a project on igogo festival..pls i will to get more information
    a frind from owo told me that during d festival young ladies dance round d whole village nakedly…only wears beads around dere waist in d 60s nd 70s ..please how true is this?


  3. Chief Orimoloye Saibu Victor Says:

    Olowo of Owo is the direct king


  4. Simon Babatunde Badejo Says:

    I will love to learn more about the culture of Owo people; am from Owo but know little about the culture and traditions. I have only visited Owo once since 1981.


    • emotan77 Says:

      Dear Mr. Badejo,

      Thanks for visiting and the “follow”.

      Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about Owo beyond loving the town having spent some holidays there as a teenager but this is the Information Age as I keep learning everyday. Below is a site you might wish to check; if I also can lay my hands on any other useful material, I would forward to your email address.

      I’m wondering if it’s feasible for you to plan a visit to Nigeria to coincide with the Igogo Festival next year; that should be fun and a nice way to soak in culture!

      Ka chie Ẹ, o! Greetings.



    • Tunde Onibode Says:

      Dear Mr.Simon Babatunde Badejo, Le o malogho, you can learn more about Owo kingdom by joining The Owo kingdom group on facebook, all you need to do is search for Owo kingdom/the Owo kingdom,you will be amaze with the quality of informations/articles and historical facts with pictures of the just concluded Igogo festival on the site while you can also search for videos of the Igogo on youtube @Tola, thank you my sister for promoting our Kingdom and culture. Sere o (Thanks)


      • emotan77 Says:

        Dear Mr. Onibode,

        I couldn’t thank you enough for coming to my aid and that of Mr. Badejo with these very useful information.

        Owo is one of my favorite Yoruba cities, and fortunately, a familial link was created two decades ago; before then, it had been over two decades before a last visit.

        Ka chie,Ẹ, o!

        My regards,

  5. Oluwafemi Says:

    Wow, I really love this, please keep it up


  6. Tunde Onibode Says:

    @ Tola, thanks for promoting our Kingdom and culture, you can check/search for igogo videos on youtube.


    • emotan77 Says:

      The pleasure is greatly mine. I love to learn more about various Yoruba cultures as the knowledge enriches my own understanding of our people and I share the little I know and come across with readers of this blog. The little write-up on Igogo has proved very popular since its posting as it gets multiple viewing almost daily.

      If you haven’t, please click “Yoruba History & Culture” on the Home Page and check out the different aspects that I’ve been able to assemble.


  7. Fatai Bakare Says:

    It is a pity that some important aspects of the culture of the Yoruba are incidentally going into extinction just like the language itself. I mentioned in one forum that to stem Yoruba language going into extinction, every home should place emphasis in the speaking of the language at home with our children. And this includes those of us living abroad. We have passed the era when brilliance adjudged by the amount of grammar one can blow. All over the world, there are top class scientists, psychologists, medical doctors etc. who are trained in their mother tongues and can’t speak a word of English. E je ka gbe ede wa l’aruge–let’s us make our language important and something to be cherished. The South West governors have a big role in this by making the offering Yoruba language as a subject compulsory at both the primary and secondary school levels.

    Now, I have some few questions to ask on the Igogo festival. Did Orensen (the beautiful goddess) bear the king any child? If yes, what happened to him or her when the goddess was leaving in annoyance? The king during the celebration of the festival should plait the hair, is it still done till today looking at the way balding in men is so common even at 30’s and 40’s? Since drums should not roll during the period, does that mean no parties and merriment like weddings and burials of one’s parents? I hope extreme religious adherents do not disturb the festival. Thanks.


    • emotan77 Says:

      Thanks for this, Fatai.

      The problem of the lack of Yoruba language being spoken widely, especially in middle-class and other homes which could lead to its disappearance has been a subject of many discussions in the Southwest in the last few years. I have personally been interested and involved not just in writing about “Yoruba and other disappearing languages” or such titles in the last decade but was involved with a group, Egbe Ede Yoruba” which came up with several suggestions, including the governments in the southwest making the subject compulsory at elementary & secondary school levels – private schools, included just as you’ve suggested.

      Politics in Nigeria has destroyed everything, including the fiber of society. The governors in the region were the problem because the ruling PDP that wangled in (rigged) their candidates had men most of whom were not interested in anything of such nature and stood in the way of the only non-PDP state, Lagos. I knew one was very cooperative and interested.

      There are market women in southwest Nigeria whose grasp of the English Language is, at best, worse(!) than a primary school graduate BELIEVE they speak English to their kids in the market! Countless times, I’ve engaged these young women in amiable chats of the usefulness of allowing the kids to grow up speaking Yoruba. I would even speak my dialect so that they realize I had to LEARN to speak “proper Yoruba” and then I would say something in English to let them also realize the dialect & Yoruba have not stood in the way of my mastering the English Language.

      I believe we have to fight the battle from all angles: frown on “Say ‘hi’ to Uncle” – in the words of Late Professor Sola Oke’s lecture delivered at the Iju Public Affairs Forum some years ago in which – as a language specialist – suggested that the educated class’ tendency to speak English in their homes even in Nigeria – cannot and will not drive Yoruba into extinction.

      As for Igogo, the first and only attendance I had was the one in the 60s. I’m also in support of the point you raised about religious adherents disturbing the festival as it seems to be a trend now for Christian and Muslim extremism to see the celebrations of our heritage as “paganism”.

      This, too, is an area that should be one of the areas of engagement for a “Southwest Integration” when – and if – politics of the region does not get in the way of such a laudable proposal.

      Sincere regards,


    • Tunde Onibode Says:

      @ Fatai, answer to your questions on Igogo: Orosen did not bear a child for the king (Olowo Renrengenjen) the 9th Olowo c1340-1346). The tradition of the king plaiting hair still exists and the chiefs too join the king in doing so. The festival lasts 17 days annually every September and merry makers normally defer their celebrations after the festivals. Metal gongs are allowed during the period, not drums.

      There have been religious disturbance recorded in the past but the authority of the Town is supreme. The current King, Oba David Victor Folagbade Olagbegi, is a devoted Christian and a staunch member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. His religious beliefs do not affect the festival as he partakes of every aspect of the festival and plaits his hair during every annual celebration since he ascended the throne 14 years ago.


      • emotan77 Says:

        Thank you very much for these information, Mr. Onibode. They add to the little I was able to give in the essay as well as the explanations to Fatai’s questions when the essay first appeared a couple of weeks back.


      • Fatai Bakare Says:

        Thank you Mr Tunde Onibode for providing answers to my questions and big thank you too to emotaafricana for providing the opportunity to us to know more abiut our rich culture and heritage. In fact of more than fifty five years sojourn on earth, I never heard of Igogo festival with the attendant customs and values. You have enriched my knowledge of the Yoruba culture which I can educate my children and grand children withand even take them to Ondo to witness h how Igogo festival is celebrated

      • Fatai Bakare Says:

        Thank you, Mr Tunde Onibode for providing answers to my questions and a big thank you too to emotanafricana for providing the opportunity for us to know more about our rich culture and heritage.

        In fact, in more than fifty-five years sojourn on earth, I never heard of Igogo festival with the attendant customs and values until I read it here. And with your additional note, you have enriched my knowledge of the Yoruba culture which I can educate my children and grand children with, and even take them to Owo in Ondo State in future when I am in Nigeria to witness how Igogo festival is celebrated.

        Once more thank you very much.

      • emotan77 Says:

        Dear Fatai,

        What could be more satisfying that the posting has brought a little more knowledge of Yoruba culture to a very adult Yoruba man; can’t believe you had never heard of it! Nice to know that Igogo has won a fan who plans to one day visit with his kids and grandkids!

        Always a pleasure hearing from your end.

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