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Ọlọwọ of Ọwọ, Sir Ọlatẹru-Ọlagbegi at Igogo Festival (1960s), Revisited by Tokunbọ Ajaṣin

October 20, 2014

Yoruba History & Culture

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 a big skirt!

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Photo Credit: Blogger’s archive, Photographer unknown.

This picture you displayed is vintage Olowo, I recognize about three of the people around the Olowo. I am reminded of those times we used to have to wait patiently at our Igboroko street family house just across the road from the Olowo’s palace for the Olowo to arrive and dance in front of our house. It was a spectacle to behold. Our house used to be the last stop before he retired to his palace. It also reminds me of how disappointed I used to be whenever he retired prematurely without getting to our house (such was the case whenever he got tired).

I remember with nostalgia Igogo festival of yesteryears. As a kid, it was some festival I looked forward to annually. I remember it used to commence with dancing by the Ayoyos from Iloro stopping at the Oba’s palace on their way to their secret hideout. They were usually decked in their calabash caps and half naked with woven loin cloth wrapped around their pants. They held in their hand a long white stick which was used for dancing as well as whipping women who donned their head tie or men who refused to take off their caps. They did this for a number of days until the last day of their performance when they carried shoulder high the live goat gift from the Olowo for their sacrifice.

The other event of the Igogo that I found fascinating as a young man was the dancing by the pretty damsels who were usually scantilly dressed with beads skirted around their waist and with nicely plaited hair with beads like royal princesses.

A day before the Olowo’s performance was the dance performance by all the chiefs of Owo who were dressed in big skirts and beaded tops laced with necklaces and bracelets of beads. It was fun to see some of those chiefs perform with their incredible dancing steps to traditional music of Owo. Those were the days.

But these days, the ceremony is low keyed. Last year, I observed that the Olowo only danced around the market before retiring to his palace. There has also been a clash with the Moslem and Christian communities so much so that a couple of times recently, Christian churches have been attacked for drumming during the festival which was considered taboo.

It looks like we are gradually losing some of our age-old customs and traditions; it may not be long before our language also goes into extinction because the teaching of Yoruba Language has been shoved not just into the proverbial back seat but almost completely forgotten in school curriculum of Yoruba-speaking states. This is more so in private primary and secondary high schools which number in the thousands.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2014. 12:45 a.m. [GMT]

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