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What Is Eyo Festival All About? - Culture - Nairaland

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What Is Eyo Festival All About? by kemisuga(f): 10:57am On Apr 24, 2009
Is Eyo a Masquerade?
Is it occultic?
What are they celebrating
Who are to attend the festival?
Does anyone knows much about this eyo festival, pls tell me. Thanks.
Re: What Is Eyo Festival All About? by Greycells(m): 11:15am On Apr 24, 2009
The Eyo Festival
by Pelu Awofeso

What Samba is to Brazil the Eyo is to Lagos.

You may have journied to the former Nigerian capital of Lagos a hundred times over, but can’t have seen the Adamu Orisha play or Eyo (pronounced err-your) festival—the soul of the city’s traditional life—that many times. The truth is no one person has. In fact, from its original appearance in 1750, spectators have seen it a simple 80 times previously. And since it happens so infrequently, sometimes four or eight years apart, each occasion it does it is a must-see ‘exhibition’ for several thousands; and to observe one is enough to leave the culture tourist reminiscing for a lifetime.

One came along last August. Only this time around, it would be the paramount activity that marks the final rights of passage for the deceased immediate past king of Lagos, Oba Adeyinka Oyekan 2, who passed on early in March. “If this is not done the chosen successor can’t be crowned king,” says a member of the royal family inside the palace premises to. When it isn’t to royal ends, though, the honorary version is exclusively done for visiting VIPs (international or indigenous) to the city or any late individual who had improved the lot of Lagos while he lived.

News of this year’s go round and the citizens of Central Lagos prepare for another time of their lives. What Samba is to Brazil the Eyo is to Lagos; it is one of the very few popular local customs not yet effaced by religions introduced from outside the African continent. If that has not happened already then it may never do, as the participants are practicing Christians and Muslims. Besides, “It is so intrinsically synonymous with Lagos that it can never fade out.” Importantly, the natives take the festival and their faiths as one would two opposite pages of a book. One leads to the next, and no one book—life in this case—can be complete without both.

So when indigenous Lagosians speak of the Eyo tradition, they do so with affecting pride and relish. Everyone—from the most elderly to the five-year-olds—spend quality time preparing for the big day; and when the day does finally come a major milestone is achieved.

“This is about the only tradition we still cherish as natives,” a blue blood and deputy secretary to one of the core eyo groups, the Laba Ekun, tells me. “Our people believe that each time the festival holds the barren will conceive and a variety of private problems get solved.” Little wonder then that others resident overseas return to join in the festivities. And then spend: The obligatory appeasements alone may run into six-digit figures. “Though it is just a day’s programme, it costs so much in Naira and Kobo to be practically involved”

A full week before the festival (always a Sunday), the ‘senior’ eyo group, the Adimu (identified by a black broad-rimmed hat), goes public with a staff (“when this happens nothing on earth can stop the festival from taking place the coming Saturday”). Each of the four other ‘important’ ones—Laba (Red), Oniko (yellow), Ologede (Green), Agere (Purple)— in this very order takes their turns from Monday to Thursday without fail. This strictness with cadre and other old established rules before, during and after the celebration is what perhaps appeals the most about the eyo heritage.

That leaves Friday, the eve, free for tourists seeking the true thrill of the fanfare to come. On this night, the Iga Iduganran, the permanent residence of the Monarch as well as whole areas surrounding it, become an open-sky party: heavy-duty speakers boom with every kind of music—traditional (adults) and western (youths). Both sides of every street, by now chocked with expectant peoples, throb with tireless traders and meticulous merchandising. Beer, bread (toast), wooden fences and lots more compete for space with hordes of shuffling feet.

Fifty meters from the palace, workmen carry on with spirited renovation on a bungalow in brown colours; a few feet from them a young man adds a final touch of oil to the painting on the walls of Ojubo Yewa, a single-room memorial of sorts, within the all-important Onimole Court. The place must look good for the occasion. The painting is of a pair of drummers and five eyos. Rarely opened, this particular room is key to the entire festival, because come the little hours of Saturday, the superior five (note the constancy of the figure) of the eyo groups (starting with the Adimu), plus some ten more MUST come into the premises to pay homage. This particular rite is considered with committed adherence.

An experienced hand tells me “none of the eyos (they number several thousands individually) dare stroll the streets [on the set date] until after this ritual is done.” He has been involved with these ceremonies for more than half a Century. And what are the consequences, if it happens otherwise? Someone else described an incident that took place in a previous year. The Adimu traditionally ends the day’s procession with a symbolic performance: It dismantles at dusk a temporary construction called Agodo, inside which every eyo must come, dance and depart two times in the day. But this particular year the Laba Ekun (next in hierarchy) went ahead to do it! “There was chaos.” Not since has that been repeated.

Popular history has it that the eyo is not original to Lagos. Two persons who had come down from a locale called Ibefun (northern wards from Lagos) introduced it as interment rites for the king of the time Oba Ado, married to their cousin Olugbani. “Inhabitants of the time loved the spectacle of the first appearance and have modified it over time; and whereas the early ‘masquerades’ wore a print cloth called Ankara (local name), varieties of [three-piece] white garment are the vogue now.”

Meanwhile, aiming to make the most of it’s unique tourist product, the State governor Bola Tinubu has said his government “will review the festival’s cultural and commercial aspects,” and in due course tailor it to attract a lot more international tourists than witness this year’s edition.

Re: What Is Eyo Festival All About? by Greycells(m): 11:16am On Apr 24, 2009
EYO time in Lagos

By Pelu Awofeso

April 21, 2009 08:28AMT
print email

“Please, bear with the law,” the Secretary repeats the warning for the umpteenth time. He is reemphasising the point of the state government’s new, stricter rules for the conduct of this year’s Eyo Festival, billed for April 25. “Anyone who is caught going against these guidelines is headed straight for the Black Maria. I beg of you, keep this in mind. It is most important.”

The caution, needless to say, is very necessary. Much as the Eyo Festival is the soul of Lagos and attracts huge crowds, a larger part of the fun of previous outings had been spoiled by the misconduct and tendency for injurious behaviour on the part of a few.

Thus many Lagosians, women especially, who would love to attend the grand finale, stay away, preferring to watch highlights on television.

The Secretary, a hefty and mustachioed man in his fifties, is addressing a bi-weekly meeting in the backyard of the Onimole Court on Iga Iduganran Street, less than a minute’s walk from the palace of the Oba of Lagos.

He has hung the buba of his yellow-patterned lace on a hook nearby and is wearing only the trousers. Twenty odd individuals listen with concentrated interest as he reels out point after point of important information.

Of everyone seated here this evening, I am the only outsider of sorts. I am not a potential Eyo masquerader but a silent observer documenting a very important stage in the making of an Eyo masquerade.

The Onimole Court is a focal point of nearly all traditional functions in Central Lagos—including the coronation of a new king—and the Eyo festival itself.

Among other things, it houses a symbolic shrine (Ojubo Yewa), where a newly-crowned king must pay obeisance immediately after being enthroned at Enu Owa at the head of Iga Iduganran Street; it is also where the top five Eyos - Adimu, Laba, Oniko, Ologede, Angere - generally called the Eyo Oshas (deities), must stop over to dance in the early hours of the festival day as they proceed to the Oba’s palace.

Though not too large a compound, tourists who plant themselves here (as early as 6am) are sure to catch the energetic display that somehow signals the start of the festival.

Once the actual date for the festival is decided by the Eyo Adimu (the most senior of the lot) and made public, other activities tied to the event unfold in a predetermined pattern.

That singular act automatically sets off a series of actions that not only prepare the ground for the ultimate spectacle but also prepare the tens of thousands of indigenes who will take part in the festival.

To borrow a time-worn cliché: The Eyo is made, not born. Though the festival is indigenous to persons born in the Isale Eko area of Lagos, wearing that flowing white poplin (Aropale) and the decorated broad-rimmed hat (Aga) on D-day is by no means an automatic right.

Getting to that exalted state is preceded by a whole gamut of activities, nearly all of them strict regimes that are observed to the letter. Discipline is a major tenet of the Eyo festival and it is one every aspiring participant imbibes in the early stages of preparation.

In a sense the training sessions are similar in nature to that which cadets go through in the military. Bottom line: anyone wishing to be a part of the grand finale either ships in or ships out.

The Secretary whispers something to Dehinde Onimole, another senior member of the family and whose permission I have to sit in for this evening’s meeting. The meeting is taking place exactly 15 days to the festival proper, a point which the Secretary repeats over and over.

From the look of things, there is still much to be done. Members, old and new, are yet to perfect their lines (praise poetry and incantations); the skills required to tie the Aropale; brush up on how to wield the iconic staff and also choreograph the dance routines.

This is not helped by the fact that a meeting called for 4pm, starts 80 minutes late and with only ten people seated. It clearly leaves less time for these essential routines. Yet everyone must be prepared come April 25.

“This year is going to be different in every way—I won’t tolerate nonsense,” the Secretary threatens as he scans the gathering, which now has some 15 people present. He has identified some unfamiliar faces.

“Have you participated in Eyo before?” he questions one young man seated two spaces to my left. Response: negative.

“Oh, you haven’t and you sit there with confidence! Who did you come with?” His friend, next to him, raises a hand.

“You came with a guest and you don’t know you should inform us first?” There is an unsettling silence as the men search for words to defend their actions. “If you family members behave like this, how do you expect us to discipline outsiders who behave in this way?”

All intending members of any Eyo family must pay an enrolment fee (N500 in this case), before they are allowed to join in the weekly deliberations. The defaulters are remorseful and promptly apologise, promising in the same breath to come with the fee at the next meeting.

The Secretary has touched on this issue to drive home a point. He has chaired this type of meetings over the years, and it has dawned on him that he must prepare a younger generation to carry on with the tradition whenever the festival is around the corner. To leave a lapse like this unaddressed would only harm future preparations.

“We are going to leave sooner or later. Death can come today or tomorrow,” he says matter-of-factly. “We keep telling you. You should listen.”

A meeting of this nature is probably going on in at least a hundred other compounds in the neighbourhood, though days and timings may vary.

Eyo is a bit of a competitive ‘sport’, though outsiders hardly know this. Families (Iga) are forever plotting ways and means to secure an edge over other participating families, and this includes the outfit design, overall comportment and membership strength; and as has become a statute, whatever is discussed among families and within the respective compounds stays a secret that must not be shared with other families.

This time around the state government has introduced a prize that may well rev up the competitive spirit the more. “The government informed us at a meeting early today that the family that wins the parade (at the Tafawa Balewa Square) this year will be awarded the sum of one million naira.

The second prize is N750, 000, while the third prize is N500, 000,” Dehinde Onimole, clarifies when it is his turn to address the meeting.

“Who says our family cannot win that prize?”

‘Family’ in Eyo lingo is a generic term. It embraces the nuclear as well as the extended members, and any person or group of persons who though have no filial link to the family in question, chooses to join them for the purpose of the festival.

There are five of such individuals here tonight and that is a cause for concern for the family elders present. Being newcomers to the Onimole family, the first timers have no clue about the way and manner the family conducts its affairs in preparing for the fest. And with the state authorities issuing new rules of engagement (as a way to make this year’s outing a memorable tourist event) rascally behaviour from any family member will put an end to the family’s participation.

For the record, the Secretary vouches that the Onimole family has never been involved in any act of violence in the history of Eyo.

They wouldn’t want any blot on that record. Not now and clearly not in the future. “If you have any issue with any of your friends or girlfriends, don’t choose the festival day to pick on them or take revenge,” Secretary warns, “Hooliganism is the reason why the government has stepped in to participate on a large scale in organising this festival this time around. It has promised to deploy security personnel to keep the peace on that day.” For ease of identification, the government is introducing an identity tag to be tacked to every masquerade’s hat. Plus there is likely going to be no less than a hundred ‘Black Maria’ deployed across the procession routes to check violent incidents.

“There will also be refreshment points along the way,” Mr. Onimole adds, a revelation that the members receive with smiles. “But when you get to those places, don’t rush. There will be enough drinks to go round.”

Re: What Is Eyo Festival All About? by Greycells(m): 11:20am On Apr 24, 2009
Eyo is socio-cultural, religious and political at the same time.

Socio-cultural - the songs, dance steps, social stratification etc.

Religious - the Osugbo Fraternity are strongly involved in the decisoons and rituals surrounding the Eyo Festival.

Political - It is usually celebrated in honour of an illustrious son of the soil (this edition is in honour of TOS Benson).
Re: What Is Eyo Festival All About? by kemisuga(f): 12:46pm On Apr 24, 2009
@ G-reycells: thanks for your reply, but u mentioned Osugbon fraternity and rituals how does these relate to religion? shocked shocked shocked
Re: What Is Eyo Festival All About? by Nobody: 3:35pm On Apr 24, 2009


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