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Awon Mass Wedding Festival, Shao, Kwara State, Nigeria (by Bosun Abdulkareem) - Culture - Nairaland

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Awon Mass Wedding Festival, Shao, Kwara State, Nigeria (by Bosun Abdulkareem) by Taoking: 3:34pm On Nov 25, 2018
On Thursday 1st of November, 2018, I left Ile-Ife with a team of tourists (AYGrace and MDK) my friends and colleagues to the strange land (now a home away from home) Shao, Kwara State on the mission "Collect data & administer Questionnaires" to garner knowledge about the Annual Awon mass wedding festival that holds in Shao town.
Myself and the team entered a bus from Ile-Ife, Osun state to Osogbo, the Osun state capital where it is said to be easier to board Ilorin-bound buses. As said, we got an Ilorin-bound bus in Osogbo and our journey to the strange land started, and 3 hours later, we were in Ilorin, Kwara State capital (you wouldn’t wish to know what had happened during transit ranging from the uncomfortable sitting arrangement, the bus driver’s trails, bus developing faults, to the issues of the Nigerian Police and the Road Safety corps).
We alighted at the last bus-stop in Ilorin and boarded motor bikes “Okada” to Gambari, where we boarded another tricycle “Keke NAPEP” into the heart of Shao. The journey from the capital city of Ilorin to Shao took us about an hour. It was a tiring journey but thanks to the Keke rider, Istijabah who was very accommodating and friendly. There in the Keke, we met our friendly, fine angel Ayomide, a student of Bartholomew College of Health Technology, Shao. We exchanged pleasantries, engaged ourselves in conversation with Ayomide and Istijabah for our mission kept tingling in our minds “Collect data and Administer Questionnaires”. We asked for the best hotel in the town and they both echoed JOOA. We made a grand entry into JOOA Hotel in company of Istijabah and Ayomide with our Keke. Istijabah the keke driver zoomed off and Ayomide led us into the reception and we checked in with MDK in one room, AYGrace and I in the other. We dropped our bags and trekked back into the core of Shao. It was late in the night already, we thought of meeting with the Ohoro of Shao and we asked if we’d be allowed to meet with the King but we were advised to do so the following morning.
During our movement into the core of Shao, I noticed something fantastic about the denizens of Shao, unlike other Yoruba towns I’ve ever been to, there was almost no outlet where one could eat out at night. Our intention when leaving the hotel was “let’s move out and check out some Amala joint” but alas we found none except for the “Me-Tea” and the “Me-Suyas”, meaning that Shao people gives value to family, they dine and jolly together at night. There, Ayomide went her way and we continued our hike through Shao. We settled in a “Suya joint”, interacted with the Mallam, bought some Suya and loaves of bread in the neighbourhood. It was getting darker and we decided to move back to the hotel. On getting to the hotel, we decided to check out the bar where we had drinks accompanied by the Suya we had bought earlier. After our little get-together in the bar, we headed back to our rooms. On getting to the room, we turned on the Tv and African Magic was showing a movie and we decided to watch, but the movie ended up watching me.
The morning of the Festival, AyGrace and I got up early for an early morning walk, we decided to explore the other side of the town where we had been hearing the sounds of long vehicles. A few minutes from the hotel, we got to the express road leading to Jeba, Niger State. We went back to the hotel where MDk had been waiting for us to fall out for the day’s mission. We had our bath and prepared for the day’s activities. We boarded a Keke from JOOA as its usually called by denizens to the King’s Palace (Ohoro of Shao). We were welcomed by the King and Queen, we introduced ourselves and oriented the King about our mission in Shao. He was very welcoming and answered our questions as much as they were extensively. The Ohoro joked about having MDK stay with him in the palace and the Queen jokingly replied “kosi problem”.
We left the palace for the Alawon’s compound few metres away from the Ohoro’s palace. The Alawon’s house was filled with members of the Alawon’s compound amidst drumming and dancing. We met with the Alawon and he guided us through the history of the festival. We conducted interviews and administered questionnaires to people present at the Alawon’s house. We left Alawon’s compound for the venue of the celebration at the large school field of Adventist Secondary School, Shao. There we met various groups of people representing various works of life. Students of the Kwara State University who were also on research assignment flooded the venue of the event. Our mission kept us going too.
It was on a Friday, I left the venue of the event for the Shao Central Mosque to observe the Jumat prayer and resumed back to the celebration ground. (On my way to the mosque, I got to know that the sun in Shao is hotter than the sun in Ile-Ife, as I could not see a bike to transport me to the mosque on time).
The twenty-five brides (Omidan) who were getting married appeared at the venue of the event fully dressed in Yoruba attire, Aso-Oke each holding an umbrella, singing and dancing. They were led by the coordinator (an older woman who happened to have wedded through the same process decades ago). They danced round the event ground and was finally led to their seats. The Ohoro, Queen, Chiefs, Guests, tourists and government officials from all over Nigeria trooped in for the grand festival. The brides in turn recited the “Ekun Iyawo” and gifts were presented to each of the brides. The tradition states that the husbands do not attend the grand finale because the husbands along with their family member would have stayed up all night in merriment and some other activities. After the marriage process, the Fuji musician took the stage and it was fun through to the end. Mission accomplished, I thought to myself. We left for Ile-Ife very late in the evening and we journeyed through night.

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Re: Awon Mass Wedding Festival, Shao, Kwara State, Nigeria (by Bosun Abdulkareem) by Phosphorus666(m): 5:23pm On Jun 03, 2020
Hi. I love your piece. I have a question, however. I learnt that a group of hunters do perform in the day of the festival in consonance with the history of the festival. You did not observe this in your piece. Is it that you forgot to note that or it is no longer observed?

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