Lagos cultural heritage, the Eyo festival

Eyo
Lagos Eyo masquerade

THE distinctive symbolic festival and the heart of traditionalism in Lagos, Adamu Orisa Play, otherwise known as Eyo masquerade trooped out to the streets of Lagos Island, popularly called Eko (hinterland of Lagos) on Saturday, May 20, 2017 to mark the 50th Anniversary of Lagos State. The state was established on May 27, 1967 and has commenced events marking the celebration of the Golden Jubilee since April 8, 2017. Mr. Habeeb Fasinro, Lagos @ 50 Planning Committee’s Co-chairman in a statement, confirmed that the Eyo festival will be celebrated on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS). However, this year’s festival will be the 68th in the history of Eyo.

Eyo masquerade, the most respectable festival of Lagosians would feature about 53 groups (Iga) in this year’s festival with five groups of the Orisas as the head of all. The Adimu, (Orisa baba Nla Mila); Okanlaba Ekun (Alakete pupa), the Olopa Eyo; Eyo Orisa Oniko (Abara yewu, egun onigemo); Eyo Orisa Ologede (Olugbani) and Eyo Orisa Angere (Agere Mo Lokun) respectively. The festival is used to mark memorable events and funeral ceremonies.

Lagos Eyo (1)Oftentimes, it is done in honour of the demise of an Oba, a Chief, or a notable Lagosian who has contributed immensely to the development of Lagos. Its popularity stretches beyond the shores of this country, it can be concluded that the Eyo masquerade itself represents Lagos. The unique feature of this event is its infrequent staging, the Eyo does not hold on an annual basis like the popular Lagos carnivals of Olowogbowo, Oko-Faji etc. There have been times in the past when for 21 years, the event did not hold, also there have been years when Eyo was staged, three, four and five times in a single year: 1903, 1906 and 1909 respectively.

Expectations of those who are yet to witness the Adamu Orisa Play might be limited to the already familiar masquerades with an attire of different colours and whips but the Eyo masquerade is by no means similar; the flowing white poplin (aropale), the decorated hat (Ape/Aga) which differentiates one Eyo group from the others and the Eyo staff (opa eyo) used to extend the blessings of the Adamu Orisa Play by touching an individual, is an inimitable feature and a beauty to behold.

Adamu Orisa originated from Benin. Eyo festival has had a lot of impact on tourism right from the time the Portuguese first set foot on Eko and christened it Lagos, the Island has attracted foreigners on account of its many advantages as a seaport.

Lagos Eyo (2)Vanguard learned that Eyo Orisa Oniko was next to Eyo Orisa Adimu in rank but that Oba Adele, during his reign asked for Okanlabato to assume the second position and it has been like that since then. It was also confirmed that Eyo Okanlaba has no Orisa but ‘Laba (symbolic Bag), which is the property of the reigning Oba. Meanwhile, Vanguard can now reveal that Okanlaba’s second position in the orisa group has remained like that and will be so forever. Meanwhile, each “Orisa of Eyo” has traditional functions which must perform as directed by the Supreme Head of all the Orisas, “Orisa Adimu”, including the Eyo Onilaba known as the Eyo Oba or Eyo Alakete Pupa. Laba is the “Police” of the Orisa Adimu administration. They are to ensure and maintain maximum discipline among the Eyo groups.

They must ensure that Eyo group keep to the rules and regulations of Adamu Orisa Play.

They take directives from Awe-Adimu and maintain regular contact with Awe Adimu throughout the preparation period and Adamu Orisa Play day.

“ORISA ONIKO” The outing of this deity during the midnight – early morning of Adamu Orisa Play day is to ensure that the devil and other evil spirits are driven away from the town. The Orisa must choose some of his followers, who are believed would be taking part in the Adamu Orisa Play, to lead “Opa Processions” for the announcement of Adamu Orisa Play day.

By Alade Aromashodu

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