The origin of the Eyo Festival
The Eyo festival in Lagos, Nigeria, also known as the Adimu Orisa Play, has been staged since the cultural festival was inherited from Ibefun, a town in Ogun state. It is believed that the then Oba of Lagos, Oba Akinsemoyin, in search of a child for his younger sibling, sorted out the Eyo deity. His sibling Erelu gave birth to two children whose line determines the Oba of Lagos today.
The ritual was passed down to the Oba of Lagos. The first Eyo festival was held in the 19th century in Oke Ipa, today’s lagoon end of glover road in Ikoyi. The Eyo festival is held to escort the soul of a departed king to its ancestral home. In the process, it eases and purifies the road to let the departed soul pass. It is also held as an initiation ritual for a new Oba of Lagos.
This is part of a series of mystical events in Nigeria, well known for their fascinating nature and rich cultural heritage, which has lasted centuries despite modernization in Nigeria.
Where is the Eyo festival held?
From the Carter Bridge to Tinubu Square in Lagos, Nigeria, the main city streets are closed for the ceremony. The parade is made from the IGA (where the Eyo group resides) to the shrine of the Orisa Eyo. In modern celebration, the event usually ends at the Tafawa Balewa Square, where the main event occurs.
How the Eyo festival is celebrated
Before the festival is held, some conditions must be met, like the Ikaro (offerings and gift), and will be carried out in the sacred sanctuary of the Eyo Orisa called the Awe Adimu. Many of the processes are in secrecy according to tradition.
But after the Akinsiku of Lagos has approved the festival and a date is chosen. The five groups of the Eyo will meet and map out their plans for the play, which is usually done at their chief’s house.
The Opa is an essential part of the process in which it must appear a week before the Eyo Festival. Each of the Eyo groups goes to the family of the prominent person to inform them on how the festival will hold and eventually, the Lagos State Government will make an approval.
A day before the Eyo Festival, the men who are to take part in the ceremony meet at the Oba’s palace to give his final blessing. A vital rite is carried out by the Eyo laba group called the Agbodo Erection Rite. The group is the second-highest group of the five Eyo groups. Once the erection ritual is completed, the Eyo Admiu carries out an inspection.
On the festival day, the Eyo’s gather around the Gbedu and Koranga drums, starting the merriments of sounds and dance, and as they increase in number, so does the intensity. Then they all move to the oba palace at Iga Idunganran to pay homage before going into the streets of Lagos and to their final destination at the Tafawa Balewa Square.
After a long day, all the Eyo’s involved go back to the Para where they first departed, and the Orisa Adimu gives further instructions.
The Dress of an Eyo masquerade
The Eyo Masquerade is always entirely robbed in a white Flowng Agbada. The Eyo masquerade usually carries an Aropale (A long staff). They also have an Akete (A Hat), which will bear the colour of the IGA which he is from, And the person carrying the masquerade will usually pay a fee to the Iga as a privilege to carry the Eyo.
Taboo’s at the Eyo Festival
There are several Items, dress codes that are not allowed at the Eyo Festival, which includes:
Males and Females are not allowed to wear a cap or any form of headgear at the festival.
Wearing the Eyo costume overnight or crossing a river or lagoon.
Shoes or Sandals
The Suku hairstyle popular amongst women
Riding of Okada, motorcycle, Bicycles, taxis are not allowed.
Smoking of any substance
No one is allowed to take pictures of the Eyo Orisa.
The masquerades are known to beat people who use any of the prohibited items at sight with their staff.
When is the Next Eyo Festival
Though usually held on a Saturday to enable a lot of people to participate, the Eyo Festival does not have a specific date when it is held, and due to modernization in which prominent people are allowed to perform the ceremony on request, it can happen at any important event like the FESTAC 77