Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Splendour, as Lagos throbs to Eyo Carnival
By Nnamdi Inyama and Seye Olumide
LONG before the day, Lagos and even beyond, had been abuzz about the Orisa play also known as Eyo Festival.
There had been comments that this year’s edition, organized in honour of the late Chief T. O. S. Benson, a prominent Lagosian and the nation’s first Minister of Information, would be special, and indeed, it was.
All roads on Saturday led to the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) in Central Lagos, which was the venue of a spectacular display of colour, dance, culture and tradition by various Eyo groups at an event during which the state, Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) declared that “the best of Lagos was yet to come.”
Those living in the Lagos Mainland and outskirts , at one point on Saturday, began to wonder where everybody else had gone to, why there were so few commercial transport vehicles on the road and why the ones available charged such high fares.
The answer was simple: many people from all nooks and crannies of the state were heading to TBS to watch Eyo masquerades perform in a music and dance drama special to Lagosians.
Every available seat, by 9.00a.m., had been taken up at the TBS main bowl by gaily-dressed Lagosians from all walks of life, who had come to witness the Orisa play.
There were diplomats, who for a while, dropped the starchy formalities of their official duties, captains of industry and commerce , foreign tourists, young men and women as well as children, who arrived in very large numbers in the uniquely designed double-decker tourist buses called Eko Oni Baje.
The event began proper after the coordinated march of the various groups belonging to prominent families in Lagos and the adherents of five deities.
An obviously delighted Governor Fashola, who spoke after the march, said the Eyo Festival celebration was aimed at creating a family day for a very rich and proud festival and rich heritage of Lagos as well as develop opportunities to place it in its rightful position as an event deserving of international recognition and acceptance.
This year’s Orisa play, he said, had promoted entrepreneurship through the various fabrics and hats that had been designed as well as the food and drinks provided.
Describing the event as ” twelve hours of funfair and a whole family day,” Fashola said it has also “shown the true colours of Lagos in terms of its dressing and culture as well as the fact that it is the ancestral home of festival and theatre.
Fashola added that the “Eyo masquerade is one of the richest and proudest statements of the colour, flamboyance and elegance of Lagos which must not die.”
The governor explained that the objective of the innovation of a central viewing place was to provide for larger audience and greater number of viewers within a relaxed, safe and entertaining atmosphere without distracting from the delicate intricacies of the craft or elegance of the culture.
According to the governor, ” in this way, families will get involved in what is usually a day of fun and splendor, and the children will connect with their heritage while the guests will understand the indigenes better”.
Reiterating his ultimate vision for the festival, Fashola declared: “With pride tempered with humility, I have come to appreciate the festival and the need for it to be uplifted for the benefit of the state and as an addition to the world map as an international tourist destination”.
He also said the uniqueness of the Eyo festival stems from the fact that it cannot be run by express calendar, saying: “Sometimes we have had five festivals in one year and there are times we have not had any in a number of years. But I think the most important thing is to let the people see what it portends”.
The governor said the Eyo festival was ” a festival of honour to celebrate great men, Lagosians, Obas of Lagos as part of their coronation rights and other Lagosians who have rendered sterling services and deserved to be honoured.”
He declared that he felt good about the occasion and that Tafawa Balewa Square has come to stay as venue for the carnival.
The Eyo festival featured processions of colourfully dressed Eyo groups in their distinctive hats, robes and wrapper with the staff called opabatam.
The groups danced and chanted various songs while greeting people by touching them with the tip of the staff.
Among the Eyo groups that featured in the processions were Asogbon, Suenu, Bashua, Erelu Kuti, Egbe, Shaasi, Asajon, Eletu Odibo, Aromire, Obanikoro, Oshodi- Bukku, Onisiwo, Bajulaiye, Oloto, Onilado, Akogun Olofin, Olorogun Adodo and Onimole
Others were Bajulu, Olumegbon, Eletu Iwashe, Akitoye, Arobadade, Ogunmade, Onikoyi, Jakande, Etti, Oshodi, Ajiwe Forisha, Onisiwo, Salawe, Faji, Kakawa, Sogunro, Taiwo Olowo and Bajulaiye while the five traditional Eyo deity groups are Eyo Agere, Eyo Ologede, Eyo Oniko, Eyo Alakete Pupa and Eyo Adamu Orisha.
Prominent among those present at the occasion were the Deputy Governor, Sarah Adebisi Sosan, wife of the governor , Mrs. Abimbola Fashola , former Ogun State governor, Olusegun Osoba, Speaker of State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, Ambassador Dehinde Fernandez, foreign diplomats and members of the State Executive Council as well as members of the State House of Assembly among others.
Fashola: Why we revived Eyo Festival
By Nseobong Okon-Ekong, 04.26.2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, yesterday described the ‘Adamu Orisa’ Festival, better known as Eyo festival as “one of the richest and proudest statements of colour, flamboyance and elegance of Lagos which must not die.”
Advancing the tourism potential of the Eyo festival, Fashola said his government appreciates the festival and the need for its upliftment for the benefit of the state and as an addition to the world map as an international tourist destination. He expressed fears that unless the festival is re-invigorated, the present generation would not understand its precepts and essence which may be lost in history and distortion.
Justifying the decision to stage the grand parade of the Eyo at the Tafawa Balewa Square instead of Idumota, he said the decision to relocate the festival was reached in consultation with the Oba of Lagos and some elders.
Fashola, who said the “best of Lagos is yet to come” was moved by the spectacle of the play. It was the second time in two weeks that the state made an impressive showing on the national culture and tourism centrestage. The Eyo play 2009 was in memory of the late Otunba Theophilus Owolabi Shobowale (TOS) Benson, an illustrious indigene of the state and Nigeria’s first Minister of Information who passed on last year. Otunba Benson was the ‘Baba Oba’ (Father of the King) of Lagos.
Penultimate weekend, Lagos’ tourism dream was kept alive when it hosted its first ever Beach Carnival at the Tarkwa Bay Beach.
The Eyo festival which was moved outside its traditional home on the streets of Lagos Island to an enclosed venue-the Tafawa Balewa Square-for the first time attracted the cream of Lagos state government officials, the Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos and his chiefs, foreign tourists and the teeming populace was supported by Glo, the telecommunications company, as main sponsor.
By doing this, according to the governor, the “intention was to provide larger viewership within a relaxed, safe and entertaining atmosphere without distracting from the delicate intricacies of the craft or elegance of the culture.”
Fashola said he, Oba Akiolu, noted in his message that each time the Eyo festival is staged, it usually ushers in good tidings. He said, “it is my prayer that this edition will bring peace and prosperity to Nigeria.
This particular edition has exposed the Adamu Orisa play to international stage in the mould of Rio Carnival and the Argungu Fishing Festival in Northern Nigeria. It is my hope that the next edition will be more glamorous and fun filled.”
Giving another reason for relocation of the festival to Tafawa Balewa Square, Oba Akiolu said it was intended to “reduce to the barest minimum, the illegal and criminal acts of some people which are not part of the Eyo tradition.”
The last Eyo festival, according to Chief Taoridi Ibikunle, the Akinshiku of Lagos and head of all Eyos, was staged six years ago, in August, 2003 in honour of the Late Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Fashola at Eyo Festival, pledges to uplift Lagos culture and tourism
By Andrew Iro Okungbowa
LAGOS Island, the commercial nerve centre of Lagos State, yesterday wore a colourful outlook, as it played host to the Eyo Festival, in celebration of an age-long cultural heritage of the people of Isale-Eko in Lagos Island.
The Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), venue of the cultural and communal fest, was all adorned in colours with people filing into the massive ground as early as 6am to witness the re-enactment of one of the richest and rarest cultural displays, which turned out to be a massive carnival of sort, with the whole of Lagos Island taken over by huge human and vehicular traffic.
At the festival was the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, who was also dressed like one of the Eyo Masquerades in an all-white outfit and spotted brown coloured lace tied round his shoulder but without the mask. He was ushered into the festival ground along with some of his commissioners and state functionaries who were also dressed in the same manner amidst shout of joy and excitement by the people.
In his goodwill message at the occasion, the governor took his audience down memory lane, saying: “I recall with nostalgic pride that as children, we looked forward to Eyo festival days when Asoje (incantations) were memorised and silently recited by Eyo Masquerades.” He described the festival as a showpiece of the richness and flamboyance of the state and something that must not be allowed to die.
“The Eyo Masquerade is one of the richest and proudest statements of the colour, flamboyance and elegance of Lagos, which must not die,” said the governor. He added that the desire by the state government to celebrate the festival at the TBS rather than Idumota, the traditional venue of the festival, was informed by the need to renew and bring back the colourful, entertaining and rich cultural heritage of the people.
Fashola said the intention of the state government is to uplift the festival to become a tourist attraction for the public to enjoy. “Our intention is to provide for larger viewership within a relaxed, safe and entertaining atmosphere without distancing from the delicate intricacies of the craft or elegance of the culture.”
For the governor, “this way, our families will get involved in what is usually a day for fun and splendour; our children will connect with their heritage and our guests will understand us better.”
He enjoined the people to embrace the culture of the country, stressing that culture is dynamic and that Eyo festival has already adapted itself to modern trend, which is something for everyone to take part in.
The festival is traditionally held in honour of a departed Oba of Lagos or the ascension to the throne of a new Oba and as well as in honour of a departed illustrious son of Lagos. This time, the festival was staged in honour of the late Chief Theophilus Owolabi Shobowale (TOS) Benson, who died last year.
In his remark at the festival, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Babatunde Aremu Akiolu 1, expressed the hope that the celebration of Adamu Orisa would bring peace and prosperity to the country. He also prayed for the people of the country and the leaders, just as he expressed the hope that the festival would rise to the position of a tourist event for the state and enjoy the status that tourism festivals such as Argungu Fishing and Osun-Osogbo enjoy in the country and the international community.
In attendance at the event were a number of the state government functionaries, chiefs from the state, family members of TOS Benson. Others include the former governor of the state, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the former deputy governor of the state, Senator Kofo Bucknor-Akerele, the former governor of Ogun State, Segun Osoba and Donald Duke of Cross River State.
For the people who thronged to the venue from all parts of the state and even from other states, with a couple of international visitors sighted at the ground, it was an occasion to celebrate and enjoy the feel of the festival as people followed the long procession of the Eyo masquerades, danced and sang in an atmosphere of conviviality.
The Fuji exponent, Wasiu Ayinde, Kwame I, who was the musical artist of the festival, added colour and entertainment to the festival with his rave performance. Another popular music icon, D’ Banj, also put up a scintillating appearance.
The festival also afforded vendors of different items to make brisk business while it lasted.
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Sunday, April 26, 2009
Large turnout at 2009 Eyo Festival
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Lagos witnessed a large turnout at the 2009 edition of Eyo Festival, the annual masquerade festival of the state, held yesterday at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) on Lagos Island.
At different bus stops, there were long queues of persons eagerly waiting for the free buses released by the state government to convey people to the TBS.
The roads leading to Lagos Island was free of traffic, due to the fact that commercial vehicles had been barred from plying the route on that day.
Sunday Sun reporters who monitored the festival saw beautifully-attired masquerade groups at the Tinubu Square moving in processions into the TBS. There were different groups, ranging from the very young ones to older Eyos.
Observers held their shoes and slippers in their hands, as wearing them is said to be offensive to the masquerades.
At the crowded square, the different masquerade groups danced, gyrated and regaled in processions, amid cheers from the crowd. Each group was distinctly marked by the colour of their wide-brimmed hats, as every one of them was dressed in white covering them to the feet. Each also carried a large stick, with which they flogged people wearing shoes or hats.
Mr Olasede, a carpenter from Iyana-Ipaja who came to witness the event, told Sunday Sun that the hats belonged to the different Eyo societies, which include Eyo Oniko, Orisha, Ologede, Bajulaye, among others.
One of the masquerades, who spoke to Sunday Sun, said they were happy with the Lagos State government and telecommunication giants, Globacom, for their support of the festival, stressing that the people’s confidence has been restored that this aspect of our cultural heritage will survive.
Adamu Orisa: Lagos festival play of history…
Written by Azu Akanwa
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Lagosians most respectable and symbolic festival, Adamu Orisa Play otherwise known as Eyo will troupe out the streets of Lagos Island, popularly called Eko in the hinterland of Lagos on April 25, 2009 to mark the final burial rites of late Chief Theophilus Owolabi Shobowale (TOS) Benson (SAN). This year’s festival will mark the 67th in the history of Eyo festival. About 53 groups (Iga) will participate in this year 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), Eyo Orisa Ologede and Eyo Orisa Angere respectively will lead in the festival.
Eyo Masquerades on display
Otunba Benson made forays into politics quite early in his lifetime and made quite an impact. In 1950, when the mayoral system of local government was in force in Lagos, he contested and won election to the Lagos Town Council and emerged the Deputy mayor under the banner of the defunct National Council of Nigerian Citizen (NCNC), while in 1951 he was elected representative of Lagos in the Western House of Assembly. He moved up the ladder in 1953 to become the leader of the opposition party in the House, when the late Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe, the leader of his party and his political mentor, returned to the East to become the premier of that region.
In 1959, he recorded another electoral victory which made him the representative of Lagos in the Federal Parliament. He became Nigeria’s first Federal Minister of Information, courtesy of the political accord between Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), the leading political party at the centre then and the NCNC, his party. Otunba Benson was one of the very few politicians of note in the south-west who was not part of what could arguably be described as the mainstream of Yoruba politics apart from his membership of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa during his student days in the United State of America.
The Supreme head of all Eyo, Adimu (Orisa Baba Nla Mila), has reiterated its uniqueness among other orisa groups of Eyo. Prince Iyanda Bashua, Bashua of Lagos gave this indication at the Awe Adimu in Lagos penultimate week. According to him, the Eyo festival, Adamu Orisa Play is the traditional play of Lagos that is staged for the commemoration of final burial obsequies of an Oba or a chief and sometimes in memory of a deceased person who had contributed to the progress and development of Lagos.
Bashua, who spoke on behalf of Chief Amao Ibikunle, the Akinsiku of Lagos, the Alaworo Eyo and other members of the Olorogun-Agan and Olorogun Igbesodi, said people do not have to recite aro Eyo to participate in Eyo. “In Awe Adimu, only children of Adamu Cult or somebody that is introduced by eminent personality in the society are registered for Eyo Adimu.”
He reiterated further that majority of Eyo of Adimu are eminent personalties in the society. We have doctors, lawyers and justices etc here. No miscreant here!” Bashua explained.
Eyo festival has made a lot of impact in tourism industry 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. It is also gathered from a number of sources at the Awe Adamu (meeting place of Adamu) that traders from Europe were attracted and were content to transact their businesses and get away before the Coast fever claimed them.
However, apart from the Brazilians and Sierra Leonians (freed slaves) who returned from the America, Lagos attracted other Africans and West Indians. Being a seaport, the Island is cosmopolitan and these groups found conditions so suitable to them that they decided to settle in every sense of the word.
This means that they threw their lot with the indigenes and kept only a token association with their original homes. Indeed, their children knew of no other place than Lagos as their home and it is only fair that having lived in the Island for more than seventy years they should have the right to be called Lagosians. These settlers have really proved their worth as part of the indigenous community and a picture of old Lagos is incomplete without their notable families.
Proof of their acceptance is that some of them have married native Lagosians.
However, at the Awe Adimu, (meeting place for Adamu elders) on, Tuesday, 14th April, 2009 for the staging of this year Adamu Orisa Play in the memory of late Chief Theophilus Owolabi Shobowale (TOS) Benson many dignitaries were present.
Vanguard Arts gathered at the Awe that the Eyo Orisa Oniko was formerly the next to Eyo Orisa Adimu in rank but the elders affirmed that Oba Adele during his reign asked for Okanlaba second position and it has been like that since then. Our source also confirmed that Eyo Okanlaba has no orisa but ’Laba (symbolic Bag), which is the property of reigning Oba. Meanwhile, Vanguard Arts, can now reveal that Okanlaba second position in the orisa groups has remained like that and will be so forever.
Adamu Orisa Play has its history dated back to 155 years ago and the procedure for staging it is that any person or family that can afford the expenses of staging it, or any family that wants “Eyo masquerade” in the name of their house must first consult the families of Olorogun Agan and Olorogun Igbesodi and appraise them of such a desire.
The two families will then direct the person or family to the reigning oba of Lagos. The family or the person will be led to the Awe Adimu with the Oba’s official staff and two white capped chiefs.
At the Awe Adimu the person or the family will be issued “Ikaro” to Awe Adimu (all the articles and cash for providing certain things for the obsequities) At this stage, no other family/families is/are allowed to be present at the presentation of ‘Ikaro’ to “Awe Adimu” by the family or person willing to stage Adamu Orisa Play, than the two families of Olorogun Agan and Igbesodi. No other orisa family or Eyo Iga family would also be present. Meanwhile, each “Orisa of Eyo” has traditional functions which it must perform and as directed by the Supreme Head of all the Orisas, the “Orisa Adimu”, including the Eyo Onilaba known as the Eyo Oba or Eyo Alakete Pupa. EYO ONILABA (EYO OBA): They function as the “Police” of the Orisa Adimu Administration. They also ensure and maintain maximum discipline among the Eyo groups.
They must ensure that Eyo groups keep to the rules and, regulations of Adamu Orisa Play or Eyo Play. They take directives from Awe-Adimu and maintain regular contact with Awe Adimu throughout the preparation period and Adamu Orisa Play Day.
Other major function of “Eyo Laba” is to construct “AGODO” an enclosure constructed with mats on the eve of Adamu Orisa Play along Enu-Owa Street. Now Iga Iduganran Street, to house the drummers, on the instruction of the Elders of Awe Adimu. They are among the Eyo groups to lead “Opa Processions” for the announcement of Adamu Orisa Play Day.
“ORISA ONIKO” The outing of this Orisa 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, whom is believed would be taking part in the Adamu Orisa Play, to lead “Opa Processions” for the announcement of Adamu Orisa Play Day.
“ORISA OLOGEDE” similarly, the above mentioned functions of “Orisa Oniko” must be performed within different time of the early morning of Adamu Orisa Play Day. The purposes of Orisa Ologede’s outing at this time is to ensure peace, tranquility and safety to the performance of the day. The followers of Orisa Ologede also lead “Opa Processions” for the announcement of Adamu Orisa Play Day.
© 2008 Vanguard Media Limited
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