Sunday, 26 April 2009

Spectacular Eyo Festival in Lagos

Eyo Masquerade Parade at Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos
After all the travelling and non-stop deadlines, I was happy to relax and have fun at the much publicised Eyo Festival which took place in Lagos Island yesterday. I remember with nostalgia eyo festivals during my childhood. My cousins and I would all congregate for the weekend at my grandmother's house right in the heart of 'old' Lagos Itafaji. In those days the eyos paraded in the streets and moved freely within old lagos. We used to be terrified of them of course - and it seems i still am - as we never knew if it was a friendly eyo approaching you or not. Some eyos are know to tap you with their stick a little bit harder than you would like. On this occasion I watched it with my sisters and friends from the comfort and distance of seat.

Although it is said that the eyo festival dates back to ancient times, the earliest recorded performance is known to have been held in the 19th century. Also know as the Adamu Orisha Play, it is said to have been inherited from Ibefun, Ogun State where according to folklore the then Oba (King) of Lagos, Oba Akinsemoyin set out to appease the eyo diety so that his younger sister Erelu Kuti could bear a child. She is reported to have borne two children whose lineages to date determine the ascension to the throne of Lagos. Another story says that the orisha of the eyo was a gift to the oba of Lagos when he married an ijebu princess. Lagosians loved the display of paegantry, grace and beauty and quickly adopted the festival which has been modified since then. Apparently the early masquerades wore print ankara cloth but today that has been replaced by 3 piece white garment and a coloured cap identifying the eyo with a particular ruling family.

The eyo is usually called out in honour of an Oba who has died or an important personality in the community. Chief T.O.S Benson, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a former minister of information in the first republic and the Baba ba of Lagos who died last year was being honoured yesterday. The Lagos state government is also using the opportunity to launch the Eyo Festival as a yearly tourism event in fulfillment of their objective to attract visitors to the city.



Eyo Masquerade from the Etti family of Lagos.

As the eyo from the different ruling houses came out, drumming, dancing and performing acrobatics the teeming crowd welcomed them with songs, clapping and dance. It was one of the most spectacular and joyful sights I have witnessed in a longtime. There were murmurs of how beautiful, how fantastic the eyo looked from everyone. It seemed as if all of Lagos was there and we all sat, stood, clapped and sang proudly as we watched the unparalled display of our culture unfold before our eyes.

Since coming into power nearly two years ago, Governor Fashola has done Lagosians proud, he is slowly and steadily showing that it is possible to turn this chaotic urban conurbation into a functional megacity we can all be proud of. He is carrying the people along and already the people are saying instead of him going for a second term as governor he should just make that quantum leap and gun for presidency. By making Lagos a showcase for what is possible, there is no saying where that may lead but one thing is for sure, he is likely to have the vote of nearly 15million Lagosians. I look forward to next year's festival and hope all of you will join us. Eko o ni baje!


HRH, The Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu I arrives.

Eyo masquerade parade

Unprecedented crowds at the Eyo Festival

Eyo Masquerade

6 Comments:

Blogger The Bookaholic said...

Thank you for this...nice historical background into the world of Eyo

26 April 2009 at 12:04  
Blogger SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

I too ave fond memories of Eyo from my childhood and cannot wait to share the festival with my children. Reading your post put a huge smile on my face. Thanks. Oh, and thanks for sharing the historical info about the festival.

27 April 2009 at 11:37  
Blogger yabs said...

Loved the pictures of ETTI family!
So sad I missed it.
Well done for an in depth write up.

2 June 2009 at 09:57  
Blogger Snoop said...

Nice one, pls keep it up.

27 January 2010 at 08:23  
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