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The Famous Eyo Festival

By: Quadri Mariam

The Eyo Festival, otherwise known as the Adamu Orisha Play, is a Yoruba festival unique to Lagos, Nigeria. In modern times, it is presented by the people of Lagos as a tourist event and due to its history, is traditionally performed on Lagos Island. The Eyo Festival is a Yoruba festival unique to Lagos, Nigeria and therefore celebrated on Lagos Island, the traditional homeland of Lagosians. Due to the impressive rituals and pageantry, it has grown through the years to become a tourist attraction. Back in the days, the Eyo festival is held to escort the soul of a departed Lagos King or Chief and to usher in a new king. Most times, 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.

The unique feature of this event is its infrequent staging, the Eyo does not hold on an annual basis like other popular Lagos carnivals such as the Olowogbowo, Oko-Faji etc. For a period of 21 years, the Eyo Festival did not hold.
However, the Festival could hold more than The years were 1903, 1906 and 1909 respectively. The Eyo festival is also held when a new Oba or the new head of an Iga (palace) is being installed, or on demand by a governor or influential indigene for a fee.

The Origin of the Eyo Festival

The word “Eyo” refers to the costumed dancers, also called masquerades that come out during the festival. The origin of this observance is found in the inner workings of the secret societies of Lagos.

Meanwhile, each “Orisa of Eyo” has traditional function which it must perform as directed by the Supreme Head of all the Orisas. Laba is the “Police” of the Orisa Adimu administration; they are to ensure and maintain maximum discipline among the Eyo groups. On Eyo Day, the main highway in the heart of the city (from the end of Carter Bridge to Tinubu Square) is closed to traffic, allowing for procession from Idumota to the Iga Idunganran palace. The festival then culminates at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), where the Eyo will be on parade. Features of the Eyo Festival The Eyo together with friends and family of the Iga (palace) parade from one end of Lagos Island to the other.

A full week before the festival (always on a Sunday), the ‘senior’ Eyo group (Adimu), goes public with a staff. This means the event will take place on the following Saturday.

The “Orisa Oniko” parades early in the morning on the day of the festival. This is believed to drive away evil spirits on the occasion Each of the four other ‘important’ groups (Laba (Red), Oniko (yellow), Ologede (Green) and Agere (Purple)) take their turns to parade in that order from Monday to Thursday. There Are Certain Prohibited Items and Activities during the Festival During the Eyo festival, certain practices are not permitted amongst people around the festival area. Some things to avoid include:

i. Smoking
ii. Wearing Sandals
iii. Riding motorcycles and bicycle
iv. Making the ‘Suku’ (Yoruba hairstyle).
V. Women are not to tie headties or wear shoes.

It is a taboo to wear the Eyo costume overnight or wear it to cross a lagoon or river. The Eyo festival is only held in Lagos. It is Eko’s creation, it has no parallel anywhere in Yoruba land.

Witness the Creme De La Creme Of The Yoruba Society The final parade in the square is a convergence point for dignitaries in the state and outside the state. Some prominent guests include; The Obas of different palaces, their decorated chiefs, the Lagos state Governor, the Elegushi of Ikatel Each Eyo comes out of an Iga (palace) of a ruling family in the morning and heads for the shrine (Agodo). Robed from head to toe in white flowing cloth. The white flowing costume consists of an ‘agbada’ (the top robe), and the ‘aropale’ (thebottom wrap around). No part of the person carrying the Eyo is expected to be seen.

The Eyo also wears an ‘Akete’ a hat that bears the colours and shield of the Iga from which he comes. An Eyo may tie ribbons in his Iga’s colours to the Opambata (palm branch) that he carries. An Iga’s Eyo may have up to
50 to 100 or more members. Each person carrying a robe as Eyo must pay a fee for the privilege. The fee is paid to the Iga – ruling house, whose colours and Akete the Eyo wears. The Adimu is identified by a black, broad- brimmed hat.

The Relevance and Significance of the Festival

The Eyo festival, organized under the auspices of the Yoruba tradition, as well as social organizations or clubs. An outlet to showcase the culture of the Isale Eko people. Organized for special occasions apart from the death of prominent chiefs, elders, or installation of a new Oba. Eyo Festival entertains at special state functions or occasions.

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