The 2012 edition of the annual Owu Abeokuta ‘oktoberfest’ has been…and gone.
Accompanied with the now characteristic pomp and pageantry, this years’ event also featured its own unique attributes – For instance, the ‘Isan (pronounced; e-shan) Dance’ which had withered into obscurity and stayed dormant over the past 42 years was resuscitated, and contested strongly with the ‘Igesu’ (Yam Cutting) ceremony for the highlight slot of the whole fiesta!
As explained on page 23 of the Festival Brochure, the Isan Dance was devised primarily to mark the longevity of the reign of the Monarch, as he is presented with one Isan (whip) at every Odun Omo Olowu festival, which he is expected to keep in a safe corner of the palace and serves to enumerate the number of years of his reign. It was a form of ‘abacus’ basic counting device and calendar for logging the King’s reign.
When a dancing youth presented the Isan to the Olowu who was attired in a pastel blue shaggy costume and a tall white domed crown frilled with hanging face beads, he rose in all his majesty from his throne, defied the heavy downpour of rain and danced like a pro with all royal dignity to centre stage where the whip was received from him for storage. Little wonder that the last known Olowu to perform the Isan Dance, Oba Salami Ajibola abandoned the ritual some 2 years to the end of his reign when he became too feeble to perform the demanding royal dance with the Isan whip!
The 2012 Odun-Omo-Olowu festival had started under the characteristic canopy of blazing sunshine when suddenly during the Isan Dance, the heavens broke, and showers, nay, torrential downpours of torrents of blessings cascaded down from the firmament in the semblance of rain! Believe me, if anything at all was disrupted by the altered mood of the weather, it was for the better…because the roaming wanderers, sellers and beggars who were obscuring visibility in the centre piazza rapidly scampered for shelter and enabled a clear visibility for the dramas staging on stage!
As events proceeded under the downpour, the ‘Igesu’ rituals were staged when the Olowu had to dance to centre stage to perform the cutting of the new yam flanked by brilliantly attired cultural dancers. Here too, complicated dance steps were witnessed from the chief Arugba, who despite her heavy stock build and girth performed some near impossible complicated foot movements as she danced with her offerings of yam to the throne of the monarch in order to invite His Royal Majesty to come and cut the new yam.
At the inception of the ceremony, a dramatic, choreographed entry of the major chiefs of Owu viz, the Olowu accompanied by his Coronet Obas, Owu Baloguns, Cabinet members, the Olori and Iyalode and Ologun Chiefs had taken place, each group making their entries through the gateways of the well crafted Royal Hut staged at the entrance to the event Piazza. Particularly entertaining here was the dancing of the Monarch and later his Baloguns in front of the huge Royal ‘gbedu’ drums.
Cultural displays and variety shows of sorts were interspaced with the whole event from beginning to the end, much to the delight of the large and diversified crowd recorded this year, much to the credit of the Planning Committee who had gone that extra mile to tour the rural areas during the formative stages of their planning to mobilize the rural Obas, Baales, local chieftains and citizens. That grassroots endeavor which was the hallmark of this year’s presentation is also depicted in the make-up of the event brochure which is available on owulakoda.com for full and free download. Calendar Almanacs commemorating the festival and souvenir carrying bags were also freely distributed at the event.
As a footnote, perhaps the main recognizable disruption of the rain was to corrupt the major photo files of the digital camera we used in recording the events…so we shall have to rely on 3rd party sources to illustrate the festival in due course.