History, Arts and Culture in Nigeria: Eyo Festival in Lagos (Adimu Orisa Play)

Updated on March 25, 2018
artsofthetimes profile image

Being informed about customs and tradition is the only way future generations’ will ensure that our history does not become extinct...

The Origin of Eyo Festival

The Eyo festival in Lagos Nigeria, also known as the Adimu Orisa Play, has been staged since the days of old and probably dates back much further than most Lagosians can ever imagine.

Historians claim the cultural festival was inherited from Ibefun, a town in Ogun state, where according to folklore, the then Oba of Lagos, Oba Akinsemoyin, set out to assuage the Eyo deity so that his childless younger sibling, Erelu Kuti, can bear a child.

The Erelu did eventually bear two children whose line to date determines an Oba's ascension to the throne in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria.

Source

The Earliest Recorded Eyo Festival

According to historians, the earliest documented show dates back to the 19th century when the first festival was staged at Oke Ipa, today's lagoon end of Glover Road area in Ikoyi.

Oke Ipa was where the Obas (kings) of Lagos, their titled chiefs, elders and important dignitaries came to from their homes and palaces, sometimes a three day journey by foot, to watch the Eyo play.

It soon became a cultural display of splendour and though the purpose of staging the festival has been slightly modified over the centuries - culturally staged in memory of a departed Oba of Lagos or for the enthronement of a new one.

More recently, it is also staged in memory of eminent Lagosians who recently passed on, or to commemorate visits by State and foreign dignitaries with a parade that terminates at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos Island.

A
tafawa balewa square:
Tafawa Balewa Rd, Lagos, Nigeria

get directions

Significance of the Adimu Orisa Play to the People of Lagos

When a King (Oba of Lagos) dies, it is mandatory that a festival takes place, a farewell rite of sorts to a monarch who just passed on. In the case of families who desire a festival for the passing away of their family member who must be an eminent Lagosian, a request must first be put forward to the Akinsiku of Lagos, himself the head of the Eyos’.

The Akinsiku of Lagos will then specify what has to be done to meet the conditions. He requests for the Ikaro (offerings and gifts), and when the family meets this obligation, the Akinsiku collects the offerings and distributes them among the deity families of Lagos.

Though much of its details are still shrouded in secrecy as it is meant to be, according to traditional laws, a divination process must follow the distribution of the gifts and offerings. This rite is carried out at the sacred sanctuary of the Eyo Orisa called the Awe Adimu. This is where an appropriate and favourable date is chosen for the festival to hold.

When a date is chosen, each of the five Eyo groups (conclave) will meet individually to work out their plans and strategies. They must map out their plans on how to organize their numerous contingents and masquerades who will stage the Eyo play.

This is done through their chieftain houses. The whole process takes a while, but must be concluded a full week before the Eyo festival day.

The Opa, an Important Rite

The appearance of the Opa is an important rite to be observed and commences a week before Eyo festival day.

Each of the top five senior Eyo conclaves come out in their hierarchical order to visit eminent individuals, distinguished people and other organisational bodies, to inform them about the coming festival, why it will hold, and how important it is for it to hold.

Finally, the State Government is informed through an official visit to the Governor of Lagos State.

Each and every one of the five groups has to observe this process.

The Eve of Eyo Day

The night before festivities begin, custom demands the men taking part assemble at the reigning Oba's Palace for a great party and merrymaking. This is the night the Oba officially gives his blessings.

There is another important rite that's performed by the Eyo Laba group (one of the five conclaves) called the Agodo Erection Rite.

Eyo Laba conclave is the second in command of the 'Senior Five' Eyo conclaves.

Once the erection ritual is completed, the most senior of the conclaves, the Eyo Adimu carry out an inspection of the structure after the merriment has ended and everyone has left.

After their own inspection, the other groups carry out their own inspections one group after the other in hierarchical order.

There is also the observance of the 'Gbale' rites which symbolizes the 'sweeping away' of evil and the ushering in of prosperity, peace, and harmony.

Festival Day

By 5am on the day of the masquerade festival, the Eyos gather together to the sounds of the Gbedu and Koranga drums, two drums that are only beaten during an Eyo festival.

As their numbers begin to swell at the gathering point, all masquerades in their full costume and regalia begin to move towards the Para, a tent built with raffia mats, erected somewhere in the neighborhood of Enu Owa in Lagos Island.

Enu Owa is an important place on the island where the ceremonious crowning of any Oba takes place.

They all proceed to the Oba's Palace at Iga Idunganran to pay obeisance before moving out into the streets of Lagos Island through Idumota, Tinubu Square and other major and minor roads.

Source

They finally converge in their masses at Tafawa Balewa Square where thousands of people including the locals, dignitaries, tourists, etc. will be waiting to receive them, rejoice with them and join in the festivities

While festivities go on in a carnival-like atmosphere, the Eyo masquerades in their thousands, give a walk past procession that's a sight to behold. Singing, dancing and displaying weird acrobatic moves, the masquerades present an awesome display that's worth taking a trip to Lagos for.

Conclave by conclave, with thousands of Eyos' who include the elderly, and young are all clad in pristine white Agbadas', beautifully coloured wide brimmed hats, and their Opambatas' held firmly in their two hands.

They thrill and excite all, leaving a memorable impression in their minds of how history, culture, and the art is still as beautiful and relevant in the present as it was in the past, and will be for future generations yet to be born.

... And at the Close of Day

After a wonderful but probably tiring day for the average Eyo masquerade who had walked so many miles all through the day, the cultural ceremony winds down at sundown.

After the grand show the Eyo masquerades move back to the Para, where the opening of the traditional festival was declared at dawn, to tear it down.

The tearing down of the Para is instructed by the Orisa Adimu, and his Eyo masquerades.

The 'Voice' of The Eyo Masquerade

Because they are considered as spirits of the dead, the Eyo speaks in a strange manner when communicating verbally, which isn't very often. They speak in a ventriloquial voice that suggests that they are from the spirit world. .

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 artsofthetimes

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • artsofthetimes profile imageAUTHOR

        artsofthetimes 

        2 months ago

        David, of course, the Eyo festival is not the only culture in Lagos. However, this article IS about the festival and not about the "Egungun festival, Awoo Ode festival, Oko aje festival, the Oya festival, etc..." as you mentioned.

        Thanks for the visit.

      • profile image

        David OLUWA 

        2 months ago

        Is eyo the only culture in lagos?

        Was there no culture in lagos before 19century.

        Eyo is less significant in the history of the owners of Lagos(AWORIS)

        The Egungun festival,,Awoo Ode festival,Oko aje festival,The Oya festival, etc

        Search the website of Lagos State Art and Culture ,or History of lagos before obaship in lagos.

      • artsofthetimes profile imageAUTHOR

        artsofthetimes 

        3 months ago

        Thank you :)

      • profile image

        Ari 

        3 months ago

        Beautiful.

      • artsofthetimes profile imageAUTHOR

        artsofthetimes 

        6 months ago

        I’m glad you found it informative Lamistub. Thank you.

      • profile image

        Lamistub 

        6 months ago

        Thanks for this information. I've learnt alot about my favorite festival.

      • artsofthetimes profile imageAUTHOR

        artsofthetimes 

        8 months ago

        Hello @Curious

        The Eyo festival only holds when a prominent Lagos Chief passes on or in commemoration of one that has passed on years before. It also holds for a new Oba ascending the throne.

        As at now, there is no festival planned but that’s not to say one can’t hold this year.

      • profile image

        Curious 

        8 months ago

        When does this year's festival hold?

      • artsofthetimes profile imageAUTHOR

        artsofthetimes 

        8 months ago

        Glad it was of help, Opeyemi.

        Best wishes.

      • profile image

        Animashaun Opeyemi 

        8 months ago

        This is so nice. Thank you so much, I've learnt a lot about Eyo festival and it also also helped me in my research work.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)