The Igogo festival is a Yoruba festival held in Owo, Nigeria. It lasts a total of 17 days featuring a number of ceremonies including the blessing and release of new yam. The Olowo dresses in Coral Bead beaded gown and plaited hair. It could be seen here that Owo has some traditional linkage with Benin.
The Olowo leads his people including the Chief Priest and the male youths from Iloro quarters to dance round the whole town. During this 17 days period of celebration, drumming is banned in Owo and metal gongs (Agogo) are used. This was where the name ‘igogo’ was birthed.
The Igogo festival holds annually in September, a display of the culture of the people with its aim as to align youths with the norm of the land. Wearing of headgears and caps, beating drums and firing of guns are not allowed during the festivals.
History of Igogo Festival
The Igogo festival began about 600 years ago during the reign of the late Olowo Rerengejen. The monarch married Oronsen, a beautiful and affluent queen who had, unknown to the king, supernatural powers. She enriched the monarch and she was loved by the monarch. Queen Oronsen insisted on certain taboos. She insisted that nobody should grind Okra in her presence or pour water into the yard. In addition, anyone arriving from the farm must not lump a load of firewood. King Rerengejen cautioned his other wives not to carry out any of these activities. One day, one of the wives got the husband drunk and made him to divulge the secret. After that day, he went out for a hunting expedition and the other wives conspired against Orosen and broke the taboos: they splashed water on the ground, threw firewood and mixed okra in her presence. The woman, sensing danger, and fled the palace and ran in a thick forest.
When King Rerengejen hen her husband, the monarch returned and was briefed about what had transpired in his absence, he was annoyed. He, however, made frantic effort to bring her back and therefore, instructed the palace guards known as the Iloros, ayoyos to trace her out.
While she was running out of the palace, some palace guards and chiefs ran after her to bring her back, an effort that was futile. She later felt tired and waited at a place called "Ugbo Laja" where she was persuaded to return to the palace. Her refusal frustrated the guards into forcefully capturing her but she disappeared into "Igbo Oluwa", now a sacred forest, leaving her head ties (oja) at "Ugbo Laja" which the guards returned to King Rerengejen. "Ugbo Laja" is now a sacred grove.
Queen Orosen's terra cotta sculptured image from "Igbo Oluwa" by Ekpo Eyo stands at a distance to inform the Owo people that nothing will bring her back to the palace but that annually they should always sacrifice two hundred items of different articles, such as dried fish, kolanut, Aligator pepper, bitter cola and many more for ritual (Igogo) and in return she promised to protect the Kingdom.
The Olowo of Owo steps out, shielded by his chiefs as he walks regally under a beautiful large umbrella to protect him from the scorching sun. He is dressed in his traditional ewu okun beads regalia, with a traditional sword called uda omalore. The monarch’s head is decorated with a beautiful feather called urere okin. His hands and ankles are wrapped with special coral beads specially meant for his status as a king with a golden ring on his finger shone as he danced toward the King’s market (Oja Oba).
The palace praise singers sing at top of their voices saluting him in royal way saying ‘Oologho, Baba O,!!!, Wa a rehin odi (Our monarch, may you conquer your enemies) and others respond ‘Aaaaase’. Men and women, friends, supporters, well-wishers, chiefs and all accompanied by the monarch’s family members also don white apparels and clang on their iron gongs, singing songs of love and joy.
The monarch renders a soul searching traditional songs in Owo dialect singing. After the singing and dancing, he prays for the progress of the town.