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The Eyo Festival In Nigeria: History, Importance And Dates

eyo festival
Eyo Masquerades

A festival is a day or period of the year when people put their various businesses on hold to celebrate a special event which is often a religious or traditional event. In Nigeria, these events include Christmas, the Eyo festival, one Lagos fiesta, and other celebrations.

Everybody is always excited on such a day, although there are bound to be plenty of hawkers and food sellers. Most shops in Lagos state usually close very early because it’s the ADAMU-ORISA (Eyo) Festival.

This is perhaps the most famous festival in Lagos state as it was first staged in 1854 in the honor of the late Oba Akintoye of Lagos.

The Eyo

The complete regalia of the Eyo includes a white flowing gown that covers the hands and feet (AGA), a headgear, and a staff which is called “OPANBATA“.

The OPANBATA is considered the staff of the office of the EYOs and it is made from palm fronds and a stick which is decorated with an artistic inscription to give it uniqueness and more beauty.

The stick which is carried by the Eyo masquerade is used by these masqueraders to greet each other and the elders. They also use these sticks to beat offenders of the law and also to harass friends.

The nature, color, and costumes of the AGA usually vary from one masquerade to another because of the different groups to which they belong.

These groups are ADIMU, ONIKO, OKOLABA, OLOGEDE, and AGARA groups. The royal Eyos include OLOREGUN, AROMIRE, OLOTO, BAJULAYE, AKINTOYE, ELETU-ODIBO ETI, and OSHODI among others.

Masquerades from different Eyo groups are usually identified using their AGA (Gowns).

Before the main festival, there is a week-long OPANBATA show. During this show, there are cultural displays of Eyo groups and a ritual performance by the chief priest who is called the ELETU-ODIBO to mark the beginning of the Eyo festival.

The major music which is used during the Eyo festival is the KOROGUN and this music is played with the use of IYA-LU, two OMELE drums, IHONKOLO, and the gong.

Drummers and people playing other instruments accompany the Eyo masqueraders as they move around the streets of Lagos during the Eyo festival.

The Eyo festival involves merrymaking, feasting, and dancing which is enjoyed by the people of Lagos state.

Rules And Prohibited Items During The Eyo Festival

Although the Eyo festival is a famous Yoruba festival that involves feasting and merrymaking, there are some basic rules and regulations that anyone who wants to participate in the festival has to obey in order to avoid problems with the Eyo masqueraders. These rules and prohibited items include:

  1. On sighting the Eyo masquerade, you must remove your shoes and head-ties/caps (if any)
  2. If you’re with an umbrella, you must keep it folded
  3. Bikes and/or bicycles must be unmounted by riders on sighting the Eyo masquerade
  4. Cigarettes and/or smoking pipes must not be on display or used by anyone during the Eyo festival
  5. You must not wear Sandals, or plait the Suku(a Yoruba hairstyle) on the day of the Eyo festival.

The Eyo masquerades are known to beat people who use any of the prohibited items or break any of the rules and regulations with their staff when seen.

Eyo Festival Dates

This festival has been celebrated on the following dates in Lagos, Nigeria:

  • November 26, 2011 – It was celebrated to remember Prince Yesufu Abiodun Oniru, a nobleman in Lagos state.
  • May 20, 2017 – It was celebrated to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Lagos state. This event was tagged Lagos@50.

Importance Of The Eyo Festival In Lagos

The cultural significance of the Eyo festival is its usage in the funeral of a king(Obas) or chiefs. It is also a necessity for crowning a new king or giving out a high-level chieftaincy title in Lagos state.

As a mark of duty, a newly crowned Oba in Lagos performs some rituals during the Eyo festival to appease his dead predecessors for the success of his own reign/tenure as King.

After the Eyo festival, it is the belief of the people of Lagos that this festival has taken away death, sickness, lack, and suffering and has brought wealth, good life, prosperity, and other good desires of Lagosians.

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Editorial Team

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