It was all pomp and pageantry, on Thursday, 12th September, 2013, as the Olowo of Owo, HRM Oba (Dr.) David Victor Folagbade Olateru-Olagbegi III, celebrated this year’s Igogo festival with the people of the ancient Owo kingdom.
The festival, a celebration of love, was first marked in Owo, around 1413 AD, and it is celebrated for 18 days, reaching its climax on the 17th day, when the Olowo dances round the town.
During the festival, the Olowo is plunged into a state of mourning and beating of drums is a taboo; instead of drums, metal gongs (agogo or Igogo in Owo dialect) are used in the place of drums, hence, the festival came to be known as, “Igogo Festival.”
According to High Chief Jamiu Afolabi Ekungba, the Ekun-Odogbara of Owo Kingdom, the Igogo festival started during the reign of Olowo Renrengenjen, and that, “Olowo Renrengenjen fell in love with a very beautiful and supernatural woman, called, Oronsen. Being an imposing lady, whose beauty was really adored, the king decided to add her to his harem of wives. Before accepting his offer, she revealed the three taboos, which the Oba must observe in order to keep her. First, a head-load of firewood was not to be thrown down in her presence; second, water was not to be splashed on the ground before her; and third, she should neither hear the sound of okro being grounded on a milling stone nor should same be done in her presence. However, out of jealousy, the other queens (Oloris) led by the senior Queen (Yeyesa), plotted evil, which had the taboos of Oronsen broken. Oronsen had no alternative but to leave the palace for an unknown destination. Because of the love the Olowo went in search of her with the help of the palace guards (Iloros and Ayoyos) and they met her in a place, called, Igbolaja, where she was almost entering the ground. But since it was forbidden for anyone to touch an Olowo’s wife, all they could do was to plead with her to return to the palace; but she refused. In return for her love, she demanded for an annual festival of love, if Owo kingdom was to have peace.”
Chief Ekungba added that the festival was an avenue for the Olowo to pray for the people of Owo and the people too praying for their king; and that for the past six hundred years, the people have been celebrating the festival consistently.
The Isamawo of Owo, Chief Adekunle Olowofela, also said that during the Igogo festival, men are allowed to dress as women as a sign of love and affection, adding that the festival had nothing to do with ritual, but all about showing love to one another.
According to him, items such as snails, kolanuts, hens and cows are used to pray for the peace and prosperity of Owo kingdom and the people.
This year’s edition of the festival was carnival-like, as usual, as people were dressed in various traditional attires to show love and warmness to one another; and most of the participants, especially the chiefs, came out with white attire signifying peace and purity, which the Owo people view as the essence of the all white attire.
The Olowo was dressed in a female net-like blouse, with plaited hair, as he moved and danced solemnly round the town in company of his chiefs, exchanging pleasantries and showing love to the people, before returning to the palace for further festivities.
The Igogo festival of Owo kingdom could be rightly referred to as the people’s traditional Valentine Day, as both celebrations entail the showing of love exchanging of gifts.
The playing of “Ayo Olopon,” a traditional game, was also not left out of the ceremony.