IFE is referred to as the cradle of human existence according to History, science, Biblical, empirical and Quranic discoveries on the different stories about creation. The ancient town of Ile-Ife is said to be the Source of Mankind and the only place where the OLOJO Festival (Day of Creation) is celebrated.
OLOJO day is asserted in relativity to the Beginning when God created the heaven and the earth. The world been dark and void with the Spirit of God hovering round the earth is said to be what God – Olodumare deposited in the land of expansion, Ile-Ife as our divine heritage. Ojo-ti-ojo-di-ojo (OLOJO) is the day mankind was established on earth in spirit form the very first time.
See also “The History of Osogbo“
EVENTS LEADING TO OLOJO DAY
There are series of events leading to the OLOJO Festival. It is about two weeks, starting with IDIJO – the determination of the sacred dates, done in the first week of August. Next is Osu Ogun, the month of the pathfinder deity, which is immediately followed by Gbajure, which signals the commencement of the Olojo festival. Two days after Gbajure, the Ooni also refer to as Oonirisa goes into seclusion for five days, to have physical and spiritual communal with his ancestors, esoteric beings and the Almighty God.
No one determines the date when the festival will hold during the months of September and October but the Ooni himself after hearing the unseen drums. It is communicated to him when he will enter into seclusion. The seclusion of Ooni is similar to seclusion observed by the Oba of Benin in celebration of Ague festival, going further to reflect the link between Ile-Ife and Benin Kingdom, for Oranmiyan was the son of Ogun and Oba of Benin. We are more connected than we think traditionally.
The Ooni comes out of spiritual solitude on a Friday, which is also referred to as Oke-Mogun Day. The Thursday before this is referred to as the Ilagun day when the Osogun, who is the priest in charge of Ogun rituals observe an overnight vigil with other traditional chiefs with the offering of sacrifices at the Oke-Mogun Shrine.
On the Friday that the Ooni will come out of seclusion, people are gathered at the Ooni’s palace from morning to pray for the Ooni to intercede to God on their behalf. The whole arena is filled with different groups of women dancing and singing.
Later in the evening around 4pm, the Osogun, accompanied by gunshots came to the palace with his entourage to pay obeisance to the chiefs and emeses’ that are in the courtyard, this is followed with the bringing in of the dog that will be slaughtered to Ogun for sacrifice. This is a yearly tradition. The Osogun heads to Oke-Mogun from the palace, where he makes preparation with prayers, sacrificed a chicken and other libations were done to Ogun.
Across the street seated were array of chiefs who awaits the appearance of the Osogun after libation to know whether Ogun accepted the sacrifice being made before the killing of the sacrificial dog is done. That is the final sacrifice that is heralded with gunshots, beating of drums and dancing.
Having covered the Olojo festival for three consecutive years, there are different arrangements yearly. Some things are improved upon while some things do not get the attention. The 2019 Olojo festival has a major difference, The Oonirisa of Ife, HRH Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, attended with his wife, Queen Naomi Ogunwusi. This is a huge difference from Last year’s festival.
The highlight of the Olojo festival is the wearing of the Ade Aare (Aare crown) by the Oonirisa. He walks from the palace to the Oke-mogun and then back to the front of the palace where he says prayers to everyone present and watching through the different mediums and channels possible.
Earlier on the main Olojo day, the activities kick off with different traditional group performance to the chiefs paying homage to the Ooni and the different representatives of the 401 deities of Ile-Ife. These activities go on till mid-afternoon when the Ooni goes in to perform the final rites for the wearing of the Aade Aare.
Before the Oonirisa wears the Ade Aare the Emese’s, palace aides, comes out bodily coated in half camwood and half white chalk with a bowl of sacrifice in their left hand and a cane in their right hand. They go back and forth seven times from the palace to Oke-Mogun paving the way for the Ooni’s appearance with the Aare crown.
It is said that the heavily beaded rainbow crown, Ade-Aare, worn by Oduduwa and all the 50 subsequent Ooni’s, weighs a minimum of 50kg and thus the reason the king do not wear it for long and it is only worn once a year for about three hours maximum. This is equivalent to carrying a bag of rice on one’s head.
Throngs of people followed the Ooni when he appears wearing the crown later in the day, the people started praying for what they want immediately they sighted the Aare crown. The prayer was lead by the Compere till the OOni returned from Oke-Mogun. He was held on both sides by two Emese’s for balance. Leading a procession of traditional chiefs and the people through a specific route, the Ooni heads for Oke-Mogun directly, where he performs a ritual dance for the Osogun. He concludes the final rites by performing a sword-crossing ritual, which represents an oath of comradely with the Osogun.
Afterwards the Osogun performed a ritual with chalk and camwood marking all the traditional chiefs that were present. This is the renewal of allegiance to the constituted authority represented by the Ooni.
The Ooni then walked back towards the palace via a different route to an elevating stage, which elevates him above the crowd where he prays for everybody while touching the Aare crown. Most of the people around said Amen. People were climbing different spots to get elevated and get a sight of the Ade Aare. Seas of head mostly clad in white mixed with other colours were all lined up. It was a sight to behold.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Funmi Ajala is a visual storyteller, who uses the medium of photography, video, and writing to document travel, culture, festivals, portraits, and everyday people. She is profound for her travel stories and pictures. She documents her stories and pictures at funmiajala.com. She can be reached at Fa@funmiajala.com