The traditional and cultural export of the osogbo people in the western Nigerian, Osun Osogbo festival is in full gear. This year, the two week event holds from August 11 to Friday, August 21. In these two weeks, Osogbo natives and Osun enthusiasts will experience buzz of activities, carnivals, concerts, cultural dances, chants and the groove will come alive to embrace its yearly visitors.
The Osun Osogbo festival is said to have started as an annual sacrifice and celebration to a river goddess but has grown to be an international celebration of cultural events with attendees from all over the world with people attending from Cuba, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Spain, Canada, and the United States. Tourists and participants from South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda are also among the expected participants at the festival.
The Chief Festival Consultant Mr Ayo Olumoka has announced the line-up of activities. The two week programme commenced with the traditional cleansing of the town called ‘IWOPOPO on the 11th. Festival art exhibition and opening ceremony holds on August 12. The lightening of the historic 642-year-old lamp with 16 lighting points is on the 13th of August. This will be followed by ‘IBORIADE’ four days after, which is the assemblage of all the crowns of the past rulers for the blessings.
Other events include Sussane Wenger’s sacred colloquium which is slated for August 19. Osun children cultural fiesta and Ayo olopon contest (native ayo game contest) holds on August 20, while the grand finale of the festival will come up on August 21 at the Osun Grove.
The King of Osogbo, Ataoja, a traditional Priest and a virgin maiden Arugba from the royal clan leads the walk through sacred paths that terminates at the Osun Grove, where the Ataoja will sit on a stone stool to perform the animal rituals to appease the ancestors. The virgin maiden Arugba (Calabash carrier) is a key feature of the Osun Osogbo festival. She is a votary virgin (a cultural version of the Virgin Mary) who bears the Osun calabash on her head; the calabash contains sacrifice materials to appease and worship the Osun goddess or river. The Arugba is not only seen as a virgin maid any longer, she is regarded a goddess herself and people make prayers and cast all their problems on her as she bears the calabash and passes on to lead the people to the river. Osun enthusiasts offer sacrifices, in form of money, goods, kola nuts and birds, as well as vows to the river goddess at the river bank, while other various traditional groups , traditional chiefs, royal families, traditional devotees, market women forum, and cultural troupes pay homage to the Atoja of Osogbo, the paramount ruler of the town.
The cultural fiesta is organised by the state government, with the support of National Commission for Museum and Monument (NCMM) and many private sector bodies. The list of sponsors for this year’s event include: MTN Nigeria, Nigeria Breweries (Goldsberg) Seamans Royal, and Kasepreko .
The Osun Groove was enlisted officially as a World Heritage Site by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Durban, South Africa on July 15, 2005.