OLOJO FESTIVAL IN ILE-IFE, NIGERIA: THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

Photo Credit: Instagram|@olojofestival

Olojo is an ancient annual cultural festival celebrated in the City of Ile-Ife, Osun State, South-West, Nigeria. It is one of the biggest age-long cultural festivals in the African continent. The word "Olojo" literally means "Ojo ti Ojo di Ojo" which is translated as "The Day of The First Dawn" and it is, according to the Yoruba pantheon, a day specially blessed by Olodumare, the supreme being. It is an occasion dedicated to celebrating God's creation and human existence.

The festival is also a celebration of "Ogun'', god of iron, the first son of Oduduwa, progenitor of the Yoruba race. Ogun, according to historical account was highly instrumental in the creation assignment as well as the survival of man through his craftsmanship as a blacksmith, creating valuable hunting and farming tools needed by humanity.

The festival is a compendium of socio-cultural and traditional activities, rites and merry making spanning across a week. An Olojo festival is introduced in a colourful cultural celebration known as the "Gbajuree" Cultural Carnival after which the Ooni, the King of Ile-Ife and the Spiritual Head of the entire Yoruba people proceeds on a seven days seclusion of fasting and denial, communing with the ancestors and making atonement on behalf of humanity for peace, unity and prosperity in the land.

The seven days seclusion is believed to purify the King thereby enhancing the efficacy of his prayers and supplications to the Olodumare as well as the ancestors. Series of traditional rites including community cleansing are performed at strategic locations in the city while Ooni's seclusion lasts.

Central to the Olojo festival celebrations is the sacred and mysterious Aare Crown which, according to the Yoruba mythology was handed to Oduduwa by Olodumare while setting out on the creation mission to the earth. The Aare as worn by Oduduwa himself while on Earth in Ile-Ife is a symbol of Authority of the Ooni as the occupier of the ancestral throne. The Aare Crown is adorned and worn by the Ooni only once in a Year and that is during Olojo Festival.

At the expiration of the seven days seclusion, the Ooni emerges wearing the Aare Crown weighing about 50kg and leads a walking procession to Okemogun to offer sacrifices to Ogun, god of Iron and and other sacred spots in the city while he offers prays for the people.

Olojo Festival is significant not just for the people of Ile-Ife alone but essentially a festival that celebrates the beauty and unity of the Yoruba people in particular and the entire Black Race in general worldwide. Elaborate traditional singing, drumming and electrifying cultural displays are characteristics of the festival.

The introductory part of the ongoing 2021 edition of the Olojo festival has been epic especially with the colourful 'Gbajuree' Cultural Carnival earlier held over the weekend amidst other socio-cultural activities which preceded the Ooni's current seven days seclusion. The theme for this year's edition of the festival has been "A New Dawn" as the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II is set to once again welcome thousands of sons and daughters of the Oduduwa race home and abroad to the ancient city of Ile-Ife, the cradle and the source of human race in yet another grand celebration of culture, beauty, history and rich tradition of the Yoruba, the black race and humanity as a whole, comes 25th and 27th of September, 2021. 

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