Home Hospitality & Tourism Lagos history: The Adamu Orisha play

Lagos history: The Adamu Orisha play

Lagos Adamu Orisha -Lagospost.ng
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The Eyo festival, popularly known as Adamu Orisha, is a staged play performed in Lagos. The play/festival is known to last all day and is presented as the final burial celebration of a Lagos king or chief. It can also be carried out in honour and remembrance of a deceased notable Lagosian, who has contributed greatly to the prosperity and development of Lagos throughout his or her lifetime.

The festival play which takes place in Lagos Island has a culminated sequence of activities that attracts thousands of people, both maskers, guests and even crowds on the street. It is known that on the day of this festival the highway on Lagos Island are blocked and inaccessible due to the restriction in movement.

The Eyo performers who get a lot of pleasure from their style of movement, dancing, and acrobatic performances, require a lot of physical power and mental alertness to execute their tricks.

The Eyo masquerade is known to hold an Opambata staff (made from palm branches), which he uses with unusual dexterity and agility, and on rare occasions, uses it to beat erring spectators.

The masquerade wears a distinctive ornamented headpiece known as Aga which is beautifully and expensively crafted. It also wears white shirting or white poplin, with the exception of ceremonial organizations such as the Eyo Omo’oloku or the Eyo Fancy.

Eyo also wears a transparent facemask made of lace or other transparent material, which serves to conceal the masker.

Legends have it that the Eyo represent the spirits on earth, and whenever one is seen they should be greeted with the phrase – AGOGORO EYO! MO YO FUN’E which translates to be: what a tall and imposing Eyo! I rejoice with you (for witnessing this day) and the expected response is MO YO FUN’RA MI which is translated as I rejoice with myself as well.

The Eyo masquerade talks with a ventriloquial voice, implying that he is not human and that he symbolizes the spirit of someone who has passed on.

The Yorubas, like the rest of humanity, have a strong belief in the reincarnation of their loved ones’ spirits and they think that the ghosts of their forefathers and mothers, or even peers are always around and ready to protect them.

In Lagos however, the various Eyo Groups are known to have varying catch-words, apart from the Orisha (fetish) groups such as the Adimu, the Alakete-pupa, the Oniko (raffia), the Ologede (banana), and the Agere (stilts).

Note that all other Eyo groups must belong to a ruling family or Chieftaincy Family house while others are not permitted to form Eyo groups outside any of these categories, as so doing is illegal.

Historically, however, it is believed that Iperu is the source of Eyo and there are five branches of Iga Eyo of Iperu Akesan. While the source of Eyo in Iperu is believed to be the Iga Eyo Pakerike and the other four are the Iga Eyo royal houses.

Each Eyo traditionally belongs to some Lagos families and the masquerades of the families alongside the Iga Eyo both have what they represent.

One of it is the Iga Pakerike which is symbolised by the red Eyo hat, the Iga Abgonmagbe which is identified by the blue Eyo hat alongside the Iga Eyo Odoru, Iga Eyo Amororo and Iga Fibigbuwa which are also not left out.

Another school of thought believes that the Eyo tradition was brought to Lagos to entertain an in-law but after then it became favoured by the royal houses and has been celebrated regularly since then.

Other historical records say that the Eyo play and masquerade did not originally belong to Lagos but was brought to Lagos by two unknown people from the lbefun and Ijebu communities in 1750. They however became so entertaining to them that they succeeded in adding it as part of funeral rites for the dead Oba especially during the reign of Oba Ado.

Oba Ado was believed to have married one of the cousins of these two persons known as Olugbani which enable it to be absorbed into the tradition.

Another recordist believed that the known deity Adamu Orisha originated from Ibefun only and that the masquerade came just to defend Adamu Orisha from the activity of criminals who might try to destroy or steal it.

Interestingly, those who believe this particular story say that the traditional staff of the Eyo masquerades also known as Opambata was created as part of its customs to protect it from foreign bodies.

In the same light, Chief Adekunle Alli, a well respectable native of Lagos who was also an authority in local custom and history into Lagos island believed that Orisha Ogunran and Orisha Elegbaopopo were originally brought to Lagos from Benin by Chief Oloroguagun Asagbemi and Chief Olorogunnigbesule during the reign of Oba Ado of Lagos over 350 years ago.

Chief Alli also argued that the first Adamu Orisha play to be recorded was the one held by King Dosummu for his late father King Akintoye on 20th February 1854, 6 months after the death of Oba Akintoye (His father) which then became a tradition for Obas in Lagos.

Previous Eyo festivals have had numerous Eyo Groups parade across Nnamdi Azikwe Street, which splits Lagos Island into two halves, at midday while other parties proceed to the grandstands at Idumota Square in Lagos where the magnificent statue of the Eyo is installed.

Today, however, the play retains the richness of the society it shows in its totality as it is known for its brilliance and illustriousness in Lagos even though because of the introduction of religion (Christianity and Islam) a lot of the traditions have been shoved aside.

Interestingly however the festival still stands as a great tourist attraction as it has moved from being a local traditional festival to an international tourist attraction which is anticipated by many. It is also known to still hold the culture of the Lagos people especially for those of the royal household in Lagos.

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