Òkè Ìbàdàn

24 Mar

I apologize for the lack of entries. I attribute my decrease in correspondence to a combination of culture shock, heat, preoccupation with school work, and a slight loss of inspiration. For quite awhile after I arrived in Nigeria I was constantly mesmerized by new and shocking things I saw. Now hardly anything surprises me. I do, however find my self thinking, “wow the western world is so boring,” from time to time. There is never a dull moment in Nigeria that’s for sure. Although things rarely go as planned and are almost never on time, it is definitely always an adventure.

A good example of this is the first traditional cultural festival I have attended in Nigeria, the Òkè Ìbàdàn festival which occurred last week Wednesday. The origins of the festival go back to the 1800s during the Yoruba civil wars after the fall of the great Old Oyo Empire. One particularly noteworthy war took place between the towns of Ibadan and Ijaye from 1860-1865. During the war, when enemies would begin to charge the city of Ibadan, all of the people of the town would run up the highest hill in the town (the center of Ibadan is quite topographic) to take cover. Due to the fact that this was typically done in an emergency situation, there was no adequate time to prepare food for the stay. Sometimes the stay on top of the hill (in Yoruba òkè) lasted for over a week. Mangoes, oranges, and whatever else could be found in season on the trees at the top of the hill was what the entire town was forced to survive on. When the danger was gone and the citizens finally returned to their homes, they had a big feast to replenish themselves and celebrate. Men and women also began to copulate as they were unable to do so in the crowd of people for such a long time. Often times, due to lack of nutrition, their bodies didn’t respond properly so people went to visit babalawo’s (traditional herbalists/priests) to fix their problem. For this reason, the Òkè Ìbàdàn festival is characterized by heavy eating, drinking, fàájì (enjoyment), and singing songs about ojú ara (private parts). It is celebrated once a year in Beere, a neighborhood on top of a hill in the center of Ibadan-one of the oldest parts of the city.

I had heard a lot about the history of the festival before I arrived. For some reason I was expecting showy dances and musical performances. When I arrived around 4pm, I was instantly swarmed by a crowd of 10 people yanking and tugging at me asking for money. Some of them were desperately trying to please me by doing everything from playing bata drums to fanning me with a piece of paper the size of a post-it note. I gave two bata drummers who I was previously acquainted with 200 naira each and as soon as I dug the first bill out of my pocket an old lady screaming behind me grabbed it and it started to rip. I pushed her back and made sure it got to the person I wanted. After five minutes, it was evident that the chaos would not let up as long as I was there. Musibau, my bata teacher took me by the hand and led me down the hill into the “agbolé” (compound, a seemingly endless network of one story simple and ancient cement buildings tightly packed onto of a red-brown dirt on the hillside with the occasional water well in between). We sat under an awning of someone’s house he knew and within five minutes the entire crowd had found us and was screaming, those who got money were demeaning more and those who didn’t get any were demeaning something. Speaking Yoruba to them was mildly amusing and got some of them to go away. The stubborn ones didn’t respond to Musibau’s initial requests that eventually turned into insults. After a few more minutes, we started to hear a lot of commotion from the hilltop-a mere 25 yards away. People came running down claiming there were gunshots on the hill. A group of politicians was driving around campaigning in the typical style of a motorcade of old vans driving recklessly, blasting music through a crappy speaker system turned up way too loud powered by a generator, and hanging out of the vans with machetes, guns, and in this case brooms. We didn’t hear any gunshots but decided to leave just in case. We descended further into the agbolé until we reached the bottom of the hill and took cover in a dive bar for a while.

We returned around 7pm once it had gotten dark out and less people would quickly notice me. Things were a lot more tame. The festival itself looked like any other Nigerian outdoor party whether it be a wedding, funeral, or birthday party. The standard issue event tent, plastic chairs, plastic tables, rice and amala, and a highlife band filled the streets of Beere. We took a seat, ate and enjoyed the company of àwon elésin ìbíle (those who practice traditional religion). The traditional worshippers sat at tables and were grouped by which orísa (deity) they worship. Perhaps one of the most noteworthy observations I had was all of the women who were worshipping the deity Yemoja had goatee beards thicker than mine. Musibau took me around to greet everyone he knew and we also played bata drums for everyone. All and all I had a good time but it wasn’t quite the learning experience I expected it to be. I am going to Osogbo this weekend for another festival so maybe that will turn out to be more exciting.

Unfortunately, due to the chaos, I didn’t take my camera out before it got dark out and I only managed to take one picture:

various fàájì provisions old market women were selling all over the place


11 Responses to “Òkè Ìbàdàn”

  1. Karen Born March 25, 2011 at 12:27 AM #

    Wow, I think you are right, the western world does seem boring in comparison! Reading about the festival, and the reasons behind it all is very interesting! Clearly, you are still a magnet for many things there! Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Dith March 25, 2011 at 4:51 AM #

    LOL WOW! What an um um interesting scary story.
    You are quite brave you know?
    I’m Nigerian and there are some places I would never ever even as much as attempt to step foot in.

    And yes I agree!! the western world is indeed boring.
    LA is my other home and whenever I come back here from Nigeria, I get depressed.

    Never a dull moment in that country I tell u! There is always something going on, and plenty of stories to tell…good bad and downright ugly. lol

    Hope the other festival goes as planned.

    Glad you are blogging again 🙂

  3. Toni March 25, 2011 at 4:30 PM #

    Yayyy! you blogged.. Women hv goatee beards…wth

  4. Fisayo March 27, 2011 at 11:53 PM #

    Kevin Kayode…it really has been quite a while. Hope u’re getting back into the groove of things, though. If it’s the Osun festival u plan to attend in Osogbo – well that is quite an event…do take care.

  5. Lola March 30, 2011 at 3:08 PM #

    Hi Kayode/Kevin,
    I found your blog through Titilayo’s. I’ve enjoyed reading your experiences in Nigeria. It’s nice to see Nigeria through your eyes. Keep up the writing you have about 2 months to go.

  6. Patricia March 31, 2011 at 11:04 PM #

    How is that possible? Yoruba women with goatees! It has to be magical cos I have never seen that.

  7. bolanle April 1, 2011 at 10:21 AM #

    Been awhile, the ibaban-ijaye war made a great impact on my family,
    My ancestor was born at that period and was given the name OTETUBI, meaning strive ahs scattered the family
    Cos at that time the family was scattered round ijaye, ibadan(molete) and eko(now lagos)
    But now we just go by the surname Tubi.
    Hope u enjoy d oshogbo festival.
    Please keep writing.

  8. Layo April 3, 2011 at 5:45 AM #

    Just read your entire blog tonight. You have an amazing way of describing places, people and events. I particularly love your description of how Yoruba people dance, LOL. Looking forward to more of your writing 🙂

  9. Tinuola April 9, 2011 at 9:10 AM #

    Brave man! I tell u! real brave!

  10. omonaija April 11, 2011 at 9:39 PM #

    I stake out waiting to read latest news on your blog, it’s been kind of disappointing to not see much action here. I’m always on the look out for new posts Kev!

    Omoge Yoruba!

  11. Rolake Balogun May 5, 2011 at 5:23 AM #

    :Titter:…..:titter again:….:Titter one more time:…lmao you are hilarious..i havent seen an angrier post…lmao

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