Sunday, August 30, 2015

Devotees, tourists celebrate yet another Osun festival

By Jimoh Babatunde

THE frenzy of activity in the ancient town of Osogbo last week Friday was indescribable as devotees of Osun as well as lovers of culture trooped out for yet another celebration of goddess of Osun river. The celebration of the Osun festival dates back to the 13th century and has grown to become the most famous of all traditional festivals in the South-Western part of the country.

Recognisedfestival One can not but agree with Otunba Gani Adams who said Osun Osogbo is the most recognised festival in the history of Nigeria. “Osun Festival has proved to Africans in the Diaspora that it is an event which is one of the best in the world.
There was a challenge last year because of the Ebola virus, but Osun Festival is celebrated with pomp this year. You can see it from the large turnout of the people here”, he said.
As early as 7am on that faithful Friday, the major streets leading to the groove from the palace of the Ataoja of Osogbo land, had been taken over by large crowd positioned to have a clear view of the Votary maid (Arugba).
The Arugba is usually the centre of activities on the final day of the two week long festival. As she made her way from the palace at the Oja-Oba to the groove with the ritual calabash meant to appease and worship the Osun goddess, the crowd went wild in jubilations offering prayers as she lead the people to the Osun shrines.
They sang, danced as they followed the Arugba and the Oba to the groove, Chief Gabriel Oparanti, the second in command to the Ataoja, said the festival has been celebrated since Oba Larooye founded Osogbo many centuries ago. He revealed that the goddess of the river was a living being, and the annual festival was to appreciate it for its covenant which it never breaks.
“The goddess has been so faithful to us and there are many testimonies to prove its faithfulness to us”. On the continued progress and development which Osun groove has achieved since the Osun festival started, the Osogbo high chief stressed that the festival will continue to attract multitudes due to the covenant between the goddess of the river and the founding fathers of the town.
He said “Year in year out the Osun Osogbo festival attract mammoth crowd, with unprecedented list of eminent personalities gracing the festival which is celebrated at the shrine, located in the outskirts of the capital of Osun state.” “There was an everlasting covenant between the goddess of the river and the founding fathers of Osogbo land. It was a unique covenant and the covenant cannot be broken. Since we have always honoured our own part, the goddess of the river has to honour its.
Little wonder why Osun festival has turned to an international festival that is now celebrated not only in Osogbo or Nigeria, but in some other foreign countries of the world like Brazil and France” he said. For Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, the Araba of Osogbo, while expressing happiness at the turn out of devotees and tourists, said there is no doubt in the ability of the goddess of the river to give to people whatever their requests.
“My mother was barren for several years and she later went to river Osun where she was promised a child if she could drink the water from Osun River, and I was told that my mother conceived that same month and I am the product of that covenant, that’s why I was named Osundagbonu.” He revealed that he derived his first name, Osundagbonu from the goddess of the river, having been given birth to after a promise to his mother by the priestess of the river.

Jimoh Buraimoh, an Osogbo-based artist and key stakeholder of the festival, is particularly happy that this year’s festival is better than last year’s. “I am happy because this year’s event is better than last year,” he said. “The Ebola crisis almost denied us the opportunity last year; but you can see that all that has now changed.”
For Nike Okundaye, another globally respected artist of the Osogbo art school: “We are all happy because if you come here, you will see that everybody in Osogbo is happy. The festival this year is well organised because we were not happy with what happened last year.”
Culture andtradition
Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, speaking later with some reporters said the growing number of people from several cultures identifying with the festival shows how much of a world-acclaimed event it has attained. This, according to him, is critical in the preservation of culture and tradition.
“There is the need to fully appreciate and register my gratitude to UNESCO for not only designating the Osun Grove as a World Heritage Monument, but for also elevating the festival beyond the shores of Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria, to the whole world,” he said. He also used the occasion to urge the Osun people, and Nigerians, not to emulate the attitude of people who throw away their culture. “Your culture is the only way that you can show
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