Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Review of Osun Oshogbo Festival

Rumour Networks
Death in Africa is translated to a mere transition from the physical existence to the spiritual realm, which does not build and erect barricades against effective communication. This is established by the belief that the dead indeed commune with the living—a belief commonly found in African communities. This might be what gave the budding writer, John Mbiti the guts to say that “No one dies until completely forgotten by the living,” in one of his numerous write-ups. The living Africans count their dead parents, clan-folks, warriors, heroes and heroines as members of their families and communities, even after their physical exit. They run to the grave of their ancestors and their immortal abode, the shrine as many people call it, to seek favour, help and request for success in their endeavours.

Today in Africa, most of these immortal abodes, shrines, are now international tourism sites, where tourists flock in hundreds and thousands, seasonally and annually. The recently acknowledged World Tourism Centre by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Osun Shogbo received a multitude of tourists ranging from Black and Whites across the world globe on the 5th August, this year, which was set aside for the rite and ritual segment of the festival.

In the morning, the ritual-maid, literarily called Aru’gba, came out of the Osun-alcove in the palace courtyard and on her head glued the sacred ritual-calabash. Leading her way to the palace and through the grove path was an Osun devotee with a sacred curved-cutlass, with which she blessed mother-earth. Aru’gba never stepped elsewhere, except the path blessed by the woman with her curved-cutlass. And immediately after her visitation to the palace where the Oba (king) blessed her, she faced the Osun grove where Osun’s immortality-alcove exists, along with a multitude of tourists, spiritual leaders and Osun devotees. On getting to the shrine in the grove, Aru’gba dropped the Igba (the sacred-calabash) in a small hut and was taken to a cool corner within the confines of the alcove where she slept; sited beside her were the past Aru’gbas. The king arrived, not too long after with some of his chiefs. And the proper programme of the event took its due course. Merry-making overtook the semi-cold atmosphere. Drums rolled relentlessly, unleashing the energetic beatings of the drummers to the accompaniment of sonorous singing voices.They chanted eulogies of Osun and cultural dancers carved a series of dance steps to the beats and songs. The state governor (Hon. Olagunsoye Oyinlola) and his entourage with the entire guests from all over the world at the grove could not keep their excitement on hold. Consequently, they swung left and right on their respective seats like golden-fishes in aquarium boxes.

After the festival’s formal programme and rite and ritual at the grove, Aru’gba woke up, she planted the sacred calabash on her head again and faced the palace. Although, Susan Wenger, the Austrian Osun devotee could not be part of the festival, as in former years because of her age, yet she was wholly part of the whole ritual process in the Osun’s alcove at the palace courtyard, where she lives.

“Fun all through,” “Nice,” “Fantastic,” “Wholesome” and “Ritualistic,” were some of the comments of the mixed tourists (Whites and Blacks). Indeed this was what the festival projected but it could always get better next year if the Cultural Heritage Committee and the National Museums Commission of the state are really ready to expand the scope of the Festival.

Ayanda Abeke
Rumour Networks
Lagos .