The culture and traditions of the city of Lagos are expressed and displayed throughout this vibrant event. Locals from Lagos as well as tourists from other parts of Nigeria and beyond look forward to it and attend. The Adamu Orisha Play, often called the Eyo Festival.
A beautiful variety of regalia and costumes, as well as its grand and elaborate theatrical performances and pageantry, are used to create parades on the island of Lagos to emphasize and demonstrate the aboriginal past of the residents of Lagos. Most people consider today to be a day of exuberant splendor and merriment.
The cultural event, according to historians, originated in Ibefun, a village in the state of Ogun, where, in accordance with local legend, the then-Oba of Lagos, Oba Akinsemoyin, set out to appease the Eyo deity so that his younger sibling, Erelu Kuti, who was barren, may conceive.
In the end, the Erelu gave birth to two offspring, whose lineage still governs an Oba’s accession to the throne in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic metropolis. Additionally, it is believed that the first festival was held in Oke Ipa, which is now the lagoon end of Glover Road in Ikoyi, during the 19th century, making it the earliest known performance.
The celebration, which has developed over three centuries, is often organized to commemorate or celebrate the life and times of an Oba (King) of Lagos, or to mourn his death or accession to the throne. The Eyo festival is also held in honor of a revered and distinguished departed person, such as a White Cap Chief, who made a significant contribution to the growth and development of Lagos. It is thought to be the highest honor Lagos may bestow as compensation for greatness and civic service.
A festival must be held following the passing of the King (Oba of Lagos), serving as a form of farewell rite. Families who want to hold a festival in honor of a deceased family member—who must be a prominent Lagosian—must first make a request to the Akinsiku of Lagos, who is also the leader of the Eyos.
Then, the Akinsiku of Lagos will outline what must be done to comply with the requirements. When the family fulfills their commitment to provide the Ikaro (offerings and gifts), the Akinsiku gathers the offerings and distributes them among the divine families of Lagos.
The distribution of the gifts and offerings must be followed by a divination procedure, per traditional laws, even though many of the specifics are still kept secret as is intended. This ritual is performed at the Awe Adimu, the Eyo Orisa’s sacred sanctuary. Here, a suitable and advantageous date is selected for the festival to take place.
There have been instances where the Eyo Play has been performed in conjunction with the honoring of foreign or state dignitaries, despite its beginnings being primarily ritualistic in nature.
Since the Eyo Festival is not often staged at a specific time, there is great expectation and excitement in Lagos and beyond once the dates for its performance have been chosen and publicized.
A week’s worth of events make up the festival, which culminates in the Aga, a spectacular parade of tens of thousands of men dressed in white and donning various colored hats. The procession that dances and revels through Lagos’s streets passes by many significant sites and landmarks, including the Oba’s Palace.
The Agogoro Eyo masquerade is called such because it effectively allows tall people to participate (literally meaning the tall Eyo masquerade). The Eyo masquerade talks in a ventriloquial voice, suggesting that it is an extraterrestrial being, and when greeted, it responds, “Mo yo fun e, moyo fun’ra mi” (“I rejoice for you, and I rejoice for myself”). This reaction suggests that the masquerades are celebrating the day with the person addressing them as well as their personal joy in accepting the sacred duty of cleaning.
The Ikaro, or the contributions and gifts needed from the applicant family before the play can be presented, are laid out and specified by the Akinsiku. Therefore, the Oba is the source of authority that is transferred to the Akinsiku, who then distributes the gifts to the deity families in Lagos. Following this, a divination process will be conducted at the Awe Adimu (the sacred sanctuary of the Eyo Orisas) to determine a day that is favorable for the holding of the Eyo festival.
Other plays are not allowed to be performed because they would violate the Eyo’s rigid norms, which ban violation. A individual who feels that his departed ancestor deserves to be honored for his contribution to Lagos is claimed to have historically asked the Oba of Lagos for permission before starting an Eyo play. The Akinsiku of Lagos, who is in charge of all the Eyos, will then be invited to the palace for consultation by one of the Oba’s messengers under the guidance of his office staff.
However, it is also possible to assert that in order for the Eyo play to be performed, permission must first be obtained from the Awe Adimu, the senior Eyo group’s base of operations. Once this request has been approved, the Akinsiku then informs the Oba and the appropriate council of elders, after which festival preparations can start.
The Eyo festival, also known as the Adamu Orisa play, is the most important cultural event in Lagos. Despite this, the history and origins of the festival have been described in a number of very different ways, all of which attest to the ardent support of Lagosians for the festival. One well-known source of the Eyo festival’s history comes from the Isokun Onilegbale Chieftaincy Family, which claims that the festival originated in lbefun. It tells the tale of Olori Olugbale, the wife of King Ado of Lagos, whose two brothers (or male cousins), Ejilu and Malaki, visited her in Lagos but found her dead when they got there. They then went back to lbefun so they could bring the Eyo Masquerade to Lagos to commemorate her passing.