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    Grace Amos


      The Eyo Festival, also known as the Adamu Orisha play, is a very striking and traditional Yoruba festival distinctive to Lagos, Nigeria. The festival is traditionally performed on Lagos Island and presented by the people of Lagos State as  a tourist event. It is a rare and exclusive event celebrated on a Saturday without periodicity.

      Separated by a Lagoon, Lagos city has two parts, the Lagos Island and Mainland. The Lagos Island is mostly dominated by the indigenes of Lagos, who celebrate the Eyo festival, a cultural and traditional masquerade display, which appears from the “Iga” (palace) of the Oba or any of his cabinet members.

      The Eyo refers to the costumed dancers, known as the masquerades that come out during the festival. It is believed to represent the spirits of the ancestors. In most cases, the Eyo festival may be held to commemorate the death of a Lagos King or Chief, and it can also be held to usher in a new king. The white-clad Eyo masquerades are referred to in Yoruba as “Agogoro Eyo” meaning “Tall Eyo”.

      The Eyo is dressed up in a regalia of white flowing cloth from head to toe, which consists of an “Agbada” as the top robe and the “Aropale” as the bottom wrap around. This is because no part of the person carrying the Eyo is expected to be seen. The masquerades also have a veil that covers their faces and wears an “Akete” (a hat) that bears the colours and the shield of the Iga (palace) from which they come.

      The Eyo also carries “Opambata”, a stick of palm branches which may also have a ribbon of his Iga’s colour tied to it. The “Opambata” is used to bless or punish people who break the rules of the festival.

      The Iga to which an Eyo belongs may have up to 50 to 100 or more members, and each person carrying a robe as Eyo must pay a fee to the ruling house for the privilege. The parade begins from the Iga to the “Agodo” – the shrine of Orisa Eyo, passing through the city streets and ending the parade at Tafawa Balewa Square where they are expected by a crowd of supporters.

      However, during the festival, for some of us who would like to witness the Eyo Festival, there are items which are prohibited at the festival. Here is a list;

      Okada motorcycle taxis
      Suku – a popular hairstyle among the Yorubas
      Female with head tie or headgear
      Male with cap
      Also, it is a taboo to either wear the Eyo costume overnight or cross any body of water, such as the Lagoon or rivers.

      The Eyo festival is a means to showcase the culture of the Isale Eko people – indigenes of Lagos Island.

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