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[Nigeria]Nigerian glossary

Osun Festival

Written by kevin

Early on Thursday morning Marebec and I set off for Jabi motor park, to meet up with Tracey, Karen and Dave for our trip to the Osun festival. By the time we got to Jabi Tracey had already sorted out a bus and ordered a breakfast of noodles and egg.

The journey from Abuja to Osogbo takes about eight hours and the bus was tightly packed, so it wasn’t the most comfortable of journeys. Marebec was completely absorbed in the latest Harry Potter book, though I did manage to distract her briefly:
Marebec in the bus on the way to Osogbo

Ronan and his friend Alex had got to Osogbo before us and had booked rooms at the Hollywood Guesthouse (near the famous Nike art gallery, so we were spared the hassle of trying to find accomodation. We had a nice meal at a local restaurant, a few beers and headed over to the Ataoja’s (King’s) palace to see what was going on.

The courtyard in the palace was packed. Some of the girls joined in with the dancing but after a while we became aware that the group of oyinbos had become the center of attention and moved to a different part of the courtyard. I had a brief conversation with a group of young men from the Oodua People’s Congress. I’m not quite sure why, but they seemed vaguely threatening, maybe something to do with the way they completely encircled me.

On Friday morning we were up early and headed to Mr Biggs (a local fast-food chain) for breakfast before returning to the palace. Things were a bit quieter, although there were still plenty of people around and lots of noise and activity whenever an important guest arrived. The first picture shows the front of one of the palace buildings, the second shows the crowds in the palace courtyard (with Alex on the left) and the third shows some of the things on sale there.
Ataoja's Palace, Osogbo Ataoja's palace courtyard Women selling beads at the palace

In another part of the palace is a small shrine where people were making offerings to the Osun goddess. Marebec also took the opportunity to interview Princess Osunbunmi Adenle about the festival, beating the camera crew from CNN. Processions with drummers were passing through continually, on their way down to the sacred grove.
Paintings on the outside of the shrine at the palace Marebec interviews the princess Drummers in a procession through the palace

There were lots of children around, who all wanted to have their picture taken, and quite a few men on stilts. After a while we decided to join the crowds walking down the streets to the sacred forest.
Children at the palace Stiltwalkers at the palace Street scene between the palace and the forest

The sacred forest has recently been declared a UN World Heritage site [more information] and is full of statues and sculptures. Down by the river a large crowd of people were gathering water, it apparently has a wide range of health, financial and spiritual benefits. Again we found ourselves to be the subject of much interest from other people there, it seems we even appeared on national television!
Sculptures in Sacred Forest Gathering water beside another sculpture Marebec, Tracey and Dave in the crowd

After a while the calabash full of offerings for the goddess arrived (under the reddish cloth in the middle of the photo), followed shortly afterwards by the king (somewhere under the blue umbrella). The crowd got bigger as time went on, so we decided to head out from the shrine. Unfortunately there were lots of people trying to get out (and in!) through a very small gate, it was quite a struggle to get through and while I was distracted somebody stole my phone out of my pocket.
The calabash passes through the crowd The king arrives at the shrine Crowd around the gate to the shrine

Once we’d regrouped and managed to lose a stiltwalker who was persistently following us asking for money we wandered back into town and had lunch while we decided what else to do. We’d been told about a waterfall at Erin-Ijesa, some way outside the city, so we found a taxi and headed towards it. Unfortunately the taxi’s rear axle gave out just outside Ilesa but a kind local picked us up and dropped us where we could easily pick up another taxi for the remainder of the trip, the only problem was that we had to squeeze in with his cargo of chicken feed.
Me, Dave and Alex perched on the chicken feed sacks in the back of a car

The Olumirin waterfall was lovely, there had obviously been some attempt to promote it as a tourist attraction and a large group of students were there. We hiked up, hoping to find the top of the falls but just found a flattish area covered in trees. From the top of the falls you could see back to the the town of Erin-Ijesa itself.
(Rough) steps leading up to the waterfall The first fall Erin-Ijesa through the trees above the first fall

As it was getting late we scrambled back down the muddy, rocky slope, pausing for a couple of group photos before returning to the car. The first one is of (left to right) Marebec, Dave, Me, Karen and Ronan. The seconds is of Karen and Tracey.
Marebec, Dave, Me, Karen and Ronan at the first fall Karen and Tracey at the first fall

Our trip back the next day was remarkably quick and easy, despite and unscheduled stop near Kabba to fix a problem with one of the front axles. Cars break down a lot here because they are seldom maintained and fake parts are commonly used.
Car being repaired at the roadside

Note on pronunciation: In Yoruba the letter ‘s’ is (sometimes) pronounced as ‘sh’. So ‘Osun’ is pronounced ‘Oshoon’, ‘Osogbo’ is ‘Oshogbo’ (and is sometimes spelled that way) and ‘Erin-Ijesa’ as ‘Erin-Ijesha’. Similarly, the Nigerian president’s name is something like ‘Olushegoon Obasanjo’.

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 6th, 2005 at 16:00 and is filed under travel, VSO.

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