Osun Osogbo Festival - How Artistes Promoted Yoruba Culture.

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As usual, this year’s Osun Osogbo Festival set Osogbo, Osu State capital city, agog with Yoruba cultural and traditional activities.
A significant number of participants among the Yoruba race both in Nigeria and in the Diaspora as well as other tribes from different parts of Nigeria and foreign countries poured into the bowels of the ancient town for the week-long event.

Unarguably, the age-long festival is one of the socio-cultural annual events in the South Western region of the country that draws huge participants from different parts of the world, in the spirit of cultural affinity and heritage. Traditional worshippers and tourists never miss the festival, which according to Yoruba mythology, is believed to be a celebration of Osun goddess.

Osun Osogbo Festival is a period that people reconnect with their common ancestry, reaffirm the oneness of their humanity and express deep gratitude to their maker for seeing them through another year.

As usual, participants in this year’s occasion were able to forge new friendships and renew existing ones. Even, outsiders who participated also had the opportunity to learn about the culture and tradition of the Yoruba race.

In accordance with the tradition, the festival began with the traditional Iwopopo, which means the cleansing of the town. It is a symbolic spiritual exercise that sanitises the city and its people and prepares them a fresh for the wonderful experiences of the event.
During the grand finale, there was a spectacular cultural procession to the popular Osun Grove, listed as a world heritage site by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

One of the remarkable rites was the carrying of a calabash of sacrifice by the Arugba (a young virgin) who was accompanied by a surging crowd of devotees to take it to the grove for blessings. All these activities provided gratifying spiritual experiences for the participants.

The economic values of the festival cannot be overemphasized because the huge number of dignitaries that came from outside the state, really increased the patronage profile of the hospitality industry. For instance, almost all the hotels in Osogbo and the neighbouring towns such as Ede, Ile-Ife, Ilesa and Ikirun were fully booked.

Eateries, relaxation, tourism centres as well as club houses also got good patronage. All these boosted the economy of the state during the period.

The event witnessed lots of activities such as art exhibition, procession of traditional dancers and ritual sacrifices. Prominent among the series of related cultural events organised to mark the festival was the ethnic fashion show and awards oganised by Yoruba Arts and Festivals Promotions  and Dreamscape Productions.

The event was intended to promote the Yoruba culture and tradition with a view to encouraging advocacy for cultural values that have been lost to civilization over the years. It was an evening of exhibition of arts and culture intended to promote the Yoruba race.

But the promotion had to begin with the Yoruba-speaking states, hence the decision to synchronize it with the Osun-Osogbo Festival. Notable artistes flooded the event and demonstrated their artistry in African music and folklore.

Foremost thespian, Jimi Solanke, was at his best. He anchored folk dance triggered by his trademark folk music renditions that set lovers of culture and tradition on their feet for a long time. The event later revved up with art exhibitions and Outstanding Achievement awards for people that had set remarkable records in cultural and artistic inclinations.

Those honoured with the awards included the Ogiyan of Ejigbo, Oba Omowonuola Oyesosin, for projecting the culture, customs and tradition of the Yoruba race beyond the shores of Nigerian and Africa. Also honoured was  Agba Akin Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oloye Lekan Alabi, for projecting Yoruba tradition, culture and fashion.

The exhibitions, which centred around fashion parade focused on African fabrics designed by notable Yoruba designers. Among the fabrics showcased by a selected beauty pageants were adire, ankara, aso-oke and lace.

When the stage was set for the fashion parade, a galaxy of the beauty pageants filed out in turns, decked with diverse local fabrics to the surprise of guests who never believed that the fabrics were designed right in Nigeria by indigenous designers.

Also, there were enthralling interludes from the Roadblock Steel Ochestra, a band from Trinidad and Tobago. Their exquisite sounds and melodies produced with the aid of steels evoked an unrelenting excitement from the audience.

This was complemented with the sonorous and alluring renditions from Nefertiti, an indigenous band.  A team of Eyo masquerades from Lagos was also on hand to entertain the audience. All these presentations were intended to demonstrate the richness of African and Yoruba cultures.

A couple of artistes who spoke with Daily Sun appreciated the cultural values of the Yoruba race as well as the economic potentials of the art and culture industry.

They, therefore, made case for urgent resuscitation of the arts and culture industry, claiming that it is a veritable avenue for economic development.

They called on President Muhammadu Buhari to diversify the economy, give the art and culture industry a priority attention by resuscitating it urgently. They particularly drew his attention to the urgent need to revamp the textile industry with a view to reopening the textile companies that were shut down especially in Kaduna, Kano, and Lagos over the years to enable them resume production of local fabrics for the country to be able to boost the country’s export profile and improve foreign exchange.

Solanke, said: “The next best treasure after oil is the art. But we have failed to develop it. If government could be proactive enough to involve the professionals in the arts industry and develop it, it would go a long way in helping the economy.  Performing art, creative arts, dance, music are pivotal to economic development.
“The Federal Government needs to revamp the textile industry by ensuring the reopening all the textile companies in the country that that had been closed down over the years.”

He stressed that repositioning the textile industry was one of the president’s campaign promises, noting that if he fulfilled the promise as a part of his change mantra, unemployment problem would be partly solved:

“The money we waste in importing what we wear will reduce if we focus on our ethnic fabrics and fashions such as Ankara, adire, aso-oke. With this, we will be able to create good export profile and wealth for our country.”

Another artiste, Larry Williams, spoke: “Arts and culture have a lot of roles to play, especially in the ongoing efforts to reposition the economy.  Fashion and entertainment are crucial to economic development. Both have generated a lot of employment for the people.

“All that is required now is government’s support to take it to the next level.  If we bring innovation to it, and do not continue to do it the same way we have been doing, then we shall be able to achieve a mileage in it.”

In the views of Dipo Solanrewa, arts and textile industries are potential wealth creation avenues for the country in the efforts to redeem the country’s crashing economy:

Yoruba ehnic fashioncc
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“We need to turn our crafts to wealth. Our aso-oke, adire, ankara are things that we do with our hands.  That is why we need government’s support to create wealth from them and improve our economy.

“We need to look inwards. If we create our own products and export them, it will boost our foreign exchange profile.”

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