The Eyo Festival, otherwise known as the “Adamu Orisha Play”, is a Yoruba festival unique to Lagos, South – Western Nigeria.
Currently, the festival according to wikipedia is showcased by the people of Lagos as a tourist event. Historically it is an event performed on the Lagos Island.
The word “Eyo” also known as the masquerades that come out during the festival refers to the costumed dancers. The inner workings of the secret societies of Lagos hold the myths regarding the origin and the observance of the festival.
Back in the days, the Eyo festival is held to escort the spirit of a departed Lagos king or chief and as well to usher in a new king.
It is widely believed that the play is one of the manifestations of the customary African revelry that serves as the forerunner of the modern carnival in Brazil.
A week before the festival, always counting from a Sunday, the senior Eyo group, known as the Adimu (identified by a black, broad – rimmed hat) goes public with a staff.
When this happens, it implies the event will take place on the following Saturday. Each of the four other important groups namely; Laba (Red rimmed hat), Oniko (Yellow rimmed hat), Ologede (Green rimmed hat), and Agere (Purple rimmed hat), take their turns in that order from Monday to Thursday respectively.
On the Eyo day, the main highway in the heart of the city, usually from the end of Carter Bridge to Tinubu Square, is closed to traffic, allowing for procession from Idumota to the Idunganran Palace.
The white – clad Eyo masquerades represent the spirits of the dead, and are referred to in Yoruba as “agogoro Eyo” (that is, “tall Eyo”).
The first Eyo procession held in Lagos was on February 20, 1854, to commemorate the life of the Oba Akintoye.
Here, the participants all pay homage to the reigning Oba of Lagos. The festival takes place whenever the occasion and tradition demand, though it is usually held as part of the final burial rites of a highly regarded chief in the king’s court.
Among the people of the South –Western Nigeria today it is believed that the indigenous religions have lost the greater majority of their traditional followers to Christianity and Islam.
However, the old festivals are still almost universally observed as a tourist attraction which generates a lot of revenue for government and businesses around the Lagos Island.
It is during these occasions that their monarchs and nobles exercise the most of their residual power.
The event is usually celebrated around the month of November. On November 26, 2011, the Eyo was held to commemorate Prince Yesufu Abiodun Oniru, a Lagos nobleman.
It is very important to note that during the Eyo festival certain items are forbidden and they includes;
Commercial motorcycle (popularly known as Okada in Lagos)
Suku – hairstyle that is popular among the Yorubas, one that has the hair converge at the middle, then shoot upward, before tipping downward.
The masquerades are known to beat people who use any of the prohibited items at sight with their staffs.