Monday, 5 August 2013

A peep into masquerades in Yoruba land


Eyo masquerades. Photo by Hot Naija News
Egun Olorisa, Ogun State
Kregbeto Masquerade from Badagry, Lagos


Masquerades are regarded as spirits or heavenly bodies which communicate between people’s ancestors and the living. They wear masks and have dance steps that can keep a spectator in one spot for a long time. 
 Some masquerades chase and flog spectators while others don’t.
 Masquerades are both traditional and cultural events which civilisation cannot erase because their faithfuls revere them and initiate people to it on a yearly basis, depending on their culture. Some traditional rites are often performed before a masquerade appears.
There are many kinds of masquerades in Yoruba land. It is pertinent to note that some masquerades are purely for entertainment and Lagos State is noted for organising the popular Eyo festival which is celebrated on Lagos Island (Isale Eko).
Speaking on different types of masquerades, a dramatist, Mr. Olayinka Adegboye, one of the coordinators from Ministry of Home Affairs, Culture and Tourism, who came with dance groups and masquerades to Lagos during the Lagos Black Heritage Festival 2013, said there are many kinds of masquerades in Osun State.
He revealed that some of these masquerades are cults and their members are initiated into them before they become members.
In his words: “Just like we have many dance groups in Osun State, there are many masquerades in the state including Egun Agba. There is a masquerade that can be traced to god of thunder (Sango), Olaifa traditional masquerade in Osogbo, Elewe masquerade in Ila and so on.
 “One can be a member of a masquerade group by birth, that is, if you are a member of a particular family. Just like people going to church, that is how some members of a masquerade cult regard their membership. As Christians sing praise and worship to God, so also masquerade groups. Sango, which is a god of thunder, is a unique god for its adherents. We have Ogun (god of iron), Oya, and Yemoja, which is a river goddess,” he said.
Ogun State has many types of masquerades including Egun Olorisa (Rainbow masquerade).
Also, Gelede, a popular festival which incorporates masquerades, dance and music, is celebrated in many parts of Lagos including Ikeja, Badagry and Iwaya, but Isale Eko is its headquarters. It takes place annually, towards the end of March, during the Easter period.
High Chief Akintunde Akinola, Baba Egbe (Prime minister) of Gelede said that: “Gelede in Yoruba tradition is the celebration of motherhood. We believe that mother protects her children so we see Gelede as our mother and believes that she protects us.  Among all the deities in Yoruba land, Gelede masquerades are friendly and don’t harm visitors. Our people have been celebrating Gelede for over 200 years before I was born, so the celebration will continue till eternity,” Akinola said.
Some masquerades talks with deep voices which their leaders only can interpret. Some people are frightened by mere seeing a masquerade. It should be noted that masquerade is a traditional events which primarily entertains it viewers.
Mr. Adegboye
Chief Akinola

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