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article imagePhoto essay: Eyo festival 2011 held amidst mixed grills in Lagos Special

By Samuel Okocha     Nov 29, 2011 in World
The Yoruba people of Lagos Island, South West Nigeria treated tourists and residents of the commercial city to this year’s Eyo festival, held in memory of a diseased indigene who has contributed to the progress of the state. The festival has taboos.
This year’s Eyo festival also known as Adamu Orisa Play was dedicated to Chief Yesufu Abiodun Oniru [1864-1984]. The festival, which is unique to Lagos, took place at the Tafawa Balewa Square, in Lagos on Saturday with thousands of people including tourists from Europe and America in attendance to watch the festival.
Masquerades of the Eyo festival comng out of the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos
Masquerades of the Eyo festival comng out of the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos
Outside the square however, many residents of Lagos walked with their bare feet. The festival has a number of taboos and walking with shoes on is one of them.
Lagos residents walking with bare feet during the Eyo festival
Lagos residents walking with bare feet during the Eyo festival
“It’s a sign of respect for the festival,” Kemi Solarn, an indigene of Lagos says. “Females do not wear a particular hair style (that has the hair pack up in weavings) and women do not wear trousers. If you do any of these you will be beaten.”
A lady walks with bare feet to avoid being beaten during the Eyo festival in Lagos
A lady walks with bare feet to avoid being beaten during the Eyo festival in Lagos
The Eyo or masquerades are considered to be related to the spirits of the dead who have come to bless the land. These masquerades in white and varying colors of hats are of different levels. The Adimu, the head of the masquerades, is the most feared. When in sight all other Eyo take cover including the spectators, Kemi says.
Masquerades of the Eyo festival along with spectators give way for the passage of the head of entire...
Masquerades of the Eyo festival along with spectators give way for the passage of the head of entire ranks of the masquerades.
Kemi said things have changed. The Eyo usually don’t gather in a place, but modernization has made them gather in a place for tourists to watch. After a week long series of activities, the Eyo festival climaxes on Saturday with the procession of thousands of men in their traditional white regalia. During this ritual, major streets on Lagos Island are closed to traffic. The Eyo festival 2011 was no different.
A section of Lagos Island closed to traffic during the Eyo festival on Saturday
A section of Lagos Island closed to traffic during the Eyo festival on Saturday
The seeming transformation of the centuries old Eyo festival has not changed the masquerades from being feared.
On Saturday, a man had his phone smashed after he was caught taking a photo of the Olegedes, one of the dreaded groups of masquerades in the Eyo festival. “They went inside his car, beat him, got his phone and smashed it to the floor,” an observer said.
Spectators trying to catch a glimpse of one of the dreaded masquerades of the Eyo Festival
Spectators trying to catch a glimpse of one of the dreaded masquerades of the Eyo Festival
“If Adimu passes, he recognizes anybody who takes a photo of him, even if the person hides in a building. He can curse the building and it will collapse after 2 days,” a young man narrates as he watches some of the dreaded masquerades from the comfort of a fenced compound.
Spectators watching the procession of one of the high ranked eyo or masquerades. This group of eyo p...
Spectators watching the procession of one of the high ranked eyo or masquerades. This group of eyo prohibits photos of them to be taken.
More about Eyo Festival, Lagos, Eyo, Nigeria
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