The Eyo festival otherwise known as the “Adamu Orisa Play” is a Yoruba festival that is held in Lagos, Nigeria. The word “Eyo” represents the costumed dancers also known as masquerades who performs during the festival. The Eyo dresses up in a white ‘agbada ‘ (the top robe), and the ‘aropale’ (the bottom wrap around) to cover all body parts while holding Opambatas’ as the body of the Eyo must not be seen. A colored hat is also worn to represent the shield of the Iga he comes from. Each Iga could have up to 50 or more members.
The Eyo festival is held as a way of escorting the soul of a departed King or chief of Lagos and to welcome a new king. What makes the festival unique is the fact that it is not held annually unlike other Lagos festivals and can be infrequent. There have been times in the past where the festival did not hold for 21 years and there has been times where it was held three to five times a year.
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The procedure of the festival is very unique in that, a full week before the festival (always a Sunday), the ‘senior’ Eyo group, the Adimu (identified by a black, wide-brimmed hat), goes public with a staff. When this happens, it means the event will take place on the following Saturday. Each of the four other ‘important’ groups — Laba (Red), Oniko (yellow), Ologede (Green) and Agere (Purple) — take their turns in that order from Monday to Thursday.
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The festival usually takes place on a Saturday at Lagos island, the heart of the city and roads are shut down. The procession starts from the streets of Lagos Island through Idumota, Tinubu Square and other major and minor roads. and ends at the Iga Iduganran palace. The Eyos are a wonderful sight to behold as they can be seen singing, dancing and displaying cool acrobatic moves.
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During the Eyo festival, some things to avoid include:
- Wearing sandals
- Riding motorcycles and bicycles
- Making the ‘Suku’ (Yoruba hairstyle).
- Women are not to tie head ties or wear shoes.
At the end of the event the Eyo masquerades move back to the Para, where the opening of the traditional festival was declared at dawn, to tear it down instructed by the Orisa Adimu, and his Eyo masquerades .
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The Eyo festival is a major part of the history and culture of Lagos, the Eyos themselves have become a symbol of the state. The festival attracts tourists to the state and generates revenue for the traders within the area