ANCIENT CULTURAL ACTIVITIES
Culture is described by Thurstan Shaw in Groundwork of Nigerian History as a way of life of fairly homogenous group of people over a limited period of time. It is mainly divided into two groups–Intangible and Material culture. Intangible culture is a total sum of social, religious and other customary activities while material culture is the nature of physical things such as food, housing, clothing, among others. The culture of Oyan people had over the years witnessed various changes as the people continue to adjust to the exigencies of nature, immigrants, geography, weather and foreign influences.
Oyan Intangible Culture: This revolves around traditional, religious and customary ceremonies. The most prominent traditional festivals were Agba and Egungun among other smaller ones like Ogun, Ifa, Sango, Oya and Otin festivals. They are all extinct due mainly to the influence of western cultures, Christian and Muslim religions.
Ijagun Agba Festival used to be the most popular in cultural calendar of Oyan people. It used to be celebrated annually to commemorate the historic duel between Epe the founder of Oyan and Oduwuyi the first settler in Cyan. The name Agba originated from the name of a hill worshiped by Oduwuyi and his family before the arrival of Epe. The Agba shrine is still located in a cave inside the Agba Hill. The festival used to involve the repeat of the duel with Aworo representing Oduwuyi and the reigning Oloyan representing Epe. It used to take of four weeks around August to fully prepare for the festival. This preparation would clamax on the Ijagun Agba Day with the Aworo worshipping at the Agodo Agba located within Idi Agba Compound. During his worship, farmers would pay homage and donate farm produce while hunters would come with bush meats.
A day before the Agba day, – a virgin male or female would carry pot of sacrifice to Agba shrine located inside the Agba Hill, followed by Aworo Agba, other worshippers and spectators. At the hill, Aworo Agba and some key worshippers would enters the cave and perform the rituals of appeasing and thanking the gods. The gods would respond by releasing number of pigeon birds. The commencement of the final part of offering of sacrifice to the gods would be signaled by the pigeon flying out of the cave and flying back into the cave with the worshippers and admirers shouting dressed in palm fronts and all the worshipers would then return to the town ready for the duel with Oloyan.
The Oloyan on his part would start that day worshipping at the Agodo Agba where he would present kola nuts to the Aworo on his return from Agba Hill, pray and bless Ryan. Aworo would then dance around the town while the Oloyan would go back to the palace to entertain guests and prepare for the duels. His attendants called “Ikolaba” would get his ‘war’ regalia ready for him. The entire community in joyous mood would come to the market square in front of the Baoba tree (Igi Ose) dressed in their best attire. They would engage each other in a mock flight for supremacy. Nobody is allowed to enter or cross the ring. Any male that violated the rule would become an Ikolaba while a female who violated the rule would become Oba’s wife.
At around midday, Aworo would return from his dancing trip round the town, enter the palace through the back from Agbaraloba Compound. The Aworo would go out and re-enter again. He would do this three times and each time he entered the Oba attendants would present him a gift. On the third entry, Oloyan too would come out and both of them would dance out of the palace to the tumultuous shout and welcome of the populace. The duo and the flowers would dance round the Odu Oja and Baoba tree (Igi Ose) three times. Aworo would then be the first to enter the dueling ring holding a ring made from palm front. Oloyan would enter the ring from the opposite side of the dueling ring clutching the Opaga – his traditional staff of office with loud applause from the populace. The duel would start with Oloyan trying to wave Opaga over the head of Aworo while Aworo would try to wave his palm front ring over the head of Oloyan. The winner was always prearranged with Oloyan winning in most cases.
As soon as a winner emerged, the spectators’ would enter the ring singing, dancing and thanking the Almighty God for sparing their lives to witness the festivals and pray that they would be alive to witness many more. To around up the festivals, the looser would have escort the winner back to his base.
Egungun Festival. The Yoruba believe in life after death and that their departed ones are in the other world watching over them. Egungun (which means masquerade) Festival are celebrated to invoke masquerading spirits. Some powerful ones are celebrated to ward off evils from the community by carrying sacrifices on behalf of the people back to the next world.
The festivals used to be held between February and March annually with the Oloyan flagging it off with a visit to Egungun shrine in Igbo Igbale. (The Grove of Resque). This shrine used to be a thick forest at the present site of the Nawarudeen Primary School. The shrine has since been relocated and abandoned. The Oloyan on his own could not safely enter this forest without paying homage to the deity Osanyinta-the symbol of authority. This was part of the royal paraphernalia brought from Ile Ife by Epe. This deity had never since been in the custody of Onile custody. It is worthy of note to state that this deity is still being worshiped by some individuals in the Onile compound till today. The Oloyan would then request the custodian of Osanyinta to perform the necessary rituals and rites to appease Osanyinta to clear the way of all evils for the festival to start. After the rituals of invoking the spirits of the dead, the Egungun masquerades would come out dancing all the way to Odu-Oja to pay homage to their ancestors to the welcome applause of the people thus flagging off the festival. From Odu Oja, the masquerades would dance to Onile Compound to pay homage by bowing down and chanting “Ejeka fori bale fun Olole-Omo Oloye” as they danced past the compound.
Types of Masquerades. They are of three major types – the ones that come out during the death of an Oloyan, the big family ones with traditional family names and lastly the small children of masquerades called “Paaka”. The big ones wear the same original ancient outfit made very long ago when the masquerades were founded. They used to put on these original ancient outfits to retain the magical powers attributed to the founder. They usually dressed from head to toe in cloths of various colours, feathers, animal skin and crowned with carved idols. They usually spoke in husky voices with heavy breathing to instill fear in the populace. They only came out on specific days to dance around the town blessing and praying for the people it was mandatory for people to remove their shoes with males prostrating and females kneeing down before these masquerades. Failure to observe these protocols would attract serious flogging by the masquerades and their aids.
Paaka. The small masquerades were usually dressed from head to toe in pieces of rags sown together with net to cover their faces. They usually went round town praying and asking for money from the people. They too like the big ones beat up People who failed to prostrate or kneel before them.
Oloye Dance. The last types of masquerades are the one that usually came out to honor the demise of a prince or an Oloyan. The masquerades would appear on the Egun Hill dancing to the drumming of the traditional drummers stationed at a place close to Onile Compound where the masquerades could be seen. The masquerades would continue to dance to the drumming while climbing to the top of the hill till they would vanish out of sight. The drumming would then stop to signify the ascension of the dead prince or Oloyan to the next world to finally join his ancestors.
Igbo Ogun Festival. This festival used to be celebrated by all the hunters and Ogun Worshipers in Oyan to give thanks to Ogun, the gods of iron for granting Epe’s petition for his barren wife. History had it that Epe and his people tried to settle down in a place called Igbo Ogun, somewhere off the Asi – Ila Orangun road. However, myriads of problems forced them to vacate this place. But before leaving this location, Epe marked the spot of his Ogun shrine with a black stone. When Epe finally settled down in what is now called Oyan, Epe had a barren wife and when Ifa oracle was consulted ifa divined that a dog must be sacrificed at the spot named Igbo Ogun where Epe first tried to settle. Epe had to send some hunters to find the location so that Ogun worshippers could offer the dog sacrifices. After finding the black stone at Igbo Ogun and the prescribed sacrifice made, the barren wife of Epe had a baby boy. Since then, it became an annual event for the Ogun worshippers and hunters to go and sacrifices a dog at Igbo Ogun as a mark of gratitude.
Family Customs. Are the usual and generally accepted particular ways of behaving and doing things among members of a clan, community or social groups. The customs of Oyan like in other Yoruba towns do not permit marriages between relations up to fourth cousins. The custom officially permits divorced as approved by the Oba sitting in court. The system of “Opo” that permits widows to be married off to her brother or uncle – in-law is practiced. Naming ceremony of a new baby is done when the child is eight days old with a merry making and thanksgiving for save arrival of the child. Grandparents are often asked to give names for the child. Essential items used in this ceremony include water, salt, honey, bitter kola, kolanut and palm oil. Old people are usually buried within the family house. They are celebrated with burial and outing ceremonies. Those who die young are usually buried outside the town.
Material Culture. These include food, drinks, housing, clothing, health system and medicines among others. These are very typical of Yoruba culture. Typical breakfast is made from corn, millet, beans while lunch and dinner are from tubers like yam, cocoyam, cassava and potatoes. These are taken with delicious meat stew with draw okra, ewedu, melon or vegetable stews. Later on, foods like bread and rice crept into the food culture of Yams like in all other Yoruba towns. Drinking water used to be from books and was usually kept in clay pots (Amu) situated at the corners of the house to make it cool for drinking. Palm wines are also very popular for social and ceremonial occasions. Advent of civilization had since changed most of these cultures to what we have today
Social Activities. These include the traditional Ayo game for the adult and Okoto for the youth. Modern games like draft and ludo were introduced in the 1940s. There were some local sports like wrestling popularly called Ijakadi. Night life used to start in the evening at local market for selling and buying of foods items by the women folk in the evening market. Also bachelors and spinster used to meet for open mild romantic moments. Many of these social meetings ended in marriage, child naming and burial ceremonies. Later on, religious festival like Christmas, Easter, Idil Fitri and Idil Kbir crept into the social life of Oyan people. On all these occasions, music and dancing played important roles. Some families in Oyan were very popular for their,dexterity in drumming. The most notable ones are from Onilu, Elemosho and Efunrinde Compounds. Apala, Gangan, Sekere, Sakara, Gbedu and Woro, Bata, Agidigbo and Dundun music used to be most popular types of instrumental music Ilala, Ewi, Rara were the popular vocal music
Oyan Dailect As a result of the long sojourn of Epe in Igbajo, Epe had the mixture of Ijesa and Ife dialects which he brought with him to Oyan. Also when Epe went in search of his sister in Ila Orangun and Iresi, a lot of Ijasa speaking people following him back to Oyan. This new influx of Ijesa speaking immigrants made Ijesa dialect the spoken dialect of Oyan with many regaring themselves as Ijesa. This is evidenced in the cognomen of Onile family and indeed in all the other ruling house – “ Ijesa Abeni ni mi,Meiosoyo, Owa ni Baba to bi mi lomo” meaning “ I am an Ijesa not Oyo, Owa the paramount ruler of Ijesaland is my father”. The Oyan people continued to be dominated by the Ijasas until new immigrants of Oyo extractions started settling in Oyan. The dialect then started to change to Oyo dialect. This fueled the population of Oyo speaking settlers in Oyan. During the Fulani rule some Hausa words managed to creep into the dictionary of Oyan dialect. The change in dialect from Ijesa to Oyo was completed during the Ibadan rule and Oyan became an Oyo town with Oyo dialect.