Iwude Ijesa, Things You Never Knew About The Number One Festival In Ijeshaland

Ijeshaland

Ijeshaland is in Osun State in southwestern Nigeria. The Ijesha people are predominantly found in Ilesha West, Ilesha East, Atakumosa East, Atakumosa West, Oriade and Obokun Local Government Areas. See the videos below:

Ilesha is the largest town and historical capital of Ijeshaland and the King is Owa Obokun Adimula with the reigning monarch being His Majesty Oba (Dr.) Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II.

OWA OBOKUN ADIMULA OF IJESHALAND: His Majesty Oba (Dr.) Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II.

Iwude Ijesha

The first time Iwude Ijesha was celebrated was during the reign of Owa Obokun Owari who was Owa Obokun Adimula from 1466 to 1522. He instituted the festival to be celebrated every 90 days. Later during the reign of Owa Obokun Atakumosa who reigned from 1526 to 1588, there was a major expansion of the festival.

Importance and Significance of Iwude Ijesa Festival

Featuring an array of dazzling cultural activities, the Iwude Ijesha Festival is of extreme importance not just for being the largest festival in Ijeshaland alone. It is also an event that brings all sons and daughters of Ijeshaland at home and abroad together to celebrate – and that is the whole essence of the festival, it is a celebration of unity.

 It is an opportunity for Ijeshas to reunite, consolidate relationships and discuss business towards advancement of Ijeshaland. It is also an opportunity for the Owa Obokun to honor and bestow chieftaincy titles on worthy sons and daughters or even friends of the kingdom so Iwude Ijesa is also a celebration of excellence.

It is also a very important avenue for tourism as tourists from different nation visit Ijeshaland to be a part of this time-honored tradition. During the festival, locals and visitors alike are able to enjoy the rich culture and traditions of the Ijeshas while experiencing the beliefs and customs of this great people.

Once the festival is about to start, you will see proud Ijeshas from all the six local government areas of Ijeshaland in Osun State streaming towards Ilesha. The same goes from Ijeshas in other parts of Nigeria and all parts of the globe. This is one festival that means everything to the Ijesha person. There is always a sophisticated committee of high-ranking Ijeshas who are saddled with the organization and smooth execution of all activities of the festival. Assorted delicacies, local drinks like palmwine and all kinds of traditional snacks and refreshments are available for all during the celebrations.  

The Festival

The Iwude Ijesa Festival typically lasts for one month usually starting around the middle of November or December. The festival is the real peak of excitement and it kicks off at the Aafin Adimula Royal Palace of the Paramount Ruler, the Owa Obokun of Ijeshaland in Ilesha, Osun State. From the palace of the monarch, the festival procession then spreards to other places in Ijeshaland.

These include Ibokun, Ipole, Ipetu Ijesha, Ifewara, Iwara, Iloko, Erinmo, Imo, Eti Oni, Iwaraja, Ijeda-Ijesha, Erin-Ijesha, Iperindo, Idominasi, Igangan Ijesa, Ilase, Ijebu-Ijesha and many others, then the procession ends again at the palace. Hence, Iwude Ijesha is a massive celebration that covers not just all of Ilesha metropolis alone but even various parts of Ijeshaland.

Ijesha women during Iwude Ijesha

During the festival, the King of the Ijeshas, the Owa Obokun takes time to remember all his great ancestors and pays homage to them. Then he offers the necessary sacrifices and profuse prayers to Olodumare (God) for the progress and endless success for his people and for peace to always reign across the length and breadth of Ijeshaland.

Interesting Things About Iwude Ijesa

  • The festival takes it name from its grand finale which was actually formerly called Iwude Ogun (Ogun is the Yoruba god of war, iron and steel).
  • The commencement of the Iwude Ijesa is signaled by the beating of the Ogun gong (lilu Agogo Ogun).
  • Iwude Ijesa started as a festival to commemorate Ogun, who happens to be a major deity in Ijeshaland. That is why it was initially called Iwude Ogun. After the beating of the Ogun gong, the next step would be the Jije Agogo Ogun (a feast of Ogun) then Mimu Obi Losi Ipole, Ibokun ati Ijebu-Ijesha (ferrying of kolanuts to Ipole, Ibokun and Ijebu-Ijesha which are the regional headquarters of Ijeshaland.

Then there is the Ibegun Ipole which is a sacrifice to Ogun at Ipole and in about a week there will be Odun Owena (Owena Festival) then followed by Ibegun Ilesa (sacrifice to Ogun at Ilesa which is in two parts, an initial part at the Ogun Shrine to Ogun Owa Obokun Adimula located inside the Royal Palace courtyard and then another one at the Ogun Ijesa Shrine located opposite Odegeru.

Invitation for the 2018 version of Iwude Ijesha.

All these are done at the same time with the Abole Ijebu Ilesa and the next day with the Ijeun Ogun (feast for the hunters) then the Iwaaso which is a special homage to the Owa Obokun Adimula as part of the preparation for the grand final of the Ogun Festival (Iwude Ijesa) Festival in three days. At the Iwude (grand finale), the high point in the preparation for the Ogun festival is that the grounds of places leading to the Ogun shrine are coated with the blue dye (Aro).

  • On the grand finale day which is properly named Iwude Ijesha, the Royal Palace is taken over with excitement as Ijesha turn out in various colorful attire in very vibrant mood. At that moment, all the royal Ijesha Obokun crowns are stored in two boxes known as Apoti Ade (Box of Crowns). All these are properly coordinated by the Esira (the chief whose deity is Oduduwa) and it is also his duty to carry out the needed sacrifices as homage to the Ade Eleye Oduduwa Abalaye (this is the sacred ancient crown of the Owa Obokun Adimula and it is worn just once a year by the king at the Iwude Ijesha Festival.
  • It is obligatory for the Owa Obokun Adimula to appear once every year to visit his subjects at the Iwude Ijesa. For the remaining 364 days of the year, his subjects pay him homage and obeisance at his Royal Palace. Once the King steps out of his Palace, he moves around with all splendor before returning to his Palace at the end of the day.

Upon stepping out, the Yeyerise (Head of all Ijesha women) and the Isogbas are outside the courtyard to pay obeisance to him, they also shower the King with prayers. Video below shows Kabiyesi entering Yeyerise’s palace:

As he changes his crown, a white fabric is used to obscure the view. Then the royal procession snakes its way to the Prime Minister and courtyard of the Obaala, head of the  Ijesha Obokun commoners and also leader of the Iwarefa (highest traditional body and the Ijesha Obokun parliament known as Agba Ujesa or Eta Ule Eta Oko or Uwa Refa Mefa. Video below shows 2017 Iwude Ijesa:

The Obaala also doubles as the head of the Ijesha public and as the King steps out of his vehicle, he will dance to the Ijo Agba music of the dances as he swaggers into the residence of the Obaala followed by his Royal Advisers and Royal Aides led by the Odole, Risawe and all the Royal Palace Emissaries.

Here, the King spends a lot of time running into a few hours where he will speak to groups, eat, drink and socialize with his people. As he departs the courtyard of the Obaala, he will dip his left toe in the blood of a cock killed in his honour and to mark his presence at the domain of the Obaala. Video below shows Owa Obokun and Governor Rauf Aregbesola (also an Ijesha son) having a nice time at the 2014 Iwude Ijesha:

From there, the King visits other major areas across Ijeshaland and it is real fanfare all through. The drummers change the tone of music to signify the particular area the Owa Obokun is as he moves from place to place.

  • In 1900, His Imperial Majesty Oba Frederick Kumokun Haastrup Ajimoko 1 the Owa Obokun Adimula of Ijesaland became the first Ijesa Obokun King to be transported in a motorcade for the Iwude Ijesa Festival. Today, the festival has been thoroughly upgraded and modernized and it is now one of the most prominent traditional events in Nigeria.
  • In the past, the people of Ijeshaland saw the Owa Obokun just once in a year – on the day of Iwude Ijesa.

That said, the Iwude Ijesa for this year starts today (see image above). So, all roads lead to Ijeshaland! I dedicate this piece to my biggest Boss, he is the only high chief I know from Ijeshaland, I twale you Sir o! I dedicate this song below specially also to all my Ijesha fans, you are very much loved!

Thank you all for your time,
ABIYAMO.

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