OSOGBO, Osun State is beginning to wear a festive mood with expectant air pervading the atmosphere as the people warm up for the yearly celebration of the Osun Cultural Festival. The activities that would feature in the communal gathering were last week unfolded.
The festival has a rich and an enduring history as it was first celebrated around 1370 AD. Since then, people have continued to celebrate it every year. This longevity is attributed to the important role the festival plays in the life of the people and Osogbo community itself.
In addition to be a cultural festival with a tinge of social ambience, the spiritual essence is said to be of utmost importance to the people as it is the soul of the yearly communal celebration, which is held in honour of Osun goddess, the patron spirit of fertility.
A festival of purgation and purification of some sorts with some form of established rituals, is actually a homage to the goddess who is seen as the guiding light of the people, the one giver of life and the one responsible for the progress of the people and the city.
The spirit is domicile in the Osun River, which runs its course through the Osun grove, the venue of the yearly event. The river therefore, plays an essential part in the celebration as the water is regarded as possessing both healing and purifying forces hence the water is highly regarded.
Speaking at the corporate forum held in Lagos last week where the three weeks celebration programme was unveiled with the grand finale expected to hold on Friday August 26, the Ajaguna of Osogboland, Chief Gabriel Oparanti said the age –long festival has been of immense benefits to the city and people hence it has continued to attract attention of the people over the years.
Recounting the gains of the festival, Oparanti who is also the Second in Command in Osogboland, said the observant of the annual festival is responsible for the progress of the town as the town grows annually with its people living in peace and harmony.
‘‘The celebration of the festival brings peace and transquilities to the city of Osogbo and that is why many people had come to settle in Osogbo,’’ said the chief, adding that the festival has also produced many local artists and artisans who have risen to be international figures in the art circle.
Economically, the Ajaguna of Osogboland said the people have blossomed with the various segments of the economic, especially the informal sector benefiting. ‘‘Many of the members of the Osun goddess worshippers are now very great people economically and culturally and some had travelled overseas to acquire wealth,’’ said Oparanti.
On the effort being made to elevate the festival to the global tourism map, the Managing Director of Infogem Nigeria Limited, Mr. Ayo Olumoko, the marketers of the festival, informed that the effort is yielding fruits with a heavy delegation expected from Brazil at this year’s event following the visit to the country in May (23 – 30) for a cultural exchange programme.
Also, Olumoko said that a six years programme of events with the dates for the event has also been developed as part of the effort at promoting and marketing the festival to the international community as foreign tourists need a long time to prepare for the event.
He assured that beginning from this year, the festival would witness a large presence of foreign tourists as his firm as perfected plans to make the festival economically viable and a contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
Olumoko also promised the people a memorable celebration all through the three weeks long gathering, as he stressed that many of the activities are geared towards expanding the social horizon of the town and position the festival as a must see social event.
A number of the corporate sponsors at the occasion also spoke along the same vein with each of them ranging from telecommunication outfit to product outfits promising the people a leisurely satisfying time at Osogbo.
Activities of the three weeks celebration has been divided into three sections, namely, pre – festival events, festival grand final presentation and post – festival event with the festival traditionally starting on Monday, August 15 with the Iwopopo (Traditional cleansing of the city).
Other highlights are Festival’s art exhibition opening ceremony on Wednesday, August 17; film show at Ataoja palace on August 19; Iboriade Ataoja’s crowns assemblage, PMAN’s performance day, Eke (traditional wrestling) final on August 22; Ayo Olopon contest (native Ayo game), HIV/AIDS promotion campaign (WADEM), FTAN Osun’s hospitality workshop on August 23; Susanne Wenger’s sacred colloquium – Osogbo, Ataoja’s youth football challenge final, Arugba’s berth, Orisa community empowerment retreat (day 1) on August 24; Sisi Osun cultural pageant, school cultural competition final, Orisa community empowerment retreat (day 11) on August 25; Osun Osogbo festival grand finale at Osun grove, royal reception for sponsors/invited guests on August 26; Oroki day, August 27; and Asa grand musical concert on August 29.