Hosting of Iwopopo, which is the traditional cleansing of the ancient city of Osogbo by the people heralded the main event of the festival on August 10 alongside the Iwopopo cultural town storming and PMAN’s performance day. This was followed with the FTAN’s forum on August 11 and dovetailed into Ataoja football challenge final. Festival art exhibition has been running since August 12, while the musical concert and the lighting of over 500-years old 16-point lamp (Olojumerindinlogun) were held on August 13. Last Friday was the turn of the educational quiz competition final.
Other highlights before the grand finale on Friday are Iboriade (Ataoja’s crowns assemblage and FUMAN’s performance day on August 17; Arugba’s berth and ANTP/TAMPAN’s performance nite on August 18; Susane Wenger’s sacred colloquium comes up on August 19; while Osun children cultural fiesta and Ayo Olopon contest (native Ayo contest) are slated for August 20.
It is a loaded timetable and festive mood has since enveloped the city. The festival has risen from a yearly communal celebration to that of cultural tourism for the people of Nigeria and the world.
The ancient city, which since becoming the capital city of Osun has thrived to maintain its rustic and pristine attractions in the face of modernity and sophistication that are fast invading its entrails, is alive and wearing the garb of celebration as its opens its hands widely to host the world to another colourful and eventful feast.
Perhaps, what makes preparation for this year’s outing thick was the unfortunate outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) that nearly took shine out of last year’s celebration. There is no doubt that the Ataoja palace and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) as well as the festival’s consultant, Infogem Nigerian Limited are living up to their promise of delivering a rich and total experience this year in order to sustain the profile of the festival as must seen event in the country.
To drum up support for the festival and signal the formal commencement of the one – month long festivities, Infogem Nigeria Limited, led by Mr. Ayo Olumoko recently in Lagos staged the festival corporate forum in which the Ataoja palace, LOC and others at the colourful gathering briefed the media on the event while the various sponsors and collaborators for this year’s festival were presented to the public.
Although the Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji Olanipekun Laroye 11 was absent at the event, he was however represented by some of his high ranking chiefs including one of his wives (Oloris) Olori Jeminat Oyetunji.
The Ataoja who was represented by the Otun-Ese of Osogboland, Chief Adeyemo Aremu underscored religious and socio-cultural values of the festival over times and the need to sustain the high standard.
According to him, the people would have more events to celebrate this year as many packages have been included in the festival, especially from the traditional angle with more traditional entertainment and games introduced by the LOC so as to make it more inclusive for both the young and aged in the community and beyond.
Dating back to 370 AD, the festival is held yearly in honour of the founding fathers of the town and a veneration of the goddess of Osun, the kindred spirit of the town believed to be the goddess of fertility and fecundity.
For this, the sons and daughters of Osogbo both at home and in the Diaspora come together yearly to re-enact this ancient celebration and pay homage to their forebears, the goddess of Osun and the Ataoja amidst celebration and feasting with the sacred Osun Grove, which is now a World Heritage Site (WHS) the centerpiece of attraction and celebration by the people and visitors alike.