Olojo is one of the oldest festivals in Ife and celebrated all over Yorubaland as Ogun, the god of iron, noted for creativity. It is perhaps the most famous of the festivals in Ile-Ife which echoes all over the world. It is proper therefore that it is being branded and presented in modern form. It is going to reinforce the notion of Ife as a foremost cultural centre.
Olojo festival is as significant to Ile-Ife as it is to all Yoruba where it is a major festival in all the cities, towns and villages where Ogun is worshipped.
At the risk of sounding like an ethnic supremacist, I want to bring forth the words of a writer who argued that the Yoruba are the most culturally successful people in Africa. This is also the theme of Prof Abiodun Adetugbo’s seminar essay titled ‘Yoruba continuities in the Diaspora’ where he detailed how Yoruba Language and culture spread around the world through slavery and migration and how these are remarkably distinct in their new environments.
The Yoruba are the predominant people in Osun, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti and Kwara states in Nigeria. They also form the substantial autochthonous populations of Edo, Delta, Kogi and Niger states.
In the Diaspora, they constitute the substantial population of Benin Republic (who are separated from their kith and kin in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Kwara states only by artificial international boundary), Togo, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa. Dispersal through slavery took large swaths of the Yoruba to Cuba, Brazil, United States, United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Columbia, Venezuela, The Caribbean and other disparate lands, near and far, where the indigenous people refer to themselves as ethnic Yoruba and view Ile-Ife as their ancestral home.
What is common to them however is the similarities in culture. They bear Yoruba names and worship Yoruba gods and goddesses like Osun, Yemoja, Ogun, Sango, Obatala and so on. According to the authors of the journal article, “Language and Culture’ (Mahadi and Jafari), ‘culture is the totality of the inherited and innate ideas, attitudes, beliefs, values, and knowledge, comprising or forming the shared foundations of social action’.
Our culture defines who we are and to a large extent what we become. It is through our culture that we acquire our distinct identities both as individual humans as well as human groups. It is an all-encompassing entity that includes virtually all aspects of human existence.
Thus, as John H. Bodley explains in his article in the electronic encyclopaedia, Encarta, “A people’s culture includes their beliefs, rules of behaviour, language, rituals, art, technology, styles of dress, ways of producing and cooking food, religion, and political and economic systems.”
Therefore, a human society is in a very profound sense a network of complex social relationships and interactions on the bases of common tradition, values, norms, language and worldview. Culture separates one human group from another; it similarly distinguishes humans from animals.
Culture therefore is the capsule that houses the economic system, science and technology, behavioural pattern, beliefs and religion of a people.
Christianity and Islam are as much aspect of culture as well as pop music and football. Space travel, automobiles, mobile phones, beer, oguro, kimono, sari, kembe, adamo music and a three piece suit are all fallouts of some cultures, in this sense. It goes without saying that the advanced nations of the world have been able to project their cultures in the bid for global hegemony construction. When you drink Coca-Cola, for instance, you are indirectly promoting a culture and from which a percentage of the cost is repatriated to the home country.
Festivals are veritable vehicles for cultural projection. For instance, Jews project their culture all over the world through festivals like Shabbat—The Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah—The Jewish New Year, Hanukkah—Festival of Lights, Yom Kippur—Day of Atonement and many others. You will note of course that Eid-Fitri and Eid-Kabir are Islamic festivals celebrated all over the Muslim world. The Octoberfest in Germany and Halloween are Europe-America festivals. It is therefore in order that we project Olojo, Iwude, Obanta and other festivals in Yorubaland that will project our culture. Our Kabiyesi should therefore be commended for this initiative.
The state government already has a tourism masterplan and has been developing it within the possible financial circumstances. What is most important now is for entrepreneurs and those interested to partner with the government in order for our state and people to benefit from this tourism money-spinner.
Excerpted From the speech delivered by the Director General of the Office of Economic Development and Partnerships (Oedp), Dr Charles ‘Diji Akinola, at the unveiling of Olojo Festival Logo to kick start the activities of the 2016 Olojo Festival, held at the Palace, on Friday September 9, 2016.