For Osun indigenes, August is unique. It is signposted by a beehive of activities, thanks to the globally renowned Osun Osogbo Festival that invites devotees and tourists alike to the Osun Groove. The groove, designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is the abode of the legendary Osun River goddess, reputed for her mystical powers to meet the needs of worshippers.
A major event that stood out this year at the festival was the Yoruba Ethnic Fashion Show and Awards. The event, leveraging on the robust and highly creative textile tradition Osogbo is globally reputed for, brought to fore the best of unique indigenous Yoruba textiles and design.
The event, which held last Thursday, heralded the grand finale of the Osun Osogbo Festival and turned out a night of fun with rich blend of humour and showcase of the beauty of the African textiles for the diverse guests and tourists who graced the occasion. It was flagged by the soothing sounds of the talking drum by Simisola, who rendered both the national and state anthems with her drum while Kofi, the joke merchant, held the audience spell bound with his riveting yet decorous jokes all through the four-hour event.
Adegboyega Adelaja, one of the moving spirits of the Yoruba Arts and Festivals Promotions and the Dreamscape Productions, noted that the organisers are riding on the back of the Osun Osogbo Festival to showcase the best of Yoruba heritage through fashion and to draw the attention of the world to the untapped treasures in the Yoruba culture and design. Indeed, the various designers kept faith with the assurance made by the organizers, showcasing exquisite designs after design with rich repertoire of Yoruba textile and indigenous fashion.
Oloye Lekan Alabi, the notable culture advocate who was honoured by the organizers for his dedication and commitment to promoting the Yoruba culture and fashion could not hide his admiration for the artistic masterpieces that was unveiled. He enthused: “this is sheer beauty, creativity and culture at its best!” The exhibited products were as diverse as the strength of the native accessories used. Indigenous African beads with a healthy fusion of modern designs were showcased by Bionics.
The New York-trained Shayee and daughter of Nike Okundaye enthralled the audience with her unique collections of wears made with assorted Adire designs. Deola Sefaari, Saloy and Mood Deo equally thrilled the audience with their dexterous deployment of Adire, Ankara and Ofi fabrics to produce an array of interesting world-class designs. Additionally, the showcase of headgears and locally-inspired hairdos further captivated the audience.
An exciting interlude came from the Roadblock Steel Ochestra, a band from Trinidad and Tobago whose exquisite sounds produced with the aid of steel evoked an unrelenting excitement from the audience. This was further complemented with the sonorous and alluring renditions from Nefertiti, an indigenous band. A team of Eyo masquerades were also on hand to entertain the audience.
Iconic film actor, folk singer, Jimi Solanke, noted that with proper attention being paid to the arts, the industry has the potential of boosting the nation’s economy. According to him, “the next best treasure after oil is art. But we have failed to develop it. If government could be proactive enough to involve the professionals in the arts and industry to develop it, it would go a long way in helping the economy. If we focus on ethnic fashions, we will be able to create and increase our export profile. That is why Osun Osogbo festival should continue”.
Dipo Famakinwa, Director General, Development Agenda for Western Region (DAWN) Commission, argued the need for policy makers in the country to appreciate the enormous potential inherent in the nation’s arts and culture industry. In his words: “We need to turn our crafts to wealth. Look at our Aso-Oke, adire, ankara and others. Our goldsmith and black smiths have gone into extinction. Technical and vocational education is crucial to economic development.”
This position was equally re-echoed by Nike Okundaye, notable culture advocate and founder of the Nike Art Gallery. “Our people do not know that they are sitting on valuable resources in this country. Culture, heritage, arts and creativity are our hidden treasures. If appreciated and developed, they can boost our economic fortunes. Dignitaries who graced the occasion include Oba Dokun Abolarin, Orangun of Ila Orogun; Solanke, Williams; Oloye Lekan Alabi; Dr Charles Akinola; Barrister Femi Ifaturoti; Dipo Famakinwa, DG, DAWN Commission; Chief Oyenike Okundaye; Avery Ammon; Femi Adefila of Rave FM; Larry Williams; Remi Osiberu; Mr Yomi Layinka; Gbenga Adebusuyi and a host of tourists from the Carribean.