n Owo, a city in Ondo, a state in the southwestern part of Nigeria, there is a Yoruba luminous festivity known as the Igogo Festival. It takes place every September to commemorate Queen Orensen, Rerengejen’s mythological wife. The incumbent Olowo of Owo and the high chiefs of Owo Kingdom dress up as ladies for the celebration, wearing coral beads, beaded gowns, and braided hair. During the celebrations, headgear and caps are prohibited, as are drumming and gunfire.
According to historical records and folklore/mythology, Olowo, the King, fell in love with Orensen, a really stunning and gorgeous woman, almost 600 years ago. Unfortunately for the King, the woman was a goddess incapable of cohabiting with a human in the physical form. More so, it was a sacrilege, an abominable sight for her to witness women pounding spices, fetching water, or hurling a bundle of wood to the ground.
Since the love he (the King) had for this goddess (Orensen) was so great beyond words could explain, and in order to make her his bride, the King promised her that all of his previous wives would be bound by the same rules in front of her. After a period of time, the King’s other women (that is, his numerous wives since polygamy was rife at the time) got enraged and revolted. They did everything they should not have done in front of the goddess, who got disgusted and embittered and subsequently placed a curse on the entire kingdom of Owo. The goddess, still fumed, made a pact and promised that the only way the people of Owo would avoid dying of famine or sickness is for the King and his serving chiefs to hold a celebration in her honour every year without fail. The sound of the talking drums should sing her praises and beg for her mercy; it was also necessary to have a man and a woman sacrifice for her.
Igogo, or Igogo Festival, is still held, although the human sacrifice has been substituted with the sacrifice of a sheep and a goat.
This is a 17-day annual event in Owo that includes a number of ceremonies such as the blessing and release of new yams. The celebration honours the king’s wife – Orensen, who transformed into a tree while being pursued by the king’s slave to return to the palace after her competitors (other wives of the king) contravened her taboos in her presence.
During this event, the Olowo customarily wears a Coral Beaded Crown and braids his hair similar to that of a woman. Owo has some traditional ties to Benin kingdom, which may be clearly seen during the festival as there are similarities in their regalia, dances and musical enchantment.
The Olowo, along with the Chief Priest and male youngsters from Iloro quarters, leads his people in a dance across the entire town. Drumming is prohibited in Owo during this 17-day festival, and metal gongs (Agogo) are used instead. It was here that the term “Igogo” was invented.
The Igogo festival, which takes place every September, is a cultural presentation of the people’s culture, with the main goal of aligning youngsters and visitors alike with the cultural norms of the region.