Arts and Culture

THE PEOPLE OF OWO KINGDOM

The people of Owo are found in Ondo State of Nigeria. It was the capital of a Yoruba-city-state between 1400 AD and 1600 AD. Owo is a Local Government Area of Ondo State. It has a population of 222, 262 based on 2006 population census. The city is bounded by Ifon, Uso and Benin. The people are predominantly farmers and art workers (sculptors and ivory carvers). Their agrarian land is used to plant cash and food crops such as coco, plantain, yam, rubber, cassava, cocoyam etc. The people are led by a king titled ‘Olowo of Owo’. The people are predominantly farmers that grow food and cash crops. The main language spoken here is the Owo dialect and Yoruba language.

HISTORY

Owo traces its origins back to the ancient city of Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba culture. Oral tradition claims that the founders were the sons of the Yoruba deity Oduduwa, who was the first ruler of Ile-Ife. The early art-historical and archaeological records reference these strong affiliations with Ife culture. Owo, which has Benin has its neighboring kingdom has the same culture. The transmission of courtly culture flowed in both directions (Owo and Benin). The skill of Owo’s ivory carvers was also appreciated at the court of Benin.

It came under British rule in 1893. After Nigeria declared independence in 1960, the kingdom was part of the Western Region until 1967 when it became part of Western State. Owo and its indigenes were said to play significant roles in the politics of the First Republic in Nigeria. In 1976, it became part of the newly created Ondo State.

Owo People

CULTURE

Owo has the largest palace (Aghofen) in Africa which was declared national monument by the federal government of Nigeria. The Owo Palace had as many as 100 courtyards (Ugha). Each courtyard had a specific function and was dedicated to a particular deity. The largest of the court is twice as big as an American football field. The courts were built in style and decorated with materials such as quartz, pebbles, broken pottery, and statues.

The most recent Olowo of Owo (king) was Oba Folagbade Olateru III who passed away recently. Owo people are good dancers and also rich in music. The list of traditional dances includes; the Ajabure Traditional Dance which is performed as part of the funeral for the dead. There is also the Totorigi dance for men and women. The dancers have a beautiful costume and dressing which consists of a thick woolen material (aso oke or ofi) worn by both male and female. The females tie the cloth up to their chest with coral beads on (neck, wrist and ankle).

They also use black-horse-tail which is moved with dexterity while dancing to their music accompanied by the agogo (gong) and drums.

The Igogo festival is a festival held in Owo. It comes up annually in September to honor Queen Oronsen, a mythical wife of Rerengejen. During the festival, the Olowo of Owo and high chiefs of Owo Kingdom dress like women with coral beads, beaded gowns and plaited hair. There is also the wearing of headgears, caps and the beatings of drums. Firings of guns are prohibited in the festival.

NOTABLE PEOPLE

Notable people from this ancient Kingdom includes; Oba Olateru Folagbade Olagbegi (monarch), Michael Adekunle Ajasin (politician and former governor), Arakunrin Odunayo Akeredolu (present governor), Simi (musician), Dr. Orlando Owoh (legendary musician), Jibola Dabo (Nollywood actor) and so on.

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