Ojúde Ọba Festival: A textile parade of Glitz, Glamour and Grandeur

Ojude Oba, originally known as Ita Oba translating as The King’s Forecourt or Frontage is an ancient festival celebrated by the Yoruba people of Ijebu descent in the capital of Ijebuland, Ijebu Ode, Ogun state, Southwestern Nigeria. Ijebu Ode is a territory bound in the North by Ibadan, in the East by Ondo and Okitipupa and in the West by Abeokuta. The Southern border is close to the sea with the coastlines of Epe, Ibeju-Lekki and Ikorodu. Ojude Oba festival is celebrated on the third day of the Muslim Eid-al-Kabir, known as Ileya to pay homage and show respect to the Royal Majesty and paramount ruler of Ijebu Ode, Awujale. Today, this festival has transcended religious lines and now attracts millions of people of all faiths from within and outside Nigeria.

Awujale Sikiru Kayode Adetona

Ojude Oba is a festival that has become a display of glamour, wealth, opulence, affluence, loyalty, culture, unity and cohesion since it began over one hundred years ago. The various participating groups have become a very strong pillar of the festival, they come out on that day parading in their grand attire and looks. The earlier expressions of the festival focused mostly on horse riding but with time it has been more of pomp and pageantry demonstrated by the use of textiles displayed in the dressing of the groups, making Ojude Oba a cynosure of all eyes. Handwoven textiles such as the Aso Oke are commissioned in different colours and styles from other parts of Yoruba land to identify the different cultural age groups known as regbéregbé and their family compounds called itun who come with their friends and associates from far and near to join in the parade before the Awujale in their attractive costumes of blouses, wrappers, head gears, scarves, hand fans, footwear and hand bags made with the Aso Oke fabric. The festival constitutes a major commercial activity that brings about economic integration and development of the Ijebu community.

The regbéregbé of Ijebu land is an organisation of age groups within three years interval that have been put in place to unify both male and female of the same age group for the development and progress of Ijebu land. These groups have grown into tools of societal cohesion and triggered the growth of Ijebuland. In many Yoruba societies, the culture of dressing plays an important role at ceremonies. It is one of the ways to display one’s economic status within the society and at Ojude Oba, the age groups try to beat one another through the kind of clothes they wear. The age group comprises of men and women who are supposed to be dressed in the same pattern of cloth. The sheer impact of the bulk in colors and strips created by an assemblage of individuals in close proximity with each person robed in identical pattern and hue, is indeed admirable. The attire worn in the previous festival would not be repeated in the next festival and this is to show their economic status and wealth to make a statement that they are doing fine in their age group. In cases where an entirely different attire is not worn at the next Ojude Oba, the difference would not focus on the colour but on the style; how the fabric to be repeated is combined with complementary accessories such as hand fans, neck laces, head gear style, staffs, shoes, bags etc. Traditionally, the favorite colours of the Yoruba are tan, the rich natural tone of the silk known as Sanyan, and blue, ranging from the palest to the deepest blue black obtainable from the indigo dye pots. Reds and an occasional yellow are also traditional preferences. More recently, however, innovations in pattern and hue have come to be prized, so that there is a more varied palette and an increased reliance on commercially manufactured yarns rather than dependence on hand-spun and locally dyed weaves. This is why today, some age groups would wear agbada (big overall cloth for men), laced with damask. At a previous Ojude Oba festival, all the age groups wore the same pattern of cloth with Ijebu state written all over it and the only difference was the colour of caps for men and the headgear of the ladies. The reason for this was that that year’s festival was used to campaign for the creation of an Ijebu state for the Ijebu people.

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