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Eyo Festival – Facts, History & Photos

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If we are going to list the major tourist attraction in Lagos State, the Eyo festival will be among the top list. It is a very popular Yoruba festival in Lagos, Nigeria.

If you are a Lagosian, you are probably going to be familiar with every single word we will share in this post (well, maybe some new facts in exception). But if you are new to Lagos, then there are some exciting things we have for you about the Eyo Festival of Yoruba land, Lagos State.

We’ve been hearing the Eyo festival every season, some of us have even experienced the festival and all the dramas intriguing facade about the ceremony but only a few who are grounded in the tradition know about the Eyo festival and what it stands for.

Well, don’t get too tense. In this post, we want to brief you about the high esteemed tradition of the Yoruba people of Lagos, the Eyo festival, and all you need to know about it especially as a visitor. (E get why!)

A few background checks, the word ‘Eyo‘ describes the masquerades that come out during the festival.

The festival is usually held when a new head of Iga or a new Oba is installed on the throne. It is also held in honor of an Oba who just died in Yoruba land.

But with a lot of modernity in government (gearing away from the monarchy) the governor can ask for the Eyo festival to be organized.

Eyo festival involves the ceremonial dancing and chanting of Eyo masquerades in the city and around town.

How often is the Eyo festival held in Lagos state?

In the early days, that is, before what we have now, the major reason why the Eyo festival was held was to honor the death of an Oba. Whenever any highly esteemed chief in Lagos kicks the bucket, it is the tradition of the Yoruba people to organize the Eyo festival as it is said to escort the soul of a departed Lagos King or Chief and to usher in a new king.

It is a very unique kind of festival unlike other Lagos festivals you might have heard of. One of the reasons why it is unique is that it is not organized or held annually or due to some seasons. It is an infrequent staging kind of festival.

And we that that is among the thing that makes it special among the people of Lagos State.

So if you know the purpose of the Eyo festival and why it is held, then you know the answer to how often it is held in Lagos State. But, not exactly though.

Where in Nigeria is the Eyo festival held?

Many foreigners and tourists who have not been to Nigeria before, but have heard about the Eyo festival may not have an idea on the part of the country where the festival holds exactly.

The Eyo festival is only held in Lagos. It is a Lagos owned festival and we don’t think anything can change that.

Then further questions on where the Eyo festival is held in Lagos may lead us to list the two significant parts of Lagos which include the mainland and the island of Lagos. The latter is where major Lagosians and indigenes reside.

All the showdown happens at the Tafewa Balewa square where large people meet where the Eyes are gathered. Several activities must be done by the Eyes before this time though.

Apart from honorary, and fulfilling the spiritual duties of the land, The Eyo festival is used to showcase the culture of the Isle Eko people. It can be referred to as a significant fiber of the Yoruba culture.

It may not be all that easy to describe the appearance of the Eyo masquerades. You must have seen interesting paintings and artworks that describe the masquerade’s appearance during the festival.

Each Eyo(masquerade) comes out of an Iga (palace) of a ruling family in the morning and heads for the Agodo(shrine).

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An Eyo masquerader dances in the streets as he makes his way to the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos on May 20, 2017.

eyo festival pictures
Eyo masqueraders walk down the street towards the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos on May 20, 2017.

eyo festival photo

eyo festival history

yoruba eyo festival
The Yoruba festival dancers known as Eyo masquerades or costumed dancers representing the spirits of the ancestors, perform along the red carpet during the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) in Lagos November 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

How do the Eyo (masquerades) look like during the Eyo festival?

The image above is a pure portrait of how the Eyo looks like during the festival. They are robed from top to bottom in white flowing cloth. Yes, white is the color. Also some special paintings you must have seen on the internet will give them different colors.

There are some Yoruba terms we must not exclude when describing the Eyo(masquerade) attire.

The ‘agbada’ and the ‘aropale’ are the two major costumes that each of the Eyo wears. They also have this ‘Akete’ (a hat) that bears the colors and shield of the Iga from which he comes from.

Now those who are hyping or supporting the Eyes are not to wear white robes. Each person carrying a robe as Eyo must pay a fee for the privilege to the Iga, ruling house, whose colors and Akete the Eyo wears.

How is the Eyo festival celebrated in Lagos State?

The way the Eyo festival is celebrated and organized is probably the most exciting part of the whole thing.

On the day of the Eyo festival, all the Eyos gather together at 5 am. This is usually noticed by the sound of the Gbedu and Koranga drums, two drums that are only beaten during the Eyo festival. The events take our memories back to the primitive Era of Africa and how we embraced every bit of tradition back then.

At this point, all the Eyos are seen going towards a tent with raffia mats, erected somewhere in the neighborhood of Enu Owa in Lagos Island. By this time they are all in their full attire.

Recall that Enu Owa is an important place on the island where the ceremonial crowning of any Oba takes place.

After moving to the Oba Palace to pay homage, all the Eyos gather at the Tafawa Balewa Square where thousands of people will be waiting to receive them and join in the festivities.

There is going to be a lot of singing, dancing, ceremonial and uniformed movement of the Eyos and local drummings.

This event usually takes long, sometimes, the whole day till dusk. Many end up being unfortunate due to the customs and traditions behind the festival.

However, the Eyos is to go back to where the opening of the traditional festival was declared at dawn, the para. This is the place where the Orisa Adimu will I strict that the Para be torn down, Marking the end of the festival.

Taboos that must not be done at the Eyo Festival

There are rules behind the Eyo festival that must not be broken by either indigenes or tourists during the festival. You have to be very careful not to do them while the Eyo festival is on.

  • No Smoking ( do not bring Cigar to the festival ground)
  • Walk bare feet throughout the festival – no shoes!
  • No Riding of bicycle/motorcycle
  • Your head must not be covered throughout the festival ( Muslim men are allowed to wear their white prayer cap)
  • No one is permitted to take pictures with or of the Eyo Orisha.
  • Women with the Suku hairstyle must stay clear from the festival as it is not allowed.

Eyo Festival Date?

The first Eyo festival in Lagos was on the 20th of February, 1854, to commemorate the life of Oba Akintoye. The Eyo festival is usually held on a Saturday. Due to its history, the festival is traditionally on Lagos Island.

As of now, we don’t know when the next Eyo festival will take place but you can bookmark this page so you can check back later. We will be happy to let you know about the next Yoruba Eyo festival date.

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