- Osun agog as Orisa dances revive Yoruba tradition
From CLEMENT ADEYI, Osogbo
IT was a day of reminiscences, adulations, eulogies and emotions when Osun State indigenes congregated recently to re-enact the cultures of the land abandoned over the years.
The day was Thursday, June 2, 2016, and Osogbo, particularly, the Olonkoro area of the town went agog. School pupils, artisans, civil servants, government officials, market men and women, royal fathers, custodians of Yoruba cultures and tradition from different parts of the state, security personnel, the youths among others surged into the Olonkoro City Hall. Those who could not find space perched on the windows and the balcony to catch a glimpse of Orisa dances.
The dexterity with which they performed on the stage in turns was a tacit manifestation of a culture that can never be eclipsed by any form of civilization. Clad in their native attires and armed with costumes, talking drums, gongs among others, the troupes presented their dances that really elicited reminiscences of Yoruba cultures that have been abandoned.
Fourteen-year-old Michael Olanrewaju told Daily Sun: “I am happy to be here to witness this Orisa dances. I really enjoyed it. My parents have always talked about it, and I looked forward to witnessing it one day, but it was not organized. I want the event to be organized periodically. I really enjoyed myself today.”
Bolanle Olayinka, a market woman: “When I learnt that Orisa dances was going to hold in Osogbo, I had to close my shop at Ipetumodu, near Ile-Ife to attend it. In fact, the first thing that came to my mind was that if Orisa dances would be organised, it then means that other Yoruba cultures that have been neglected many years ago will soon be brought back. I really thank the organisers and I want them to bring back our lost cultures.”
A member of one of the Orisa dance troupes, David Omole: “It is good that we are here to do this today. We had always looked forward to it but due to several factors beyond our control, it didn’t happen. But thank God it has happened today.
Most Yoruba cultures have been neglected over the years. For me, without culture, there are no people, and if there are no people, there can’t be culture.
“People and culture are like five and six. So, I wonder why we should be cut off from our cultures. With the organization of Orisa dances today, I am sure that several Yoruba cultures that have been abandoned long long time ago will soon be brought back. I want the custodians of our culture and tradition to work towards it.”
Former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola is chairman, Board of Directors, Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU), the facilitator of the event. Addressing the participants, he spoke on Yoruba cultural heritage and the need to preserve it:
“The purpose of our congregation here today is to showcase a variety of our intangible cultural heritage that is almost on the brink of extinction.
“The CBCIU is aware of the level of extinction of many aspects of our culture, especially the traditional religion. Our intangible cultural heritage is fast disappearing and we must take a decisive approach and action to revive our culture. This project, Orisa Dances is being presented to revive the remaining surviving ones from total disappearance. Towards this end, we make use of the elders who can demonstrate the dances to train the youths before they become too old and incapable of doing anything.
“We believe it is our responsibility to preserve our cultures and traditions for generations yet unborn, especially in an era when foreign cultures are making dangerous incursions into our society at an alarming proportion.”
According to Yoruba mythology, Oyinlola revealed, there are 401 deities. He lamented that the songs, dance steps drums and drumming styles of those deities had gone into extinction. He also recalled Ifa’s declaration that there are 840 different drums in Yoruba land that descended from heaven into the universe but not up to 50 types of drums could be identified in Yoruba land today:
“Where are the other drums? Even the quality of dance steps, the drumming skills and contents of the songs of Orisa dances today cannot be compared to what was in existence about 200 years ago. What shall we tell our generations yet unborn about our ancestors and beginnings?
“Let me emphasise that we are not here to worship any deity. We are here to encourage creativity with the aim of imparting the skills and the whole gamut of dancing and drumming into the young ones who will take our culture to the other parts of the world.”
Oyinlola said CBCIU would consider training and empowering the dancers in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, train professional dancers and drummers in states’ cultural troupes, students of Theatre Arts and African Studies as well as other professional dancers and drummers to advance the cause of cultural and traditional developments in the country.
He called on parents and guardians to support their children who are talented in one form or the other in the field of culture to take advantage of the prospects in African culture and tradition.