By Bode Durojaiye.
This year’s World Sango Festival which commences tomorrow , August, 20th, will attract foreign nationals from several countries, and eminent personalities across the country.
It is a particular and probably the most distinctive expression of the larger intangible heritage of Oyo city uniting all the forms of knowledge.It is also one of the most ancient, traditional and major festivals of the Yoruba race.
As such, it encompasses all the range of techniques, skills, and crafts through which cultural values, customs, and traditions of Oyo people are manifested.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed is the Chief Guest of honour , while the Regent and Chairman, Oyo Traditional Council ( the Oyo Mesi) , High Chief Yussuf Ayoola Layinka 1, is the Chief Host.
The aboriginal place of this traditional and cultural event is in the city of Oyo located in Oyo State in the southwest region of Nigeria, but it also takes place in others towns in Yoruba land.Due to the expansion of Oyo territory, Oyo was once the capital of the Oyo Empire, one of the most remarkable and vast Empires of West Africa that ruled for over 600 years, imprinting its culture, language and traditions across the region, known today as Yoruba common culture.
The traditions of Sango and Oyo were also widespread to the New World, being preserved today in several countries in the Diaspora.
The international Festival is a social practice and festive events deeply connected to the social, religious, cultural and political institutions in Oyo. It is a key element for the maintenance of the city’s identity, unity among the people since immemorial times and the survival of the heart and the mind of the Yoruba culture.
It is the maintenance of coexistence with the ancestral world and nature.
The international cultural event will consists of intensive traditional and beliefs practices that accommodate many cultural features. It is during the period of strong rains, which marks the beginning of
a productivity season cycle and a renewal bond between the Alaafin and
Sango, the ancestral spiritual world.It is a festival that reflects the traditional diversity of its environment. Several activities will take place, which include, traditional prayers, reciting oral poetry under the rhythms of traditional drums followed by traditional dancing to evoke the ancestors and the
exchanging of traditional presents between the royal palace and the
Sango Koso main shrine.
The archaic Yoruba language is still used to transmit the embedded linguistic values of the ancestral identity of the traditional community in general. For instance by reciting the traditional oral “Oriki-Sango pipe” poems (eulogies), as a form of encoding historical antecedence in an interpretable and intelligible manner, is a clear example of the rich oral heritage related to the ancestor Sango, and indispensable for the conduction of the festival.
The learning of “Oriki -Sango Pipe” poems, chants, prayers, liturgical
rites, dancing, divination, drumming and even dancing starts from a young age. To ensure that parts of this rich and complex oral legacy, performing
arts and apprenticeship are not lost, traditional families transmit their knowledge through the informal method by teaching their male and female children and other members of the community.
This cross-compound learning system is the base of the successful endurance of Oyo traditions, being a gender friendly tradition as woman are involved in the activities. Also, depending largely on craftsmanship, the festival cannot hold
without traditional handmade attires, sculptures, liturgical objects
and other traditional instruments.It would be recalled that the Federal Government had expressed its support for the late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi 111 and
Paula Gomes Cultural Foundation in the pursuit of preserving and safeguarding both the tangible and intangible heritage of ancient Oyo city, with a view of preparing candidature dossiers for World Sango heritage nominations. This is contained in an official letter written by the then Permanent
Secretary, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation to the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.
Dr. Paula Gomes from Portugal is the Alaafin’s Cultural Ambassador.
The letter stated that Oyo city, located in Oyo State, South-west of Nigeria holds a remarkable and rich set of tangible resources such as temple, palaces, markets and traditional compounds as well as natural resources like rivers and forests.
This notable set of buildings and natural resources, Federal Government pointed out, sustain the maintenance of a millenary culture based on a unique and complex traditional, political and religious system.‘’The intangible heritage preserved in Oyo include music, traditional craftsmanship, poetry [Oriki], as well as complex and intense festivities calendar that culminates with the important Sango
Festival, make Oyo town centre of cultural civilization’’, the letter stressed.Bode Durojaiye is the Director of Media and Publicity to the Alaafin of Oyo.