Recently, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed the Sango Oyo Festival, a Yoruba traditional festival to celebrate Sango, the African god of thunder, on the list of World Heritage.

The body inscribed Sango Oyo Festival at the 2023 Eighteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee Convention For The Safeguarding Of The Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Before the global  inscription the ancient Oyo town, Oyo State, 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, sustain the maintenance of a millenary culture based on a unique and complex, traditional, political and religious system.

In this report, BODE DUROJAIYE, the Director of Media and Publicity to the late Alaafin of Oyo, takes a look at the intangible heritage preservation, as well as complex and intense festivities
calendar that culminates with the important World Sango Festival, thus
making the ancient town a bulwark of Yoruba traditions and culture in
the world.

Due to the expansion of Oyo territory, it was once the capital of the Oyo Empire, one of the most remarkable and vast Empires of West Africa that ruled for over 600 uninterrupted years, imprinting its culture, language and traditions across the region, known today as Yoruba common culture.

Still, Oyo is perceived as a place where tradition is strongly preserved in its essence.

Since the eighteenth century, when the transatlantic slave trade began, the traditions of Sango and Oyo were also widespread to the New world, being preserved today in several countries in the Diaspora.

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.

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As such, it was directly responsible for the diffusion of Yoruba Culture, traditions and beliefs throughout West Africa, covering a large territory that extended from the Southwest Nigeria to Benin, Togo, upto Ghana.

This same cultural heritage was later on diffused through the transatlantic slave routes to the Americas and the Caribbean and preserved from generation to generation to date.

In some cases, such as in Brazil this culture was classified as
national heritage through the preservation of the Nago communities of
Bahia’s Cabdomble’’.

Due to the size and scope of Oyo-Sango’s heritage, the Federal
Government took the lead in canvassing for the ancient town to be nominated as the WORLD SANGO HERITAGE CENTRE, among other contesting countries, numbering about 20 countries before the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation [UNESCO].

To be continued  ……..

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