The recently concluded Ojude Oba festival opened the eyes of young Nigerians to the country’s rich cultural tapestry, but what if I told you there are more cultural festivals in Nigeria that slap just as hard?
If you don’t want to end up in a coulda, shoulda, woulda situation, you should take notes and mark the dates on your calendar because there’s more where Ojude Oba came from. Here are 10 culture-heavy festivals that should be on your radar
Source: Nigeria stories
Forget the recent portrayal in Jade Osiberu’s Gangs of Lagos, the Eyo festival, also known as “Adamu Orisha” is a traditional play that highlights the rich cultural history of the Yoruba people in Lagos. It’s a mix of dance and flamboyant display held as the last funeral rites in honour of a departed Lagos monarch, chief or prominent individual.
The first Eyo Festival history can be traced back to February 1854 to mark honour the demise of then Oba of Lagos, Oba Akitoye. Eyo performers don white robes, colourful hats, and parade through the streets, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. The last edition was held in 2017 as part of the activities of the Lagos At 50 celebration. It was dedicated to the late Oba Yekini Adeniyi Elegushi Kusenla II (1940-2009).
Source: Stefan Heunis/ AFP
If you dig everything about art, spirituality, and nature, you want to start packing your bags for the iconic Osun-Osogbo festival in Osun state. The festival held in August of every year pays homage to the river goddess Osun. It features elaborate processions from the Ataoja’s palace (the town’s king) to the breathtaking Osun-Osogbo sacred Grove; a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Priest and priestesses don white attires while other festival attendees can dress as they please.
If you’re looking for colour, pure vibes and a culturally immersive experience, this is one of the cultural festivals in Nigeria that should be top on your radar. It was commissioned as an official festival in 2004 by former Cross River governor, Donald Duke, who had a vision to make the state a tourism hub in Nigeria and Africa. Think of the festival as Nigeria’s biggest street party for diverse ethnic groups. The music is loud, the costumes are grand and elaborate and the vibes are pure flame. It goes down in December of every year.
Argungu Fishing Festival:
Source: Guardian Nigeria
With a history that dates back to 1934, this Nigerian cultural festival goes down in Kebbi state in north-west Nigeria. It is an annual four-day festival that happens at the beginning of March, marking the end of centuries-old hostility between the Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom. Since the region is blessed with fertile rivers, fishing became an ideal way to celebrate peace. Thousands of fishermen cast their traditional handmade nets into the river hoping to catch the largest fish. The last edition was held in 2020, with President Tinubu promising to bring the festival back in his tenure.
New Yam Festival
Also known as Iri Ji, anyone from the Eastern part of Nigeria rides heavily with this festival. It marks the beginning of the yam harvest season, and is held at the end of the rainy season from early August to October every year. It is celebrated by individual Igbo communities and households so you can participate in more than one. The evening before the new Yam Festival, every piece of old yam must be consumed or discarded and on the day of the festival, only dishes made out of yam are served. Without performing this festival as individuals or in groups, no full-fledged or mature man eats new yam in Igbo land.
Think of the northern version of Ojude Oba with ties to culture and religion, and you have Kano’s annual Durbar festival. It’s a massive larger-than-life equestrian festival that captures the cultural heritage of the Hausa-Fulani people. The festival marks the Islamic holidays Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha and is celebrated around these periods. Participants and festival attendees don colourful traditional attire, with some wearing matching outfits with their horses.
Source: The Nigerian Voice
Once described by Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi (51st Ooni of Ife) as a celebration of the black race all over the world, Olojo festival is yet another valid reason to take a trip to Ile-Ife, Osun state. The festival goes down every October and is the Yoruba people’s way of showing gratitude to God for his creations. It is also used to celebrate the remembrance of the god of iron ‘Ogun’ in Yoruba. Olojo festival spans three days, with the Ooni stepping out on the first day after seven days of exclusion. It’s believed that the time in seclusion is spent communing with ancestors and praying for his people. It’s one of the cultural festivals in Nigeria that attracts thousands of people. Olojo festival features rich sacred and cultural displays.