We’ve taken the trouble of compiling a list with some of the best festivals in Nigeria guaranteed to give you an out-of-country experience.
Cultural festivals in Nigeria
Osun Osogbo festival
If you love art, spirituality, and nature, the iconic Osun-Osogbo festival in Osun state should be on your mind. It holds in August of every year and pays homage to the river goddess Osun. The festival features elaborate processions from the Ataoja’s palace (the town’s king) to the breathtaking Osun-Osogbo sacred Grove; a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Priests 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 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, whose vision was 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 the vibes are pure flames. It goes down in December of every year.
New Yam Festival
This festival marks the beginning of the yam harvest season, and takes place 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. 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.
The first Eyo Festival history can be traced back to February 1854 to honour the demise of then Oba of Lagos, Oba Akitoye. Eyo performers don white robes, colourful hats, and parade the streets, creating a mesmerising spectacle. 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 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).
The Argungu festival goes down in Kebbi state in north-west Nigeria. It is an annual four-day festival that starts 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.
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.
The Olojo festival 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 goes down for three days in October, with the Ooni of Ife 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.
Contemporary Festivals In Nigeria
The Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) showcases “new creators, emerging trends in storytelling and cinematic expression from talents in Africa and the diaspora.” The annual festival runs for eight days and showcases everything from documentaries to short films and feature films. Activities include networking, panels, and collaboration opportunities for industry professionals. The next edition will hold in November 2023.
The Eko International Film Festival (EKOIFF) “promotes the appreciation of Arts and Culture through the motion picture arts and sciences and increases tourism in Nigeria.” The inaugural edition of the festival took place in Lagos in July 2010. Subsequent editions have been held in the city at Silverbird Cinemas on Victoria Island. The festival features a showcase of documentaries, short films, feature films, short documentaries and indigenous films. The next edition takes place from March 3-8, 2024.
Felabration is one of the biggest music festivals in Nigeria and it goes down annually in Lagos. The festival commemorates the life and music of the late music legend Fela Anikulakpo Kuti. Felabration features a week-long slate of activities, including debates, charity events, and a grand closing event at the Afrika Shrine in Ikeja. The 2023 edition ran from October 9-15.
Rhythm Unplugged is an annual five-day music concert in Lagos. Music executive and CEO of Flytime Group, Cecil Hammond, organised the first concert in 2004. It usually features performances from local and international artists, among other interesting activities. The next edition is set to take place from December 21-25 at the EKO Convention centre.
This is one of the festivals in Nigeria known to bring the diaspora brothers and sisters back home. Founded by British Nigerian music executive, Grace Ladoja, in 2017, the maiden edition was headlined by Wizkid and Skepta. Homecoming celebrates everything from music to fashion and sports.
The Experience is the biggest gospel concert in the country and is known for bringing gospel artists and worshippers together to celebrate God. Head pastor of the House on The Rocks, Paul Adefarasin, is the chief convener. The Experience is held every December at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos and is free to attend for all.
Ake Arts and Book Festival (AkeFest)
The Ake Arts and Book Festival is an annual event organised by Book Buzz Foundation, a non-governmental organisation The festival brings together authors, poets, filmmakers, and other creative minds to promote literacy and features book readings, panel discussions, art exhibitions, and more. The next edition will be held from November 23 -25 in Lagos State.
Kaduna Book and Arts Festival (KabaFest)
Source: The Guardian
KabaFest is an annual four-day festival that brings together writers, artists, and intellectuals to discuss and celebrate arts and literature. It is organised by the Kaduna State government in collaboration with the Book Buzz Foundation. KabaFest features booklogues, panel discussions, art exhibitions, and film screenings with poets, authors, artists, musicians, filmmakers and thinkers. The 2022 edition took place from September 14-17 in Kaduna state.
LIPFest (Lagos International Poetry Festival)
This is the go-to festival for lovers of poetry. LIPFest has been held annually since its inaugural edition in 2015. It features poetry readings, performances, workshops, and panel discussions around curated themes. The 2023 edition was held from October 26-29.
Art festivals in Nigeria
It’s among the best festivals in Nigeria to attend if you’re an art lover or enthusiast. Art X is a paid art fair in Lagos that’s big on traditional and contemporary arts. The annual three-day event features curated works from different countries. Some of the activities include panel discussions, live painting, interactive pro art projects and more. The next edition will be held from November 2-5.
Founded by the British Council in 2013 as part of its efforts to strengthen relationships between Nigerian and British artists, the Lagos Theatre Festival (LTF) is the largest performing arts festival in Nigeria. It seeks to present and celebrate the high quality of Nigerian and British theatre. Since its inception, LTF has hosted 6 festivals. The 2023 edition was billed to take place in February but was postponed due to the general elections.
Lagos Fringe Festival
It’s an open-access multidisciplinary arts festival that welcomes all from the creative industry and provides a platform for new voices. LFF supports artistes to present a creative mix of theatre, poetry, film, spoken word, magic, cabaret shows, exhibitions, literature, dance and music etc. The next edition will be held from November 21-26, 2023.
Lagos Seafood Festival
The annual festival was rebranded to “Lagos Food Festival” in 2022, but you’re still sure to find interesting sea food when you attend.
Jos Food Festival
Source: Sunday Alaba
If you’ve ever been curious about what food on the Plateau tastes like, you might want to add the Jos Food Festival to your itinerary. It features indigenous food displays and local musical performances.
If you think about it, meat may be every food lover’s origin story. Almost all of us passed through a stealing-meat-from-the-pot phase — don’t even deny it. Burning Ram celebrates the Nigerian culture of meat and grill, and the best part? The inaugural edition will hold on November 11, 2023. Tickets are available here.
Ofada Rice Festival
It’s a one-day event held annually at the popular Muri Okunola Park in Lagos. Just as the name suggests, it’s a celebration of the locally grown rice in Nigeria. The next edition will be held in December 2023.