People and Culture of Nigeria: The Sango Festival.

It is a special day used to celebrate Sango, a popular Yoruba deity who was believed to posses supernatural powers. The Sango festival celebrations can be traced back to 1000 years ago following the departure of Sango, a popular Yoruba Orisa who is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of present day Oyo.

Sango was the third Alaafin (king of old Oyo Empire). He took over from his brother Ajaka who was regarded as weak. During his reign, he was constantly fighting battles with other towns. He ruled Oyo Kingdom for seven years and married three wives Oya, Oba and Oshun.

Nigerian Newspaper Tribune gathered that there were two Sango with the first coming from Ikole Orun at the Genesis of the world. That Sango was known as Ayilegbe–Orun. However, the second Sango known as Tella–Oko was a devotee of the first Sango and the third Alaafin of Oyo and son of Alaafin Oranmiyan, the founder of the legendary Oyo Empire and the youngest grandson of Oduduwa. He was a warrior believed to be a physical reincarnation of the first Sango on account of his mythical powers which he used through the energy of the thunder and storms.

Because Sango, a former Oyo ruler, is identified with thunder and lightning, the festival held in his honor takes place towards the end of the rainy season in early November and features various ceremonies connected with rain magic.

Sango’s death has been linked to different mythical stories and speculations. It is believed that Sango committed suicide by hanging himself in order to avoid humiliation from one of his powerful chiefs who ordered Sango to vacate his throne or face war; also, that he mistakenly destroyed his palace with lightning, which brought about the end of his reign and many more stories.

Since its renaming in 2013, the event, which is usually held in August and runs for a week attracts over 20,000 spectators around the world. UNESCO recognizes the festival and it is organized to facilitate the homecoming of the Yoruba in diaspora as well as to celebrate Sango who is regarded as the greatest hero in the history of the Yoruba race.

On the first day of the seven-day festival, women form a procession to the river, where they sink a hollow calabash gourd filled with special medicines to mark the beginning of the dry season. The king meets the worshippers at a place near the river, accompanied by drummers, trumpeters and a huge crowd of onlookers. The women of the palace put on a special musical performance praising all the tribe’s ruler throughout its history.

The remaining days of the week is devoted to similar performances of music and dance before the king, although their real purpose is to please and entertain the God, Sango. The main performer each day dances in a self-induced trance like state, during which it is believed that he speaks with the voice of Sango and is impervious to pain.

His followers like to wear a red attire, which was his popular clothing, and the festival is always held in the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo.

The festival was renewed as world Sango Day by the Oyo state Government to signify its international celebration. The festival plays host to visitors from all over the country and followers from foreign countries like Cuba, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean.

It brings back history and celebrates the culture and tradition of the people, while creating wealth and employment for the people.



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