Renamed in 2013 to World Sango Festival by the government of Oyo State, the festival is usually held in August at the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo and also observed in over forty countries around the world.
The Sango Festival celebrations can be traced back to 1,000 years ago following the departure of Sango, a popular Yoruba Òrìşà who is widely regarded as the founding father of present-day Oyo State.
Sango was a notable strong ruler and magician who became king of the Oyo Empire after succeeding his elder brother who was perceived to be a “weak ruler”.
Believed to bring prosperity to the people of the Oyo Empire during his reign, Sango’s death has been linked to different mythical stories.
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.
Sango was a strong, popular ruler, warrior and magician during his lifetime. He ruled the Oyo kingdom for about seven years.
He was known to be husband to three wives: Oba, his first and legitimate wife; Osun the second wife and the mother of his twins; and lastly Oya his favorite.
His reign came to an end when he mistakenly destroyed his palace with lightening.
ong>The Sango Festival
The annual Sango Festival celebrations can be traced back to about a millennium ago when the Yoruba deity, Sango departed. He is known as the founding father of the modern Oyo state.
It is celebrated every August at every Yoruba recognized country such as Nigeria, Cuba, Brazil, Benin Republic among others. Although Oyo State, Nigeria is known as its original root and it is always celebrated at the place of Alaafin. The festival attracts visitors from various walks of life.
In 2013, the Oyo State Government made Sango Festival internationally recognized by renaming it to World Sango Festival. This day serve as a day in which the Yorubas across the globe come together to celebrate Sango.
The Sango festival celebration usually takes place for about 10 days. It is marked with pageantry, pomp and circumstance. The worshippers are usually dressed in white or red attire. The females wear traditional hairstyles adorn with cowries or traditional beads.
The atmosphere is usually full of music and dance from local dancers and drummers.
The Sango Celebration week starts with playing of ayò ’a traditional board game’ and ‘ogun ajobo’ day traditional night rites.
Ayò is a special game that is common among the Yorubas. It is a game usually played by both aged and young men to relax in the evening after a tiring day.
Ogun Ajobo Day is celebrated on the second day of the festival. On this day, various traditional groups from Oyo zone from Owode in Oyo town to the palace of Alaafin. A night party is always held afterwards called the ‘Aisun Koso’ featuring music, dance, eating and drinking.
On this day, various cultural groups such as the Igunu and Omolulu would entertain the audience. This day is called Sango Obakoso day.
The shrine of Sango would be opened. This is usually marked by performances from the Nigerian Theatre Practitioners and followed by a night for Oya Okenira.
Day Five to Nine
On these days, there would be celebrations of Oyo State, Oya Dayy, Aje Oloja Day, Sango Oyo Day, Osun State Day, Iyemonja Day, Esin Elejo Day as well as Kwara State Day.
And there comes the most anticipated day. On this particular day, a group of Sango devotees called the ’Elegun Sango’ would thrill the audience with magic performance which could be seen as scary. The ’Elegun Sango’ group come from different states in the South-West geopolitical zone.
The ’Elegun Sango Koso Alaafin’ is usually the last to come up on stage. He takes a tour round the Oyo town to pray for the people before heading to the palace. He greets everyone and goes to Iya Ilekoto before leaving the palace.
Sango is regard as the progenitor of the present Yoruba kingdom which necessitated the World Sango Day festival.
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 including Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean.
The event which is recognized by UNESCO, is organized to facilitate the home-coming of the Yorubas in the diaspora and also celebrate Sango who is regarded as the greatest hero in the history of the Yoruba race.