Sunday, May 06, 2012

The 314th good thing about Lagos: meeting a first class Oba

I have had some photo-heavy posts that I have been unable to publish because my internet connection has been having problems.  I hope finally I will be able to do some catching up!

I need to start this post with a disclaimer:  There WERE some animals harmed at this festival and there are some disturbing images in this post.  Read no further if you don't want to know that the sacrifice of live animals still does occur in ceremonial rituals in Nigeria.

On Saturday, the day before Easter, we repeated our drive of the day before and went out Lekki peninsula, past the town of Epe.  While going through Epe, we made a couple of stops to look at some buildings that illustrate the history of the town.  This building shows the Brazilian style of architecture:
 And this second building illustrates Sierra Leone style architecture.  The expat leading the trip said that when the British came in to colonize Nigeria, they were looking for some mid-level managers and they brought in people from Sierra Leone to manage some operations.  They brought with them their own style of building, which is two matching sides with a recessed center entry.  Both of these buildings look a little worse for wear, as do most of the buidlings in Epe.

 We drove on a ways past Epe to the village of Odo-Naforija to attend the Ebi Festival.  We were greeted by lots of kids.



 We were asked to wait in the "throne room" of the very modern palace.  It was quite a nice building and outside was still in the process of construction, but this room was finished.
We were greeted by the village welcoming committee.
And then the king's aide came and spoke to us.  He gave quite a philosophical speech, trying to introduce us to the things we would be seeing.  He introduced his family and said that he had lived in Houston and came back to his village because he wanted to support this new Oba.  He said the Ebi Festival was one that typically would occur at the start of the planting season to make offerings to the gods with pleas for a good crop.

Some of the chiefs eventually came in to the room,

and then we finally met the Oba, who was described as a "first class Oba," they explained, because of his lineage leading back to some important Oba in the past.  There were four royal families associated with the village and, upon the passing of an Oba, the new Oba is voted on from among those families by the ruling chiefs.  They choose the one they feel most likely to be a good leader.  Our excursion organizer has a close relationship with this Oba and says he is a very good leader of the village. 

And he has a pretty cool hat/crown!

The aide demonstrated how we would approach the chief -- men do a kind of push-up bow and women just kneel down to bow.  Thank heavens for that!
We all got to greet the Oba and have a brief conversation with him.  Some men were very impressive with the push-up bow!
This is our group organizer, who is good friends with the Oba, so he was a little less formal.

I had a nice chat with the Oba.  He has a daughter who lives in Sugarland, so he's been to Houston and he is friends with Bill White, the former Houston mayor.
After we all greeted the Oba, we had a little procession to the area where we would undergo the ceremonial rituals.

There was some time spent laying guns down in front of the altar area.  They wiped them with grasses and painted them with chalk and red palm oil.


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The men making the offering painted their hands, as well as the guns, with white and red markings.






Some people laid money down in front of the altar.

The items used for the sacrifice were laid kind of haphazardly around the ground.  I thought it was amusing a couple of times when the chicken got loose and it was stuffed behind the pink backpack.
Here's the now head-less chicken carcass being held up to the stalk to drip its blood on the grassy stalk.  Yes, chicken bodies do still move around long after they lose their heads.  Somehow, cutting off the chicken head was not as gruesome as when they did it to a dog.

This poor dog alternated between fighting and yelping for freedom and placid resignation to its fate. 



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Before the sacrifice, the executioner with machete in hand bows before the Oba and other chiefs.

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This following one is the video to miss if you don't want to see the sacrifice -- though it really is hard to see what happens.  Right as the machete came down, someone fired off a Dane gun, so I jumped and my eyes closed and I really didn't see the moment the machete did its work.  But then they took the headless carcass and held it up to drip blood on the altar.

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After this we went in for a lunch they had provided for us.  I was glad that the meat was recognizable as chicken -- and I knew it couldn't be from the sacrificed chicken carcass still lying outside.  The paste in the plastic bag is moi-moi, a seasoned bean cake.  It's okay tasting, though kind of spicy.


After lunch we went outside for the masquerade.



The Oba had changed into another outfit and first he watched the action.
Then the villagers and visitors loved it when he joined in and showed off his drumming skills.
.

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And then he showed off his dancing skills to a very appreciative audience.  I'm sure it's things like this that make him a very popular Oba.

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After the dancing, the Oba retreats to his seat under the tent to relax.

 An argument breaks out between the village women over some cash that was sprayed on the dancers.
 The children get in on the dancing action.


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 And there are observers young,
 and old,
 and black and white  together.
And always time for the posed group photos.



Despite (or maybe because of) the gruesome sacrifices, it was a very interesting cultural experience.

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