Echoes From ‘Okemesi Ladunwo’ 2023 Cultural Festival

By Demola Atobaba, Ado-Ekiti
This year’s edition of Ladunwo Festival of Cultural display may have come and gone, but not without its glitz, glamour and exciting ‘take aways’ such participants and entire good people of Okemesi and thousands of tourists from far and near may not forget the hilarious 5-days event in a hurry, even as bookmakers have been putting pens on papers to document the memorable event for posterity.
This is because, for 5-days, the town was virtually on a lock down, not for wrong reasons of fuel scarcity or civil unrest, but ostensibly in joyful celebration of a carnival, in form of showcasing the rich Cultural and artistic peculiarities of Okemesi people to the outside world.
This is, as Ladunwo masquerade paid a visit to the ancient town from the “spirit world” amidst pomp and celebration.
In the early hours of Saturday, all roads lead to the Palace of Owa-Ooye of Okemesi, His Royal Majesty Oba Michael Gbadebo Adedeji, JP, CON, Ariwowonye II, witnessed a beehive of traditional and modern activities as both left and right of the roads was painted red with colourful display.
Ladunwo masquerade unveiling after the conversation with Kabiyesi
Traditionally, Abilere is the father of all Egungun, according to the popular myth, but war-like role played during one of the civil wars, accorded Ladunwo masquerade a special recognition.
Some of the oldest masquerades in Okemesi are Abilere, Ladunwo, Gbado Bioga, Mongara, Alebaale, Oja, Yoyolagbon, Iyekiye, Alukuudi, Oloki, Motaajo, Ojuotori and many others.
The festival is unique and important to the people of Okemesi and tourists at large who turned out in large numbers from far and near to witness the display of culture, tradition and communal bond at its best.
Unlike an annual traditional festival celebrated in most Ekiti towns, the Ladunwo masquerade comes once in every three years, hence the hype and expectations of indigenes to be around and physically witness the epoch making event.
Different tribes such as Urohbo, Ebira, Igbo, Fulani, Igala, Igede, Nupe and Hausa were not left behind as they also added glamour to the grand occasion.
The situation apparently was responsible for the large turn out of spectators in high expectations of the long expected festival which was last celebrated three years ago.
Another masquerade dancing to entertain a section of tourists at the event.
The saturday’s event was marked by loud celebration in many streets and major roads as youths from various wards in the town painted the sleepy community red dancing round the town, many of them in special uniforms for the occasion while a few others entertained the crowd as they beat themselves with fresh canes to the admiration of enthusiastic spectators.
As early as 10:30am, hundreds of Okemesi sons and daughters including visitors stormed the Palace called “Enuwa Square” in preparatory to the commencement of the festival.
And in what signalled the opening of the cultural fiesta, the traditional ruler of the town, HRM Oba Gbadebo Adedeji, CON,  in company with his beautiful Oloris arrived the podium. He was joined by a retinue of traditional rulers rangings from Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, Olojudo of Ido-Ile Ekiti, Owa of Igbara Odo, Onimesi of Imesi-Ekiti among others.
Highlights of the cultural event include Ijala rendition by the community hunters, Ayo Olopon, Ehinle procession, theater presentation by troupe and the parade of masquerades representing different clans in the town. They paid homage to the king and entertained the crowd with their dancing skills as they were equally rewarded with wads of naira notes from the king and appreciative onlookers.
Not more than over fifty different masquerades in all were displayed each in order to thrilled quests with various costumes of many colours of ancient years.
The arrival of the long awaited big masquerade, Ladunwo when stormed the arena was massive. His coming required a special announcement even to the blind as the whole environment changed and became uncontrollable for the mere fact that virtually everyone was in a haste to catch a glimpse of Ladunwo.
Chapreoned by four hefty traditional guides, the king masquerade Ladunwo, was led to the king’s seat completely protected from the prying eyes of the public having been covered by a big rapper called velvet.
In a brisk moment, there was conversation between the Monarch and Ladunwo before the veil covering the masquerade was removed and was handed over two swords as Ladunwo paid traditional homage to the King who returned same to the masquerade praying for the peace and progress of the town.
All of a sudden, the wide celebration and festivities was moved down to the main town where the female Ladunwo was has to joined and continue the movement as the crowd was seeing heading to the groove, but the festival continued with Ladunwo amidst large crowd went round major places in the town in obvious farewell message to see them in the next three years.
Entering into Okemesi-Ekiti from any axis one could easily feel the impulse of the festival as people of the community both young and old were seen in beautiful an branded attires with long cane called “Osunsun” in their hands which is one of the symbols of the biennial celebrations.
While the colourful event lasted, there was no any untoward event as men of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Amotekun Corps and other security outfits were fully unground to take charge of security of lives and properties before, during and after the event.
The former Chairman of Ekiti traditional of rulers and Owa-Ooye of Okemesi, HRM Oba Gbadebo Adedeji, in an opening speech, appealed to both the s
State and Federalederal Government to join hands with the town to transform the festival into International standard to attract global recognition.
According to the Monarch, “The epoch celebration is worth what government at all levels can invest into in order to boost our tourism centres in Ekiti”.
In a chat with TopNewsEditor, veteran journalist, Chief Akin Osuntokun said that most world class events and festival have not been able to stand the test of time because they are either not sponsor’s friendly or lack the content that attract sponsorship. “This Ladunwo festival is worth celebrating because of it’s uniqueness”.
He described Oladunwo Cultural Festival as a rallying point to Okemesi indigens both home and diaspora.
His words: “Ladunwo masquerade festival has largely been described as a major rallying point to the people of Okemesi-Ekiti”.
The former Special Adviser on Political Matters to former President Olusegun Obasanjo explained that; “Over time, the celebration of Ladunwo masquerade festival has become a major rallying point and attraction to the people of this town who converge once every three years from all walks of life to observe the beauty of our culture and tradition.
He traced the history of the festival to the days of the Kiriji War, an internecine war fought by the Yoruba where an Okemesi born generalisimo, Prince Fabunmi Abe Oraralada played a vital role.
He added that the masquerades were originally brought to Okemesi by the Oyo speaking settlers in the town and the tradition had been since embraced by the indigenes to the extent of being a rally point to all and sundry.
The renowned media guru was clearly a star attraction at the colourful festival of culture and tradition as many of the masquerades gave him a special recognition after paying homage to the king.
Ladunwo masquerade paying homage to Oba Gbadebo Adedeji.
Osuntokun, a traditional Chief of the community eventually caused a stir when he rose from his seat to dance with one of the masquerades who represented his acenstral home.
Chief Akin Osuntokun in a joyous mood with one of the indigen.
The event was indeed a moment of high frenzy and celebration in Okemesi-Ekiti, the Headquarters of Okemesi/Ido-Ile Local Council Development Area on Saturday as the community showcased it’s unique export to the nation’s cultural essence.
If you have visited Okemesi community and you haven’t witnessed the ‘Oladunwo’ cultural heritage fiesta, then you need to visit again with the sole purpose of witnessing the crowd-pulling and amazing cultural celebrations. If you have witnessed or partaken in it before, share your friends with the experience!
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