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Eyo Masquerade Groups - The Top Five
Depending on the reasons for the Adamu Orisa Play (Eyo festival) and the immediate situation that may call for it to hold, as many as a hundred groups of masquerades may partake in the festivities
Many of these groups who represent chieftaincy houses and royal families are referred to as Iga.
Naturally, these Iga groups fall under categories of Senior and Junior Eyos with each and every group aware of its own hierarchy and place.
Though all the groups (or Iga) are directly or indirectly connected to the Oba of Lagos's Palace at Idunganran, it is mandatory that the junior groups show respect and pay homage and obeisance to the senior five Eyo groups who have existed as far back as the beginnings of the cultural tradition.
Junior groups of the conclaves include:
- Eyo Olokun
- Eyo Iga Etti
- Eyo Iga Sasi
- Eyo Iga Faji
- Eyo Iga Taiwo Olowo
- Eyo Iga Opeluwa
- Eyo Awise
- Eyo Bajulaiye
During the grand procession, the senior's groups (conclaves) must be accorded a right of way by their juniors and whenever the lower-ranking groups are in the presence of a senior Eyo, they must lower their Opambata (staff) in deference to a higher authority, without question!
Historical Origin of the "Senior Five"
The senior Eyos hold great prominence among them all and are revered by the other groups. They are from five conclaves and are aptly described as “The Big 5”.
They are made up of the following in order of hierarchy:
- Eyo Adimu
- Eyo Laba
- Eyo Oniko
- Eyo Ologede
- Eyo Agere
1. Adimu Orisa
Though the historical origins of the five conclaves have many versions, the Adimu Orisa conclave is recognized as the leading one.
It is their group that heralds in the staging of the Eyo festival and during the festival, they, as the most prominent, end the procession in an eerie but grand style.
The Eyo Adimu group wears the traditional black and white wide-brimmed hat.
The next in hierarchy is the Eyo Laba conclave.
Historical sources claim that the Laba was originally owned by a 19th prince from Iseyin in Oyo State of Nigeria. The prince later became a member of one of the royal households in Lagos.
The Laba is the Oba of Lagos’s traditional Eyo group and the 'police' for all other Eyo masquerades with regulations and means of control.
The Laba group’s prominent headgear is predominantly red.
Eyo Oniko ranks third in the group of five.
They are descendants of the royal household of the Onigemo lineage. Their wide-brimmed hats are conspicuously bright yellow.
4. Eyo Ologede
The Eyo Ologede group is the fourth in the hierarchy and are descendants of a female deity created in honour of Oba Ologunkuteri's mother.
The distinguishing features of this group are their striking classical hairstyle fashioned after the traditional suku hair weave worn by Yoruba women of old.
One of the sacred rules of the festival is that no woman must wear the suku hairstyle if she intends to watch or partake in the Eyo festivities.
Eyo Ologede appears in green wide brimmed hats with banana motifs.
5. Eyo Agere
The last of the senior five conclaves is the Eyo Agere group.
By far the most spectacular and exciting to watch, the leader of the Agere procession walks tall on stilts that are well over 10 feet high. It’s a true sight to behold when they appear last at the close of the ceremony.
Looking scary and menacing at such towering height, the Eyo Agere was introduced into Lagos by one of the princes of the Oba Dosunmu royal household.
Taking photographs of the Agere on stilts is absolutely forbidden!
The Eyo Agere wears purple wide brimmed hats.
To the casual observer, the only distinguishing features among the conclaves are their wide-brimmed hats and their signature Opambata (staff), a part of their regalia. But for those who have the opportunity to observe them at a closer range, it will be noticed that each Eyo holds an Opambata that has different etchings inscribed on it.
There are as many as 15,000 different permutations on the staffs with different connotations of success, escape from danger, well-being, and protection from evil.
So during the procession, if an Eyo masquerade taps an observer with his Opambata staff, the prayers or blessings etched on it will be transferred to the person being tapped (or smacked sometimes).
And contrary to what some people believe, there are absolutely no curses etched on the Eyo's Opambata.
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