This is the old picture of the ‘Virgin Dance’ of my ancient hometown; Owo (Ogho), Ondo State-Nigeria, explained Olanipekun Olabode.
I had not been aware that Yoruba had a virgin dance similar in attire ( bare breasts) to the Zulu Virgin dance until I came upon his post. And so, to Google ( And Amazon)…
Owo is one of the easternmost Yoruba towns. It was founded sometime in the 12th century by Asunlola Ojugbelu , a prince of Ife also known as Omolaghaye. He and his son Imade are credited through the oral traditions as having founded Owo. ( A History of the Yoruba People Stephen Adebanji Akintoye)
“The sleeping ancient town of Owo, green and beautiful, is my native land. It borders Yoruba land in the West and the Bini kingdom in the South South. I grew up in the royal palace of the Generalissimo (Sashere) he was my late maternal grandfather, succeeded by one of his hundred children, my mother’s immediate brother. Growing up among these loved ones made me believe Owo was the beginning and end of the World. Life was good, moonlight tales were real not like the fabricated African mythologies available nowadays only in Literature series.”
“Life sprang from Owo, a name which literally means respect which is demonstrated in the cultural character of indigenous Owo.”
“September ushers in beautiful memories of innocent era of the ‘virgin dance’, an annual event in which young girls are heavily beaded around their waists with firm breasts left bared.”
“It lasted for a period of two months, during the famous Igogo festival in Owo, when indigenes feast on specially prepared green grasshoppers accompanied with roasted yam. This is prepared by placing a whole tuber of yam in the fire for roasting, after which a knife is pierced directly into its bosom, then turned clockwise to make enough room to pour fried stew and sliced onions into the yam, to be returned upright to the fire for rapid boiling. This delicacy is served to all including the bare budding breasted virgins.”
She blames the introduction of modern politics for the death of this native custom. Do we call that a sad loss? Or just tradition moving with the times?
“Political superiority brought instability into our system, power was absolute; therefore diabolical power was sought to obtain, sustain and retain power. Our land became a battlefield while women and children bear the brunt of the war.”
“Their palace guarded day and night by our sons who are lost their lives daily to bullets of our brothers, politics killed the future and loathing became the present. Young girls became the target of dare-devil irate youths; budding breast bared for fun became sought after by empowered boys, intoxicated by drugs supplied by the powers that be. Virgin dance became history that can only be accessed through past pictures and fond memories. That was an era when sexual molestation exists only in the English dictionary.”
“A god that children are not allowed to participate in its worship will soon become history.”
One thing that I did know previously about Owo is the exile of the Olowo of Owo, detailed in this article The Travails and Triumph of Sir Olateru Olagbegi II, the Olowo of Owo
The other interesting thing about Owo (apart from the virgin dancers, and exiled King) is that due to the proximity of Benin with Owo, the two communities have exchanged various aspects of the other’s culture. If I didn’t read the caption on this video before watching it , I would have said it was a Bini dance.
VIDEO: Traditional dancers from Owo, at Chief Akingboye’s Grandmother’s Funeral Ceremony Okitipupa, Ondo State
Its been a fact filled morning , thanks to Olanipekun Olabode, for his input and for triggering the Owo info search.