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)


Another Owo indigene Olutosin Adebowale extolled her memories of Owo and the Igogo Virgin Dance Festival in her post “Bare Budding Breasts And Be Busted” .


“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.”


Late Sir Olateru-Olagbegi, Olowo of Owo at a 1960s Igogo Festival dressed in the traditional effeminate dressing for the festival: pleated hair, a beaded top and big skirt! Photo credit:‘s post on The Olowo of Owo


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.


Olanipekun Olabode




4 thoughts on “Yoruba virgin dance -Igogo Festival as told by an indigene (VIDEO)

  1. Thanks for sharing this.

    I would have thought bare breast were normal back in the day. I say this because I recall visiting Esie to see the sculptures there (you may already be aware that legend says they are real people turned into stone) and noticing the most clothing any of the figures wore was like wrapper.

    1. you know Cosmic, I agree with you.I seem to remember a couple of pics of Obas with one or two bare chested wives…. And the Esie statues, I love that archeological find and the magical story attached to it too. Haven’t done a post on that yet as there already quite a few

  2. I really enjoyed reading this, but I have to highlight that the caption on the Olowo’s photo describing his attire as ‘effeminate’ is inaccurately (and unnecessarily) gendered. The adimole hairstyle is traditionally worn by both men and women, and the beaded top and wrapper are also traditionally worn by anyone (of any gender) occupying the office of Olowo.

    1. Hi Theloulette,

      Thanks so much for your clarification on this. Of course, you’re right, also I have found that Yoruba, shall I say culture, is not as hung up on gender as some other cultures. Even words like “he” “her” “she” “his” don’t exist.

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