Following on the heels of the Osun festival, were World Orisa festival 2016 and Sango Festival.  Perfect opportunity if you travelled from afar to witness Yoruba Spirituality at its best,  to catch all three together. Anyway, if  you missed the photos first time round, come over here…

sango fest 2016

Alaafin of Oyo and Obas from Kwara State

The photo above of the Alaafin and Obas from Kwara sent me in a reverie back to the 18th century. Easily this could have been a scene from the Alaafin’s palace sometime in 1817. Perhaps the Obas are telling the Alaafin of the treacherous turn that Afonja’s appointment had taken? (Afonja betrayed the Alaafin of the time leading to Jihadist takeover of Ilorin based in Kwara , which in turn it is said, became the largest slave post in the region at the time) “The city rapidly became a major slave-trading centre and by the middle of the nineteenth century Ilorin was reported to have the largest slave market in the region” -Ilorin as a Slaving & Slave Trading Emirate- Ann O’ Hear 

Photos and videos from World Orisa Festival 2016

World Orisa Festival sees various Orisa devotees paying homage to the Alaafin, amongst other rites




Iyemoja devotees dancing in the Palace of the Alaafin World Orisa Day




Photos from World Sango Festival 2016

“The 2 Arugba Sango with a red and white covered calabash from Koso to the Palace to Iya Naso”



“The legend of Sango recognizes the Alaafin of Oyo as a descendant of the former powerful king while the Sango Koso is considered the spiritual reincarnation of Sango. The two – Sango Koso and the Alaafin – are therefore not expected to see during the festival as it is a taboo.

Two programmes went on simultaneously during the celebration on Saturday as while Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III was hosting a display of cultural Yoruba heritage at his palace, Sango Koso performed his rite in Koso to a large crowd of devotees.

Draped in red with the traditional woven hairstyle, Sango Koso performed his rite to a crowd dressed in similar red attires. Significantly, they referred to him as Kabiyesi or king and prayed while he also gave his blessing. The atmosphere was charged and different from the occasion at the palace which was more of an avenue to promote the relaxed and more cultural display of culture and tradition.”


More photos from Sango Festival

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“The Ambassador of Cuba honored World Sango Festival 2016 with his visit and participation.

Afro-Cuban religions known as Santería are a blend of native Yoruba religion of the African Slaves with Catholicism.
The slaves carried with them various religious customs and divination system for communicating with their ancestors and deities and sacred drumming and dance. The need to preserve their traditions and belief systems in a hostile cultural environment prompted slaves in Cuba, starting from as early as 1515, to merge their customs with aspects of Roman Catholicism which are widely practiced in Cuba.

The colonial period from the standpoint of African slaves may be defined as a time of perseverance. Their world quickly changed. Tribal kings and their families, politicians, business and community leaders all were enslaved and taken to a foreign region of the world. Religious leaders, their relatives and their followers were now slaves. Colonial laws criminalized their religion. They were forced to become baptized and worship a God their ancestors had not known who was surrounded by a pantheon of saints.. A sense of hope was sustaining the internal essence of what today is called Santería, for the indigenous religion of the Lukumi people of Yoruba land. In the heart of their homeland, they had a complex political and social order. They were a sedentary hoe farming cultural group with specialized labor. Their religion, based on the worship of nature, was renamed and documented by their masters. The orisas became known as the saints in image of the Catholic pantheon. Spanish colonial planters who saw their African slaves celebrating on saints’ days did not know that they were actually performing traditional rites related to Orisa, and assumed that they were showing more interest in the Christian God—hence the derisory origin of the term Santería and it is also a Spanish word that means the worship of Saints.
Sango, today makes part of the culture, tradition and religion of Cuba and is venerated in Santería (known as Changó or Xangô ; and also known as Jakuta) . He is syncretized with either the Catholic Saint Barbara or Saint Jerome.” -Asa Orisa, Association For Traditional Religion Worshippers


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2 thoughts on “Highlights of the Sango Festival, World Orisa Day 2016 & The significance of Afonja

  1. “starting from as early as 1515, to merge their customs with aspects of Roman Catholicism which are widely practiced in Cuba” – I don’t believe this statement is correct.You may even talk about early 1800… (as 1820), but certainly this XVI century date doesn’t reflect the historical truth. Also, Catholicism is quite weak in modern Cuba and only survives because of the connection with Santería, that is the Yoruba religion merged with Catholics elements (basically identification of orisa with saints but today it also includes other foreign to isese lagba practices). Sadly the Ministry of foreign relations of Cuba didn’t spread this news as they usually do when a Cuba ambassador visits a place in other countries. Sango is the most popular orisa of Cuba and it would be very important for the believers rediscovering the odun Sango, which in Cuba are, basically lost.

    1. Thanks for the clarification. 1515 does seem very early indeed for merging Yoruba religion with Catholicism , as Yorubas generally are believed to have entered into the transatlantic slave trade from the 1700s/1800s. The statement itself was made by the Asa Orisa Organistion linked to the Alaafin palace , perhaps they were given that information by the Cuban embassy or made an error.

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