The Igogo festival is a Yoruba festival held in Owo, Nigeria. It is held annually in September to honor Queen Oronsen, a mythical wife of Rerengejen. During the festival, the incumbent Olowo of Owo and high chiefs of Owo Kingdom dresses like women with coral beads, beaded gown and plaited hair. Wearing of headgears and caps as well as booming of drums and firing of guns are not allowed during the festivals.
The Igogo festival began over 600 years ago during the reign of the late Olowo Rerengejen. The monarch married Oronsen, a beautiful and affluent queen who had, unknown to the king, supernatural powers. She enriched the monarch and she was loved by the monarch. Queen Oronsen insisted on certain taboos. She insisted that nobody should grind Okra in her presence or pour water into the yard. In addition, anyone arriving from the farm must not lump a load of firewood. King Rerengejen cautioned his other wives not to carry out any of these activities. One day, Queen Oronsen had a rift with the other senior wives of the King. They conspired against her with the intention of violating her taboo while Rerengejen was not in the palace. Her taboo was violated and she left the palace.
While she was running out of the palace, some palace guards and chiefs ran after her to bring her back, an effort that was futile. She later felt tired and waited at a place called “Ugbo Laja” where she was persuaded to return to the palace. Her refusal frustrated the guards into forcefully capturing her but she disappeared into “Igbo Oluwa”, now a sacred forest, leaving her head ties (oja) at “Ugbo Laja” which the guards returned to King Rerengejen. “Ugbo Laja” is now a sacred grove. Queen Orosen’s terra cotta sculptured image from “Igbo Oluwa” by Ekpo Eyo stood at a distance to inform the Owo people that nothing will bring her back to the palace but that annually they should always sacrifice two hundred items of different articles, such as dried fish, kolanut, Aligator pepper, bitter cola and many more for ritual (Igogo) and in return she promised to protect the Kingdom.
Igogo festival lasts for 17 days and begins with Upeli proceedings by the Iloro chiefs. The chiefs are led by “Akowa” known as “Akowa of Iloro” who is the head of Iloro chiefs.This Upeli procession lasts for 12 days and featured several activities including Utegi, Ugbabo, Uyanna and Ugbate. It is also a period for the celebration of new yams. During this procession, booming of drums by individuals or associations are forbidden and the use of caps by men and head ties by women at close range to the Owo monarch, the Olowo of Owo is forbidden. The festival features the dance of bare-chested men, the Iloro Quarter men called Ighares. They often wear white caps with two horns of Bufallo in their hands. They struck these horns together while dancing around the town and visiting some sacred places in the town. During this rite, any animal that crosses their part automatically become their delicacy. The chief plait their hairs and dance round the town and visits their beloved ones who will give them a gift in return. The monarch often dress like women and dances round the town. Dancing in the market by the monarch is also one of the rites performed during the festival.