Sango Festival, Oyo


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Inscribed in 2023 (18.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Federal Ministry of Information and Culture (FMIC) and National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Nigeria, 202

In Nigeria, the Sango Festival of Oyo marks the beginning of the Yoruba Traditional New Year in August. It is an ancestral worship that takes place in Sango, Nigeria, near the ancient Koso Temple. The ten-day festival is strongly connected to the social, religious, cultural and political institutions of the Oyo State. It is held in commemoration of Tella-Oko, the third alaafin (king) of the Oyo Empire. He is believed to be the incarnation of the mythical Sango, the Yoruba divinity of thunder and lightning. When the festival commences on the Yoruba New Year’s Eve in August, Sango devotees and followers share and eat roasted new yam and palm oil. People of all genders plait their hair and dress in red, wearing white and red beads around their necks and wrists. The festival encompasses different rites and involves chanting, storytelling, drumming and dancing. Children acquire the related knowledge and skills by observing and imitating elders and attending Saturday worship at the Sango Temples. Sango magical crafts and rites, however, are transmitted through apprenticeships. The festival unites the Oyo community, which views the practice as an expression of shared identity and social cohesion and as a means of reconnecting with their ancestor, Sango.