The Sango festival is an annual festival used to celebrate Sango, a popular Yoruba deity who was believed to have spiritual powers. The festival is celebrated during the month of August in the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo. The festival was later rebranded in 2013 by the Oyo State Government as World Sango Day to signify its international reach as the festival attracts visitors from all over the country and followers from countries like Brazil, the Caribbean, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobaggo.
Sango festival can be traced back to 1,000 years ago following the departure of Sango. Sango is widely referred to as the god of thunder. He was crowned the third Alaafin (king) of old Oyo Empire after he took over from his brother, Ajaka, who was regarded as weak. He fought several battles during his reign, until he mistakenly destroyed his palace with lightening which inadvertently brought about the end of his reign. He is worshipped on the fifth day called ojo Jakuta and his followers like to wear red attire which is his popular clothing color.
The festival plays a very important traditional and cultural role with the Yoruba people as Sango is a popular Orisa (deity) in Yorubaland and regarded as one of the founding fathers of the present Oyo state. The festivity is a day when Yoruba’s reconnect with each other, and to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the Yoruba’s such as dancing, singing, drumming amongst other forms of entertainment.
The Sango festival is a ten days event marked with pageantry, pomp and other forms of display. Each day is celebrated with different events.
Day one of the festival is celebrated with games of different kinds such as Ayo competition. Ayo is one of the oldest games in Yoruba land and is usually played by two players. Ayo is a game mostly popular among the aged men.
Day two is celebrated with the Ogun Ajobo day. Traditional groups from the Oyo zone put on great displays to the cheers of the people. The Olode cultural display from Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ogun, Kwara, and Ekiti states would be paraded and displayed from Owode in Oyo town to the Alaafin’s Palace. Some popular Yoruba artists perform amidst drinking and eating during the night party called “Aisun Koso”.
Day three is called the Sango Obakoso day. Cultural groups such as the Igunu and Omolulu would display their various performances to the cheers of the crowd.
The fifth to ninth day of Sango Festival starts from Sunday to Thursday, all filled with excitement and wide celebrations among the people. Between these days, celebrations of Oyo state, Oya day, Aje Oloja day, Osun state day, Sango Oyo day, and Iyeminja day takes place.
On the fourth day, the Sango Koso shrine would be opened. The event is usually marked by various performances from the members of the association of Nigeria theatre arts practitioners (ANTP) and the day is wrapped up by a night party for Oya Okenira.
The final day marks the ending of the festival where a group of followers called the Elegun Sango perform and entertain the crowd with magic which frightens a lot of the crowd. They usually plait their hairs and their eyes are usually red as fire and frightening.