Wednesday, 11 May 2016

AYO OLOPON: RIVIVING A DYING CULTURAL HERITAGE By Maureen Azuh

Many aspects of Nigerian cultures are gradually fading out. The most common feature, which is language, is even the most affected – with many young people now finding it 'trendy' to say they do not understand their language.

But efforts are also being made to revive some of these cultural elements. Ayo olopon, a popular traditional game in Yorubaland and indeed some other tribes, for instance, is in the class of such traditional values that may be 'redeemed'. It is a game played on a wooden board with two rows of six holes by two to four competitors, and revered for its entertainment values.

Also called tota tope, it became popular when it left the confines of the household and community. It became a part of the Osun Osogbo Festival about 16 years ago. Ever since, it has not only remained a permanent feature, but is also gradually finding its way into other festivals.

According to the presenter of the game at the festival, Kayode Adewoyin, who spoke with our correspondent, the aim of making it a part of the festival is to keep the game alive in the minds of Nigerians.

He says, "Since the inception of this festival and the game, this will be the first time the Oba will be a part of it as a participant. This shows that it is getting better awareness. We also play the game in over 70 other Yoruba festivals. Most boys, these days, believe in foreign games such as football. In the past it used to be those traditional games that our forefathers used to relax at the end of the day's work. Then, they had time to exchange village gossip and other events. But what we have today are snookers and play stations, which are alien to our culture."
Adewoyin also says there are efforts to incorporate the game into national sports festivals where contestants will represent their states.

"When we started this game in Osun Osogbo in 1996, we did not know it will grow up to this length. Now we have even been to the eastern part of the country where we also found out that the game is not strange. So we are currently exploring all avenues at reviving it. It is our cultural heritage. We are already working with the National Sports Council for a competition in October, where people will represent their states after zonal contests. We don't want this traditional game to just die down," he says.

*Culled from www.nigerianbestforum.com

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