Thursday, 5 May 2016

AJE FESTIVAL IN ONDO KINGDOM By Victor Akinkuolie

Preceding the day of the celebration, elaborate preparations are made by the Opoji for a festival splashed in honour of her Aje. Relatives are informed and items for feasting are got ready. On the morning of the day, the Opoji dresses up and prepares her Aje for the evening outing. The Aje will be displayed and placed in the front of the house of the Opoji chief, while spectators view it for their admiration.

In the evening of the celebration, the Aje will be placed on the head of a young virgin, for the efficacy of the prayers and rites, the Aje carrier (votary maid) must be pure. The girl herself would be beautifully attired with choice traditional wears and beads, covering her body from the thighs to her chest.

She wears the Yata and other trappings of traditional affluence, very important that the Aje carrier is expensively attired, because both she and Aje are on display, as a reflection of the status and social success of the Opoji concerned.

With the Aje carried by the young virgin, the Opoji dances to the appointed assembly at a spot in Okedoko street in Ondo, accompanied in a joyous procession by her children, neighbours as well as other relations and well wishers, mainly women. Naira of different denominations would be pasted on the body of the young girl.

When all the female Chiefs might have assembled, each Aje is placed on a stand in front of the Opoji. The female Chiefs then hold a mock marketing session to symbolize the importance of economic activities in Ondo kingdom and the key role of women in the commercial life of the society.

As the ceremony proceed, in a highly delightful manner, the Opoji pays homage to Lobun, who is the leader of the women Chiefs in the city, this exercise would go round in a hierarchical order, very similar to what the male Chiefs do during Ugha, a traditional meeting spot within the Palace of the Osemawe.

The whole ceremony is perform in a square called Enuowa, a spot near the Old Town Hall, behind the palace of Osemawe. The ceremony is a special forum for women. It is the high point of Ondo tradition, it is a most enthralling sight full of gaiety and colour.

During the celebration, the very depth of Ondo culture is reflected in the women's dressing, singing, ceremonial dancing, traditional prayers and exchange of ceremonial greetings to mention a few.

However, the main thrust of the ceremony is for prayers to be said for communal peace, success in business and continued prosperity for the entire kingdom in general, and the Opojis in particular.

This celebration involved the Opojis in Ondo and the Chiefs from Udoko led by the Sasere who would arrive later in the evening to partake in the elaborate celebration, the Chiefs from Udoko community would offer prayers foe each of the Opojis, praying for their success in trade, prosperity and long life.

The Udoko Chiefs would also offer prayers for fertility among Ondo women and the safety, happiness and well-being of all children born into the community, during this prayers each Aje is touched with the priests, while "ase" meaning Amen would rent the air.

After the rite the Udoko chief would depart, amidst drumming and dancing, while the Opojis would also leave the venue in hierarchical order, in company of their drummers, this aspect of the celebration is always a delight to watch as everybody present at the venue would be happy to be part of the annual celebration.

The accompanied friends and relatives would be cleared on their returns to the Opojis house, while the Aje is returned to its special place on a conspicuous stand in the house to await another year's outing.

If however, the Opoji herself is unable to accompany her Aje to the venue of the celebration as a result of illness, old age and demise, her children and other relations will perform the outing on her behalf.

In the alternative, she may display the Aje in front of her house, where she herself will sit, well dressed in a festive mood, while all her relatives would dance to the admiration of spectators, the virgin girl who has the honour of carrying the Aje is showered with cash gifts and valuable items.

The virgin girl would also be given a hen and kolanuts to worship her guardian spirit and pray that she too may grows up to be a woman of substance in the society. When the virgin girl grows too big to carry the Aje or gets married, another carrier has to replace her.

*Culled from www.thehopenewspaper.com

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