Thursday 29 March 2012

Mambilla Plateau…temperate and tropical melting point of Africa

Tour attraction in Nigeria is not just about festivals and carnivals; nature has its wonder spread across the country.
  OYASAF team visited one of such great places known as Mambilla Plateau, where nature’s uncommon climate is bestowed on a people, who are practically shut out from the rest of us.

 The Mambilla Plateau is a high-grassland with an average elevation of about 1,524 metres (5,000 ft) above sea level, making it the highest plateau in Nigeria. The plateau, which has an undulating landscape, free of insects, also has temperate climate within a tropical region.

Located in the highland region of Taraba State, Nigeria, Mambilla Plateau  also includes Chappal Waddi mountain- considered as the highest point in Nigeria and probably in West Africa with an average height of about 2,419 metres (7,936 ft) above sea level.
As soon as one reaches the top of the mountain, the feeling of heat experienced at the foot of the mountain disappears, and you will be greeted by fresh and very chilling breeze, blowing across the plateau.

Mambilla Plateau is shared by people of Nigeria and Cameroon who live in the Taraba State end and Tikar Plain in Cameroon, as well as in several small villages further north towards the town of Banyo. These people regard themselves as a group with a common identity, despite the different nationalities.

At an altitude of some 700m, these villages are in a different ecological zone where oil palms grow and gallery of forest is found. The Mambila language is a congeries of dialects and related languages.


Mambila plateau features unique physical and climatic conditions for human habitation and cattle breeding. During the 19th century, the highlands became the main source of slaves for the Muslim Fulani Kingdoms of Banyo and Gashaka. Despite their strong resistance, the Mambila villages fell one after the other to the supremacy of the Fulani aggressions.

The plateau which developed on basement complex rocks measures about 96km along its curved length and 40km wide, and bounded by an escarpment which is about 900m high in some places.

The Mambilla Plateau produces the major water channels from which other outlets in Taraba State take their source. Rivers Benue, Donga and Taraba are these dominant water channels which flow across the Muri plains to feed the entire state. Mambila plateau offers attractive settings, well worth a visit. It has cattle ranches, tea plantations and rolling, grassy hills. .

Time to visit Mambilla
Mambilla plateau has some of the coolest climatic condition in Nigeria with daytime temperatures sometimes reaching around 40 degree C. The driest months are from December to January with relative humidity dropping to about 15 percent, while the wet season usually starts from August till September.


Thursday 22 March 2012

In Ouidah, Voodoo Festival 2012 is stronger

Documenting one of the world’s strongholds of Voodoo religion, OYASAF team joined the faithful and other enthusiasts in celebrating the 2012 Benin Voodoo Festival, which held in Ouidah.

The Benin Republic Voodoo Festival is an annual event that holds at the beginning of every calendar year. Benin Republic may be just a slice of land in West Africa, but it is referred to as the cradle of voodoo in the world.
Waiting for the Voodoo priest, a goat slaughtered during the festival. 
Voodoo is Benin Republic’s national religion which was decreed officially by the government as a state-religion in 1997. It is practiced by millions of Beninese.  The festival is very vibrant and colorful. Every year, about 60% of Benin’s 7.4million residents, believers and followers, flock to Ouidah, the historic center of voodoo worship, to receive blessings from the city’s voodoo priests.

The celebration usually begins with the slaughtering of a goat by voodoo chief priest to appease the Beninese ancestors and voodoo deities. This ritual is accompanied by singing , incantations, dancing, thunderous beating of drums and whirling of the barred breasts of women. Also, neck-laced men slash their bodies with knives and consume gin and schnapps while pouring them over the wounds created by such slashing.
Zangbeto masquerade, during the 2012 Voodoo Festival.
Ouidah’s most striking memorial is a monument known as the gate of No Return. This giant gate looms at the end of the slave trail on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. It has a sculptural relief ­- mural illustration - which depicts the pain and anguish of manacled Africans during the Trans Atlantic slave trade. It reminds of how the slaves walk into the sea, towards their future of permanent hardship. For centuries, Ouidah was the regional hub for slave trafficking, with European slave traders shipping hundreds of thousands of slaves from Ouidah to the Americas and the Caribbean Islands.
Voodoo faithful, knife-slashing during the festival. PHOTO: BY OYASAF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER, OGUNTIMEHIN ARIYO 

 During Voodoo Festival parades, some Beninese, led by the priest, march to re-enact the three kilometer trek from Ouidah’s “down town” slave auction block, to the harbor.  The marchers pause to pray at each pilgrimage points, until they reach a mermaid statue, marking the old spot of a bizarre tree called the Tree of Forgetfulness. Back in those days, the slaves were made to circle the tree, nine times, in steps, with the belief that such rite would make them forget their identity completely.
Masquerades during the Voodoo Festival 2012 in Benin Republic.
Benin Voodoo Festival is about celebration, embracing the value of peace and prosperity. The festival entails people engaged in various activities of celebration with loudspeakers blaring Yoruba, Ghana and Congolese music.

The chief priest showers blessings on followers throughout the celebration.

Monday 19 March 2012

Nigerian Field Society visits OYASAF

The Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art foundation (OYASAF) was honoured with a visit by a 26-member delegation of the Nigerian Field Society on Saturday, March 17, 2012. The delegation, led by Mr. & Mrs. Campbell, included Professor and Mrs. Godwin (notable architect and academic on Nigerian physical and landscape architecture) and Mr. and Mrs. Von Den Driesch (the Consulate-General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Lagos). The delegation was joined by Diana Bada, a notable and highly promising funk-afro musician and model.

Members of Nigerian Field Society inside OYASAF Conferencce Centre. PHOTO: BY OYASAF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER, OGUNTIMEHIN ARIYO
The visitors were welcomed with a presentation by Prince (Engr.) Yemisi Shyllon of the activities and contribution of the Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF) to the promotion and development of Nigerian visual art and culture for a pride of place in the world. The presentation was followed by a guided tour of the foundation’s museum led by Prince Yemisi Shyllon and assisted by one of Nigeria’s most promising art sculptors, Mr. Adeola Balogun.

Founder of OYASAF, Omooba Yemisi Shyllon taking members of Nigerian Field Society round the premises.  PHOTO: BY OYASAF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER, OGUNTIMEHIN ARIYO
The tour was concluded with light refreshments, provided by Chief (Mrs.) Funmilayo Shyllon, and a group photograph.

Omooba Yemisi Shyllon (right), hosting Nigerian Field Society.  PHOTO: BY OYASAF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER, OGUNTIMEHIN ARIYO

Thursday 15 March 2012

Lisabi Festival 2012… Celebrating freedom, the Egba people way

With the Lisabi Festival 2012, OYASAF revisits the history of traditional African slavery, resistance of the Egba people and celebration of heroism.

Before dawn at the start of the Lisabi Festival, every year, gaily-dressed Egba men, women and children assemble at the Alake (King) of Egba’s palace in Ake, Abeokuta, patiently waiting for a visit to the Lisabi Sacred Forest in Oba village, Obafemi/Owode Local Government, Ogun State.

A visitor may ask: Lisabi Sacred Forest?  Yes, a scared forest.  History of the Egba has it that the Lisabi forest houses the remains of the legendary farmer turned warrior, Lisabi Agbongbo-Akala, the man who led the war that freed the Egba people from slavery under the then Oloyo. The Oloyo was the paramount ruler of the old Oyo Kingdom, a powerful imperialist whose government extended to the old Dahomey, in present day Benin Republic.
Lisabi Festival celebrants during the 2012 edition. PHOTO: OYASAF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER ARIYO OGUNTIMEHIN
History explains that when other Egba leaders had resigned to fate under the unbearable servitude they were consigned to by the Oloyo, Lisabi planned and strategised on how his land of birth would be freed from the shackles of slavery. Towards uniting the people for an onslaught against Oloyo’s formidable force, which was then an amalgam of many towns and villages that were similarly consigned to servitude, Lisabi formed a resistance society, which included farmers as members.

Abeokuta’s history points to the fact that Lisabi proved to be an energetic leader as he always worked harder than others whenever there was a collective efforts to work on each member’s farm. And when it was time to work on Lisabi’s farm, every member promised to do his best.

When the time came to work on Lisabi’s farm, instead of asking members to work on his farm, he declared war on Oyo kingdom. His society members were amazed and afraid, but accepted to go to war because they did not want to disappoint him by reneging on their longstanding promise to him.
With supreme war tactics, Lisabi’s army, whose numerical strength was far less than that of the Oloyo, won the war, consequently gaining freedom for the Egba people.
In celebrating this important part of the Egba history, the annual march to the Lisabi forest becomes a major event.
In February 2012, sons and daughters of Egba, decked in white attires, board their respective vehicles, and in a long convoy, headed for the sacred Lisabi forest.

After a successful entry into the forest, and as usual came the rendition of Egba anthem: “Lori oke ati petele, ibe la gbe bi mi si o...” (On the top of hills and in the valley, there I was born...) was proudly sung by everyone present, including the Alake. After this, the Alake and his chiefs took their seats, while the Oluwos (chief priests) of smaller Egba towns such as Itoku, Igbein and others pay homage to the king, informing him that they had earlier offered sacrifices to the spirit of the legendary Lisabi Agbongbo-Akala and that his spirit has accepted the sacrifices.

Lisabi Festival celebrants during the 2012 edition. PHOTO: OYASAF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER ARIYO OGUNTIMEHIN
After this, other priests, warriors, oro cult members etc. take their respective turns to pay homage to the Alake.
During such visitation to the forest, the Alake offers prayers to all Egba children at home and in Diaspora for success in their respective endeavours. He also prays for the unity of Egbaland and peace in Nigeria. After the prayer, the monarch and his people descend from the sacred forest for the journey back home to Abeokuta for another round of the festival at the palace of the Alake.
At the palace, a mammoth crowd of Egba sons and daughters, patiently seating under several canopies, wait for the monarch and his chiefs to arrive from the forest. While waiting, several traditional institutions like the Oluwos (traditional priests) Oloroguns (traditional soldiers) Parakoyis (the traditional market controllers) among others, as well as the worshippers of traditional deities such as  Olomolus, kori, Osun and Igunnuko masquerade faithful, and others take their turn to pay homage to the Alake, blessing him and receiving blessings from him.
At the end of all these, Alake closes the Lisabi Festival with another round of prayer for the Egba people and the nation, after which, Egba anthem is once again sung. The retreat of the Alake and his chiefs to the inner chambers of the palace, marks the end of the colourful Lisabi Festival.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Colours, glitters of Calabar Festival 2011

 Capturing these moments in pictures and letters, OYASAF crew had a feel of the Calabar people's culture of great hospitality.      
Calabar Festival is, arguably, the biggest annual multi-dimensional, multi-faceted tourism leisure and cultural event in West Africa. It holds for 32 days (starting from November and ending in January), with a major Carnival which holds for just two days. In exciting and colorful activities, the festival attracts about a million people from all over the world.  

 It started at the turn of the Millennium and has since grown in popularity and scope over the years.

 Oraginsed by The Cross Rivea State Government, it has been rated as Nigeria’s most prominent tourism brand. The state government is employing the festival to drive its tourism program and provide exposure for its vast tourism sites and infrastructure such as the Obudu Ranch Resort, the Tinapa Business Resort, Marina Resort, etc.
Dancers in costumes during the 2011 Calabar Carnival. PHOTO: BY OYASAF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER, OGUNTIMEHIN ARIYO
  The Calabar festival, which starts with a Tree-Lighting ceremony at the Millennium Park in Calabar, the capital of the state, culminates in thanksgiving ceremony. There are also awareness campaigns and seminars on contemporary issues of global concern, children’s Christmas Camp, theatre performances, vocational training for youths, fashion and food fairs, a weekend at the Obudu Mountain Resort to celebrate Africa, and so many other side attractions. Carnival Calabar
The two-day Calabar-carnival is a unique display of African heritage showcasing music, dance, drama and visual creativity, which is reflected in the design of floats, costumes and make-up. Despite the fun and relaxed atmosphere around the carnival, a great degree of thought, creativity and discipline goes into the interpretation of the carnival theme under a strict adjudication process. The result is pure magic – an outpouring of colour, sound and spectacle, unmatched by anything else on the continent of Africa.  

 Calabar carnival takes place on the 26th and 27th December, every year and is the highlight of the 32-day Calabar Festival. The carnival is reputed to parade thousands of costumed revellers, millions of spectators complemented by an millions of TV viewers on Nigeria television Authority (NTA) Network, NTA International, African Independent Television (AIT), Cross River State Broadcasting Corporation (CRBC) and Continental TV (Africa Magic, Channel 0 and MTV Base).

Calabar Carnival features five major competing musical bands together with many non-competing bands. The major bands are comprised of approximately 10,000 revellers, including up to five kings and queens wearing large scale costumes that interpret the annual theme and set the tone for the other outfits.

Sections of these costumed revellers create beautiful colour and sparkles, accompanied by live music, Deejays, well-decorated floats and steel bands. The carnival parade terminates at the Uj Esuene Stadium which is the final adjudication and end point of the competition for ‘Band of the Year’ in various categories. This competition attracts thousands of seated spectators around the stadium, as well as millions of television viewers.


Thursday 1 March 2012

University of Lagos Art Entrepreneurship Workshop 2012 Sponsored by OYASAF

The Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos will be conducting its second OYASAF sponsored art entrepreneurship workshop for professional artists and students of tertiary institutions. 

Over one hundred artists from across Nigeria are expected to participate in this workshop scheduled to hold in two separate periods from 13-18 April and 7-12 June 2012.  

This year, we would host a guest artist in the first series of collaborative workshop sessions involving photography, writing and drawing anchored by Brett Cook, a well-established African-American artist from Berkeley, California.  

Cook has carried out numerous public projects in the US, the Caribbean, and Mexico. His prized collections can be found in the Smithsonian Institute’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, Studio Museum of Harlem in New York and Harvard University. He is a recipient of the smARTpower residency in Nigeria funded by the US Department of State. Cook would be sharing his work with interested participants and also conducting these workshops in tune with his conceived project for Nigeria titled Sharing Culture at this workshop and in subsequent spaces under the joint partnership of the Bronx Museum of Arts, USA and the Women and Youth Art Foundation, Nigeria.  OYASAF would also be sharing its work from its photographic archives

Ceramic Session during the entrepreneurship workshop last year
Other workshop sessions include jewellery (chain mail/wire knitting /sheet metal work/ bead stringing), Watercolour painting and an open session in ceramics.  
 Facilitators include Ibe Ananaba, Ato Arinze, Sam Ovraiti and Ariyo Oguntimehin.
Date:13-18 April 2012 and 7-12 June 2012

Workshop attendance and participation is free. Applications are invited from interested participants.  Note, the first workshop runs from 13-18 April, 2012.  All applications should indicate only one area of interest, age, telephone number, email, web address and professional affiliation.

Deadline for submission of ALL applications is March 30. Successful candidates will be notified by 2 April, 2012. Participation in these workshops is free. All art supplies would be provided. Sessions hold at the Visual Arts Studio, by the Lagoon front, Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos.

Note:  Accommodation would NOT be provided for any participant. 

For further enquiries contact.      
Tel 08070705754 

This workshop is generously sponsored by the Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF) for the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos.

Eyo Festival 2011… In Honour of Abiodun Oniru

After touring Nigeria from the beginning of the year, documenting festivals and  great tourists' attractions, it was a greater fun for OYASAF crew to return to Lagos and had a feel of the most popular festival in West Africa's busiest commercial and business nerve centre.

 Arguably one of the most colourful cultural events in Nigeria, Eyo Festival is celebrated in Lagos.

The 2011 Eyo Festival tagged Adamu Orisa Play, and held in November, was in honour of late Chief Yesufu Abiodun Oniru [1864-1984]. Usually a one-day festival, the 2011 edition culminated in a rally at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos Island as the attendance included domestic and international tourists from different parts of the world.
In masquerades form, the Eyos are considered to be the spirits of the dead who return to cleanse Lagos of evil and to pray for the state’s continued prosperity and peace. The festival holds from dusk to dawn.

As a leading cultural event of the people of Lagos State, it is widely anticipated and attended by Lagos indigenes and settlers. In fact, some Eyo enthusiasts travel to Lagos, from within Nigeria and the Diaspora, to witness the event, every year.
Eyo masquerades during the Eyo festival 2011 at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos.  PHOTO: OYASAF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER ARIYO OGUNTIMEHIN

 Its splendid and expansive theatrical displays and pageantry showcase the aboriginal history of the denizens of Lagos. Through a picturesque array of regalia and costumes, the Eyos form parades around Lagos Island.

The festival is largely regarded as a day of joyous splendor and gaiety. It has evolved over three centuries, and is usually held to celebrate the life and times of the Oba of Lagos and his white cap chiefs. It is also organised in commemoration of the passage or ascension, to the throne, of the Oba (king).

Eyo Festival could be staged in the memory of worthy and illustrious people who must have contributed immensely to the progress and development of Lagos. It is deemed as constituting the highest honor that Lagos can give a departed citizen of eminence. Despite its origin being ritualistic, there have also been incidents when the Eyo Play has been performed to coincide with the honoring of foreign or state dignitaries.

Traditionally, the Oba of Lagos fixes the date of the Eyo Festival; there is no customarily fixed time for the staging of the event. So, the anticipation and excitement across Lagos and beyond is immense when the date for its performance is announced.

 The festival encompasses a series of activities, culminating in a striking procession of thousands of men, clothed in white and wearing a variety of coloured hats called Aga and hold  a piece of wooden staff known as Opa Mbata. The procession includes dancing through various locations and landmarks across Lagos island, beginning from the Oba's Palace. 
Royal Eyo? Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi (left) and Omooba (Prince) Yemisi Shyllon during the 2011 Eyo Festival in Lagos. PHOTO: OYASAF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER ARIYO OGUNTIMEHIN