For almost 60 years, the Yoruba people have held the Orò Festival. The annual event is a celebration and worship of Orò, the Yoruba deity of bullroarers and justice. Its purpose is to protect the community against evil and ensure peace.
Participation in the festival is reserved strictly for men who are members of the Orò cult and whose fathers are natives of the community. The celebration of Orò differs from town to town, and in some cases, the festival is announced after the death of a monarch.
During the festival, there would be a curfew in the community, and only initiates of the Orò cult are allowed unrestricted movement. Women and non-indigenes of the community are expected to stay indoors. Anyone who ventures outside and sees the masquerade would incur a death sentence.
With the curfew in place, the Orò masquerade, together with his followers, would come out into the streets. The masquerade is usually clad in a long robe with shells and a white wooden mask with blood smeared on its lips. His followers move alongside him, chanting incantations. A whirring, roaring sound surrounds them. This sound is said to be the handiwork of his wife, Majowu, a goddess that speaks the languages of the gods and humans.
The Orò Festival lasts two weeks. It can happen in any month of the year but is usually held between July and August.
The ceremonies of the festival are divided into four sessions: the first, known as awodun oro; the second, held 48 hours after the first, called eta; the third, which takes place seven days after the first, known as eje; and the last, known as etadogun.
In those sessions, the curfew would be lifted twice, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. During those moments of free movement, a town crier would warn people to not stray far from home.
Three months after the final session, the festival would end with an all-night masquerade feast, attended by both men and women. This is known as the efe ikagba oro.
In the Yoruba-speaking parts of the Republic of Benin, the people also observe the Orò Festival.
Uzoma Ihejirika is a Nigerian creative writer and journalist. He is an editor for the AfroAnthology Series and a copy editor for Minority Africa and has written for Open Country Mag. He has works on Lolwe and Isele Magazine.