The most prominent feature of Ikere-Ekiti, the second largest town in Ekiti State, are its steep hills and rocks. Three of them are storied: the Olosunta, Orole, and Ugele Hills. The first two, located in the northern and southern parts of the town, are regarded as abodes of deities.
For nine days every July or August, the Olosunta Rock is the site of a festival of remembrance called the Jona-Olusonta, meant to honour the Ikere warriors who fell in a battle against the Oyo Kingdom. At this event, the chief priest, the olukere, sacrifices a large cow to the rock. Unlike at the other rocks, people are not allowed to visit the Olosunta Rock outside the festive period.
According to local lore, the Orole Rock has supernatural origins. The myth goes that during a slave raid by the Oyo army, the Oyo soldiers decided to rest at a spot just before Ikere-Ekiti. When they stood to continue into the town, the ground beneath and around them began to rise into an inselberg, ultimately reaching a height of 1,000 ft, leaving them isolated up there. The soldiers couldn’t escape due to its steepness and so jumped off it to suicide. Today, the Orole Rock, the highest point within the Ekiti and Ondo areas, looks like one half of an egg. While it is frequented by worshippers of the deity of prosperity, the hill is open for climbing and picnics.
Beside the Olosunta Rock is the Ugele Hill, with its large cave said to have space for a thousand occupants. Ikere people were said to have sought refuge in it during wartime. After the wars, it became the venue for traditional wrestling matches during the Ogun Oye festival.
During the Yoruba civil wars of the 18th and 19th centuries, Ikere-Ekiti was the only Ekiti town to remain unconquered, a status attributed to its two deities on the hills. To this day, local worshippers look to the deities for the overall welfare of their town.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture: art, business, entertainment, activism, health, food. He is a writer, journalist, curator, media consultant, former academic, and Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Open Country Mag, a new online platform covering African literature. In 2019, he received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians" by Avance Media. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.