Thursday, 12 April 2018

Dancing Shekere at the Aláàfin of Oyo Palace

Dancing to the Shekere, a Yoruba instrument made by covering a calabash in a net of beads, as the crowd watch on

The Aláàfin palace is the home and seat of the (King) Oba of Oyo Empire, which was established sometime in the 15th century. The empire grew to become one of the largest empires in West African. It started with Oranyan (Oranmiyan), the last prince of Ile-Ife (Ife) after he made an agreement with his brother to launch a war against their northern neighbours for insulting their father Oduduwa. As they progressed to the battlefield, the two brothers had a misunderstanding that split their army into two. Oranyan's army was smaller, so he walked away and found himself with his army at Bussa. The king of Bussa welcomed him and gave him a gift of a snake with a magic charm attached to its throat.  It was this snake that led him to where he settled at Ajaka which is in the present day Oyo. Oranyan declared Oyo his new kingdom and became the first "Oba" (king) with the title of " Aláàfin of Oyo".

A large tree old tree inside the palace, on the left hand side of your screen is where the garden, fenced round

Aláàfin Oranyan later begot a son Ajuwon Ajaka, after then there was Arabambi. After Aláàfin Oranyan joined his ancestors, his son Ajaka became the Aláàfin, Ajaka was deposed and his brother, Shango took over but died later and Ajaka was restored as the Aláàfin. After his departure he was replaced by Kori, who is said to have ruled over the metropolitan Oyo.

The empire grew and waxed from fame to fame though they never encompassed all Yoruba-speaking people, but it remains the most populous kingdom in Yoruba history.

the residential quarter of the Alaafin 

Recently, I visited the Aláàfin’s palace. The current Aláàfin is Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III the Aláàfin of Oyo, Lamidi's father, the Aláàfin of Oyo Oba Adeyemi II Adeniran, was deposed and exiled in 1954 for supporting the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) political party. The ‘Yoruba’ party then, the Action Group did not like the idea and as such there was a conflict between the Aláàfin and Bode Thomas, the then deputy leader of the Action Group. The party used the political power and deposed him.

this was the old Chamber of the Alaafin

The word ‘Aláàfin’ - stands for 'owner of the palace', invariably the Aláàfin of Oyo is the owner of the palace of Oyo. The palace and the king’s market are the two most important structures in Oyo. They signified the importance of the king in Oyo.

The palace was originally built at the center of the city close to the Oba's market called 'Oja-Oba'. It had a tall earthen wall for defense with 17 gates.

The mosque in the palace 

The present Palace is large with many structures inside it, I observed two entrances, the ‘IN’ and ‘OUT’ entrance, maybe there are more, I never noticed. Opposite both sides of the entrance of the palace they have markets that sales basically native substances like skin of animals, creatures like tortoise, chameleon, snails and a host of other materials that is used for performing rituals to the gods.

Alaafin of Oyo, Làmídì Oláyíwolá Adéyemí III on his throne inside the Royal Chambers

Dr Raphael James dancing to the Shekere

Inside the palace there is a mosque, the old Royal Chambers, the modern Royal Chambers, and the residential home of the Oba. Each of the buildings within the palace have their separate gates.

The Aláàfin has a pond in the palace where he keeps gold fish, and there are tortoises there too. Inside the Royal Chambers, the Aláàfin has his own special chair with a foot rest and a lion skin with the head still on it, with eyes popping out as if the lion will come to life. There are also two smaller chairs by the sides, probably for the wives. There are three golden heads of lions on both sides of his chair. There are two other bigger chairs on both side of the Aláàfin’s chair, I guess they should be for important personalities, the one on his right hand side has a green-white-green colour, while the second one is cream in colour.         

Dr. James inside the Royal Chamber of  the Aláàfin of Oyo

The Royal Chambers wall is barricaded with probably mahogany wood, for they look tastefully beautiful. There are long stretch of chairs on both sides of the Royal Chambers. On the left of the Aláàfin seats the Oyemesis (King Makers). The seven-man electoral college member, They possess the legislative powers though not absolute. Their power include among many others: Selection of a new Aláàfin, making of laws, providing checks and balances, ensuring that policies were implemented and advising the Aláàfin on good governance. On the right side of the Royal Chambers are for visitors to the palace.
chairs arranged in the royal chamber, u can see the beautifully carved entrance door to the chamber 

There is carved large bird on the ceiling of the Royal Chambers, that looks like the bird is descending into the chambers, it is creativity at its best.

the ceiling of the Royal Chambers

the head of the Lion at the foot of the Alaafin.

The Oyemesi as well as visitors to the Royal Chambers mostly of Yoruba origin prostrate flat on the ground to greet the Aláàfin as tradition demands, yours faithfully joined and flat on the ground to give honour to who honour was due to, the great Aláàfin of Oyo, Kábíyèsí, Iku Baba Yeye, Alashe,  Ekeji Orisha. I salute you.


1 comment:

  1. It is very useful information and I have learnt lot of things from this blog. Mark Hutchinson is a very experience man which is working in wild life field from many years.