- Why African historical villages have gone on extinction – Expert
Over 50 participants embarked on a learning excursion to the famous Osun-Oshogbo grove to learn about its rich maritime heritage as part of the ongoing Creative Writing Bootcamp organized by The Maritime Writes Project (MWP).
The tour, which held yesterday, availed participants an opportunity to know about the Osun goddess and how the first dwellers in Oshogbo had been captivated by the mystery of the marine environment leading to their settlement.
Covering over 75 hectares of land, the over 600-year old Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site with a meandering river dotted with sanctuaries and shrines, sculptures and art works in honour of Osun and other deities
As part of efforts to preserve Nigeria’s maritime heritage via creative writing, the MWP 2023 participants were guided through the Osun-Oshogbo grove which is regarded as the abode of the goddess of fertility Osun, one of the pantheon of Yoruba gods.
The tour included sightseeing various parts of the dense forest of the Sacred Grove, learning about the traditional gate and its symbolic artifacts, the suspended bridge built in 1935, the special river where prayers are still made to the river goddess and the water highly regarded as ‘agbo’ meaning herbal medicines.
Participants also learnt that fishing, bathing and swimming are prohibited in the river, while the tour guide posited that there have been reported cases were fishes caught in the river never got cooked.
Meanwhile, as a result of climate change, rainfall and flooding, the sacred river, which has a sculpted mermaid and a fish base, has overflown its boundary in recent years.
Speaking with journalists, the Principal Museum Education Officer, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Raji Lilian Tolulope, said the Osun grove is the second listed World Heritage site in Nigeria.
Her words: “Osun grove was listed in July 15, 2005 as a World Heritage site, but it has been a national monument since in 1965. Preserving a national monument like this is very important because it tells our history. What would have been told as the history of Oshogbo people if this monument wasn’t preserved over the years? How will their story of moving from Ipelomu to Oshogbo be captured? ”
“They had their first and second palace here in this location. They also had their first market here. If this place wasn’t preserved how would we have remembered these stories. Their history would have gone on extinction.”
“A lot of Nigerian and African villages and historical accomplishments are going into extinction because we don’t keep record of things. It is also strange that foreigners are taking more interest in these historical events and making efforts to preserve them. If we can continue to preserve our history like Osun grove, it will go a long way to maintaining Nigeria’s culture and historical events,” Raji said.
Raji equally stressed that the impact of Susanne Wenger MFR, also known as Adunni Olorisha. The Austrian-Nigerian artist and Yoruba priestess who expatriated to Nigeria focused on the Yoruba culture and played a crucial role in building an artist cooperative in Osogbo.
Susanne Wenger partnered with local artists in Osogbo to redevelop and redecorate the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove with sculptures and carvings depicting the various activities of the Orishas.
On his part, the Head of Faculty, MWP, Dr. Taiwo Nolas-Alausa described the experience as a rewarding one for the participants as it will enable them develop more creative story angles for project.
According to Nolas-Alausa, the Osun grove heritage shows the influence of maritime on communities which were the early beginnings of trade in Nigeria,adding that these historical events must be properly documented and preserved as maritime heritages.
After the Osun grove tour, one of the participants, Muideen Rodiat said; “It was an educative experience. I learnt that Nigerian culture and heritage should be preserved. The Osun grove is a world recognized heritage site as captured by UNESCO.”
“I learnt there is an annual Osun-Oshogbo festival which holds in the month of August. It is called Arugba in Yoruba. A virgin maiden will be chosen from the family of the present king of the town to carry sacrifices to the river goddess. While the maiden carries the sacrifice, she will be escorted and she mustn’t talk and the calabash mustn’t fall, otherwise it will mean bad omen for the kingdom.”