Ile-Ife, the city of culture
Ile-Ife, also known as Ife, is a city in Osun state with so much cultural lore and history that is still popular in today’s time. Last December Bolanle Austen-Peters produced and directed a fantastical musical number highlighting its most popular story on Queen Moremi Ajasoro called Queen Moremi, The Musical.
If you didn’t see the sold-out show then, definitely book a ticket, they have showings from now till May 5, 2019. I was lucky enough to watch the fully booked show and the entire experience transported me a few weeks back to when the Ooni of Ife invited a few travel writers and I to explore Ife while staying at the new Ife Grand resort.
Before jumping into the experience in Ife, let’s brush up on a quick history of the city. Ife is part of Osun state, but dates back to around 500 B.C and is the oldest Yoruba city. It is also home to the famous OAU, Obafemi Awolowo University and the Natural History Museum of Nigeria. According to Yoruba lore, Ife was founded by deities, Oduduwa and Obatala when they created the world. Besides its mark in the history of the Yoruba people, Ife is famous for art. From terracotta sculptures, to stones and bronze sculptures that can still be found in the museum. Thanks to Bolanle’s musical play, Ife is now even more famous, thanks to the actions of Queen Moremi Ajasoro. Without giving up the plot of the play, the play focuses on the pain and lengthy strides Queen Moremi took in helping her people.
If you ever find yourself in Ife, first stop at a local bukka and order a plate of iyan with efo riro, no one does pounded yam and spinach stew like Osun people. For this trip, we were hosted at the Ooni’s own Ife Grand Resort, and from the entry into the massive grounds of the resort, I was gobsmacked by the greenery and its beauty. Beyond the palatial Yoruba themed rooms, we had the pleasure of spending one of the evenings with the Ooni of Ife at his palace.
If you have a day to spare, try to plan an afternoon exploring the palace of the Ooni. Take a sip from the well that, according to our guide. If you have the time to wait, the Ooni may grant you an audience with him, it may take a few hours of waiting time, but a novel experience nonetheless. The museum of antiquities and contemporary African art in OAU was also an amazing experience to take in. I wish I had more time there to learn more of the artefacts our Nigerian ancestors were able to create from the bare resources available to them.
Luckily for our group, while visiting with the Ooni at his palace, Ile Odua, the cast of Queen Moremi, the musical were also there to show him a snippet of their play. Stripped bare of the light and sound engineering that does a phenomenal job of bringing an audience into the embrace of the story being told, the cast did a phenomenal job. We only got a 30 minutes snippet of the 3 hours long play and the minute I had access to purchase a ticket, I jumped on it. The play was amazing, and despite knowing the history of Queen Moremi, I found myself fully immersed throughout the experience.
When in Ife, definitely pay homage to Queen Moremi Ajasoro’s statue and strike your pose of power beneath the gigantic statue. Make a quick stop at Oduduwa’s shrine, see where Oranmiyan’s staff is and take a stroll in the gardens of Afewonro Park. Definitely spend a long afternoon strolling the grounds of Obafemi Awolowo University and learn about the history of Nigeria’s artefacts and costumes in the museum of antiquities and contemporary African art within the school’s grounds. The artefacts showcased there go beyond the works from Ife, some works from Benin, Benin Republic, and different parts of Africa are also on display there.
Finally, if you have the time to spare from the cultural experience in the Yorubaland of Ife, do a full day trip to Erin-Ijesha to hike the paths of Olumirin waterfall. Depending on your fitness level, start the hike at 8 am; take a leisurely hike to the 7th level to the summit of the hike. A small village of people awaits you there. Spend the day exploring the village, buy some local trinkets, snack and then slowly make you way down to swim in the 2nd level of the waterfall.
Then head to Osogbo’s grove, hire a tour guide at the reception desk to show you the grounds while educating you on its history. Before heading out of Osun state, a lunch of iyan with efo riro with a bottle of Trophy needs to enjoyed before finding your way back home.
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