Owo, a Yoruba sub-ethnic group in Ondo State, Nigeria, used to be the capital of a City-State between 1400 and 1600 AD. Owo is situated between Ile-Ife and Benin City, at the southern edge of the Yoruba hills and at the intersection of roads from Akure, Kabba, Benin city, and Siluko. The tribe is comprised of the following towns and villages: Idusen, Ipele, Isuada, Iyere, Owo (rural), Upenmen, and Uso.
Owo tribe was named after first Ruler Ojugbelu Arere, whose pleasant manners earned him the name owo, a Yoruba term which means ‘respect’. Therefore, he was crowned the Owo of Olowo, and the name has stuck on the people till date.
The history of the Owo people can be traced as far back 1100 AD, when they migrated from the city of Ile-Ife. However, in oral history, it is believed that one of sons of Oduduwa, the founder of Ile-Ife, founded the city of Owo.
The people of Owo were brought under the influence of Benin kingdom by the end of mid-15th century, introducing certain similarities with the people of Benin in their lifestyle. Thus, Owo art has a historical and stylistic link between the arts of ancient Ile-Ife and Benin kingdom.
Similarities between Benin on Owo
- Architecture: houses in both cities have same fluted walls.
- Religion: Both cities perform the same Igwue ritual.
- Politics: The chieftaincy titles of both cities are the same.
- Regalia: The royal regalia are common in both cities.
- Traditional rulers: The Obas use the same type of ceremonial sword that has looped handle.
- Sculpture: Their ivory carvings are the same, making it difficult to identify which city they belong to.
- The wooden ram heads are placed in the ancestral shrines in both cities.
Similarities between Ile-Ife on Owo
- They have modeled faces.
- They have slanted eyes
- They have vertical tribal marks drawn across their faces.
Owo is known to have the biggest palace in Africa, and was declared a national monument by the Federal government. The palace had as many as 100 courtyards (ugha), each of the courtyards having a specific function and being dedicated to a particular deity.
The present-day Owo is an agricultural centre involved in the growing and trading of farm crops such as yam, maize, okra, pepper, cotton, cassava and cocoa. They are also into commercial activities like plants processing plants and brick making.
ERO FESTIVAL: It takes place once in every nine years in the town. It is a festival celebrated for old people who are retiring from active community service and are taking up advisory roles in the town.
IGOGO FESTIVAL: It is held annually in September to honour Queen Oronsen, a mythical wife of Rerengegen. During this festival, the incumbent Olowo of Owo and High Chiefs dress like women with beaded gowns, coral beads, and plaited hair. Wearing of headgears and caps as well as booming of drum and firing of guns are not allowed during the festival.
INTERESTING PLACES TO VISIT IN OWO
- The Olowo’s palace
- The Owo museum of antiques
- Igbokoda waterfront