The hilly town of Idanre in Idanre Local Government area of Ondo State came alive recently when the town celebrated Ketewa Festival, an event which is meant to replace mountain climbing competition (Mare Festival). Babatope Okeowo, who witnessed the three-day event, reports the celebration of culture and tradition of the people
For eight years during the reign of Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, the hilly town of Idanre usually witnessed the influx of people who regularly came to celebrate the mountain climbing competition known as Mare Festival. The festival delighted the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) which began the process of listing Idanre Hills as a World Heritage Site and Mare, the annual mountain climbing competition, as World Tourism Centre. However, the festival has been put on hold since the coming of the present government of Oluwarotimi Akeredolu because of paucity of funds. This development led to the agitation of the people for a similar festival that would bring people from all walks of lives to the town and help develop culture, commerce and social lives of the people as the event was usually held towards the end of every year.
The third edition of Ketewa, a cultural festival in Ondo State, South- West Nigeria, was held in the hilly town of Idanre, amid pomp and ceremony. The event marked parts of the year ceremony for the people of the ancient town. The former Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in the state, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi, who is the organiser of the event, said the government alone cannot fund cultural festivals, hence the need for corporate organisations to intervene. The media guru was delighted with the outcome of the event and wanted corporate organisations and wellmeaning Nigerians to support the Ketewa Festival. Speaking on the necessity of the festival, the sponsor Olowolabi said he thought about the festival after he was deployed from the Ministry of Information in 2019. His words: “When I was redeployed to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism as Commissioner. My redeployment was greeted with great joy in Idanre. Why? The community expected me to revive the Mare Festival. The Owa of Idanre, Oba Frederick Adegunle Aroloye, charged me to do everything possible to bring back the Mare Festival. Soon after I got to the ministry, it dawned on me that it was not possible to host Mare due to paucity of funds. In fact, there was no budgetary provision for the festival in the ministry. I had to think of a way out. That was how I brought up the Ketewa Festival idea, at least, to give my people something in the absence of Mare, essentially to revive and celebrate the beauty of Idanre culture and traditions.”
Glitz and glamour
It was an excitement-packed cultural event, laced with good music for the old and the younger generations. About 20 cultural troupes and musical bands entertained the audience, which comprised traditional rulers, high chiefs, clubs and associations. It was indeed a night to showcase the rich cultural heritage of people of Idanre. For three days, the streets of Idanre swarmed with stretches of colours and sparkles of culture as Idanre indigenes from all walks of life excitedly celebrated the 2022 edition of the Ketewa Festival, an annual feast of arts, crafts, and culture.
At the Ese Gbeke venue of the Cultural Night, common folks and community icons frolicked to the pulsating beats of traditional music. There were stupefying performances and spectacular stagecraft. The night of fun began with the ageless empress of folk music, Adenike Adetipe popularly known as ‘Terenren’.
Next to mount the stage was the latest discovery in the community’s music scene Genesis Oke, whose sonorous renditions threw the audience into a delirium of joy The event took off to a memorable start with a welcome address delivered by Prince Kayode Aroloye, Chairman, Idanre Local Government. Aroloye praised the idea of the festival and called for massive support to ensure sustenance and continuity. The chairman’s address was followed by the big moment of a historic performance as Adesina Kuroloja, son of the late woro music legend, Adebayo Kuroloja, mounted the stage. The cultural night also witnessed the celebration of two major Senior High Chiefs: Ojomu-elect, Akinloye Akinmboni and Osoloelect, Victor Ojo Alalabiaye.
Until their recent elevations to the new exalted positions, Akinmboni, a shrewd businessman, was the Bashorun of Idanre while Alalabiaye, an astute politician, was the Bobagunwa of Idanre. The duo took their turns on stage after an inspiring recitation of their respective panegyrics. Among the new chiefs who graced the epic event is the newly installed Ejigeme of Idanre, Chief Ojo Gbolani Alebiosu. In terms of diverse performances, the festival offered so much that the folkloric presentation of Ogbagba by Abike Lola Band was mind blowing. So was the evocative re-enactment of Ogba by the Lady Stella Group.
The beautiful stagecraft of the Makanre Cultural Troupe furthered the rhythmic flourish of the festival and lengthened the hours of reveries at the foot of the hills. There were more eclectic performances, some of which ran till the wee hours. Some indigenes of the town also spoke on the importance of the festival. They said the Ketewa Festival has come to stay.