The town of Ogori Magongo is some 10 minutes drive from Okene a town in Kogi state. Located at the extreme south western part of Kogi state, it is situated some 300 kilometers away from Abuja, the Federal Capital territory.
The town of Ogori Magongo is some 10 minutes drive from Okene a town in Kogi state. Located at the extreme south western part of Kogi state, it is situated some 300 kilometers away from Abuja, the Federal Capital territory. It is surrounded on all but its southwestern sides by hills rising about 32-196 meters above sea level. Between these hills are open valleys which provide natural entrance and exit into the central valley where the town of Ogori lies. The language of Ogori is basically a mixture of dialects derived from the various cultures they met on their migratory journey to the town of Ogori. According to the most recent census of Nigeria the 1991 census, there are 23,577 persons from Ogori. Of this, 11,258 are male while 12,319 are females. The town used to be primarily an agricultural settlement but with the coming of Europeans and western education, a crop of artisans emerged especially in masonry, capentry, painers etc. Quite a number of Ogori sons and daughters are to be found in every occupation in both the private and public sectors.
One of the annual activities of the Ogori people is the Ovia osee, the passage of rite for females transforming from adolescence to womanhood. The event is now usually the climax of the Ogori week.
Saturday 17th march 2010 was the grand finale of activities marking the end of week long festivities of the Ogori week in Ogori Magongo LGAs and it was the day for maidens. According to the people of Ogoriland, the event symbolizes Chastity, fertility, feminity, and procreation according to the laws of God in conformity with the norms of the Ogori people. According to Jacob a member of the planning committee of this year's programme “the festival is the transition of girls who will on that day cross the bridge of innocence into womanhood”
It is traditionally a taboo for an Ogori maiden to get pregnant before the rite of passage. Such maidens are not allowed to participate in the festival and are frowned upon by the community.
The Ovia Osese festival has been in existence since the beginning of time for the people of Ogoriland. However, with modernization and the advent of Christianity, certain aspects of the festival have been changed or replaced but the underlining emphasis has always been on Chastity.
On the eve of the festival, the Ovia (the maiden) must sleep at the oyodina's house to receive what is called “home education” which comprises of virtues of womanhood and general body hygiene, sex education and instructions on how to keep a home and child birth. They are also taught various songs and dances. It is at the Iyodina's place that all dance rehearsals take place. The girls to be initiated fall between the ages of 14 to 26. The Onu and Eni, two clans in Ogoriland have celebrated their festivals together since 1940. The Ovia dance to pay respect to the village head. The girls wear decorative beads round their heads wrists and waists. Their hair is usually plaited and decorated with beads. The songs the initiatees sing are exclusive to them, and even their relations are not allowed to sing along. The songs are said to have anonymous composition and are perpetuated by oral tradition
On the morning of the Ovia Osese festival itself, the Ivia (maidens) are dressed in traditionally hand woven cloth of various colors and wearing beads in their hair and on their necks and their shoulders, their bodies oiled and decorated with white chalk. They are paraded as they dance round the town to the admiration of all, and to the pride of their parents. They then go round the town and, finally to the arena where they pay respect to the village head.
Before Christianity, the people of Ogori worshipped various gods and believed in the powers of the gods to protect and provide for them. Through various sacrifices the gods are worshipped and their blessings sought.
In the old days, the various gods in Ogoriland were consulted on and before the Ovia Osese festival in order to get their approval and blessings. Some of the gods of the Ogoris include Omoneyen which is acknowledged by the people of Ogoriland to be a super god and has two shrines and is worshipped yearly. The two shrines are managed by the traditional chiefs and the gods are worshipped with joy and merriment with singing and dancing. The chief priest is the Osiaku Idu of Ituwa. Sacrifices to the god include yams, cooked, pounded and eaten at the shrine. A huge black goat is killed each time the god is worshipped. The Ogoris believe that Omoneyen annually protects and showers blessings on the Ovia maiden's girls. Another god is ugbogbo, whose blessing is also sought. The god gives beads to maidens being initiated. The beads are said to possess restorative and healing qualities. There is Eminenowo the goddess whose blessings of protection for the women and virgins of Ogoriland are sought during the festivals. There is also Iyaochaka or Ememe, the god of iron is responsible for the prosperity of Ogori women in the past. The god Ukumegbe is situated on the ogori-Ososo road and its worshippers are the Eni people of Ogoriland. Sacrifices to it include human beings born with their ears cut off, and its days of worship are on the oke day when the maidens go to sing and dance round the shrine seven times to glorify the god. The Iyodina (elderly woman in charge of women affairs) used to lead all the Ivia from Agada,( another god of the Ogoris who is believed to be a very generous god that protects the people of Ogori from inter tribal wars as well as brings blessings to home s and farm crops) to Ukumegbe seven times in the night of oke before day breaks to dance at the shrine of Ukumegbe. This, however, stopped when, according to oral tradition, all the maidens who went to pay homage and seek the blessings of the god disappeared never to be seen. Since then, the maidens are taken to Oyara. In the past, the god was been responsible for giving women virtue and it is believed that any maiden that is lead in a dance seven times at the shrine would have a child before the following year.
For the parents of the girls getting initiated, there is a set of traditional rules of entertainment which must be adhered to. For example, if a man is initiating his first daughter into womanhood, he must prepare a feast with lots of local beer (pito, or Ade in Ogori language) for his friends and age group members. This entertainment in getting ready for the initiation of ones daughter into womanhood is considered so important that in the days of old, if a father cannot afford the cost of entertainment, the initiation process itself is postponed until such a time as he can afford it. The mothers of girls to be initiated on their part individually explain to the Ovia what is expected of them as young women who are seen as ambassadors ogoriland and as well as future mothers having gone through the Ovia Osese festival themselves.
For the Ovia, it is the fulfillment of a long awaited dream. After the initiation ceremony, guests and friends are feted to a night of music, food and merriment to celebrate the coming of age of their daughters
The people of Ogoriland are warm and receptive to visitors even though they are not encouraged to participate in the festival except as spectators as the event is intended for only daughters of Ogoriland. Sixty one girls registered in this years record of Ivia in Ogoriland but due to the fact that the university matriculation exams (Jamb) came up on the same day as the day of their initiation, not all of them could be present at the arena for the festival itself.