Bashorun Gaa; the tragic hero of Yoruba mythology was one of the most formidable kings of the old Oyo Empire. This character conveyed in many ways my childhood fascination for the mythical, almost unbelievable ancestry of the Yorubas.
Television heightened the hyperbole through superb productions of epic folkloric stories of the 14th century Oyo kingdom which became so powerful. Its tentacles stretched right across West Africa. Words like Alaafin, Ilari, Bashorun, Eso, the powerful Oyo Mesi and the mysterious Ogboni took up immense amounts of space in my theatrical imagination.
Today, Oyo Atiba in Southwestern Nigeria is the historical and cultural representation of the old Oyo empire destroyed by Fulani conquerors in the 1800s. Truly one of the Yoruba heartlands, this is a town seeped in symbolism; both ancient and cultural. Yet, it is also a city alive with a dynamic identity of its own.
One of its historical icons is the Alaafin of Oyo, the traditional ruler and monarch of Oyo. Even today, the Alaafin paints a flamboyant picture echoing the status, ceremonial and cultural significance inherent in the institution of monarchy among the Yoruba people.
Juxtaposing the old and new side by side, is the bustling local market at the heart of the town. Akesan market. It is a distinctive place steeped in its own very unique character. It embraces the visitor in an atmosphere which is traditionally energised and authentic yet reminiscent of today`s society.
Garri made from cassava tubers is a staple food item in Nigeria and Oyo is renowned for Garri making industries. These are vital both to the local farming economy and also in terms of the skilled and unskilled jobs provided for local people. Akesan market provides a lively trading outlet for local farmers in and around Oyo township.