If the world is a book, then those who do not travel have only read a page. My urge to explore new lands and seek knowledge led to my visit to the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove. When conducting research on where to visit to know more about the treasures in the Yoruba culture, I heard of a dense forest on the outskirt of Osogbo town in the southwestern-Nigeria; an ideal example of a forest before massive human exploitation for urbanization, development and upscale agriculture.
Despite being within the city; while entering the grove, I observed a complete transition from hustle and bustle of a typical urban center to a serene green woodland. As the forest drew me in like moth to flame, I directed my focus to the forest, and about 500 meters from where I stood, everything looked dark though it was in the day. The darkness was from the shade of the webbed green leaves of large tree canopies that prevented light from reaching the forest floor. As I moved towards the grove, the rods of my retina began to expand, my vision became clearer and the darkness faded away like a mirage. I realized that I had been trekking on an unpaved undulating path that led to the grove. Then, the real treasure of the site began to unravel.
The sacred forest hosts more than 400 species of flora, majority of which are indigenous, endemic and rare trees of medicinal importance. The grove is a natural herbal pharmacy. The trees of this grove are tall, and connected with web-like climbers. On the apex and thicket of these trees were groups of Mona monkey. These brown bodied, black tailed guenons dominate the grove and offer on-site performance with their cunning tricks.
I got to a spot adjacent to some physical features that looked promising to me and then I decided to relax under a tree. After few minutes, I started feeling dizzy, but the anticipation of what those structures actually meant was enough driving force, that even the call of nature couldn’t make me lower my eyelids in sleep. The refreshing interference and superposition of bird tweets gained attention from me. Some of the birds sounded like the ambient of a horror movie but at the same time, notes of melodious tunes kept neutralizing it. I raised my head in direction of the soothing rhythm; and I saw an olive bellied passerine bird. Instantly, this tiny sunbird appeared red-orange; a practical definition of iridescence. As it continued to patronize colorful flowers, it rippled out nuptial calls to lure its female counterpart that was perching on a lower branch of the same tree.
I couldn’t wait till the end of their courting, as it was already time to move on. I moved towards a place I’d term “my reserved section” of the grove. This section was like an eraser, it did not only erase my initial experience, it completely overlaid it. The forest is an open museum of 20th sculptures of Susanne Wenger’s artworks. Starting from the flying tortoise art at the entrance of the sacred part of the grove to the point where a 16 faced traditional lamp was placed near the chief priest’s stead. All the artworks are really educating. The tour guard explained what each sculpture represent and their significance to the history, culture and tradition of Osogbo town as well as Yoruba at large. In all its beauty and grandeur, the Grove is an active religious site where worship of goddess of fertility (OSUN) takes place.
I walked down to the water itself, and I saw some people dressed in white, with traditionally twisted braids and tiny white beads. They were performing rites in front of a sculpture on the bank of the gently flowing river. While the rite was being performed, traditional faithful were on stand-by with different sizes of containers to fetch the blessed water. I moved onwards, leaving the place for a narrow path that leads to a suspended iron bridge. On this corroding bridge, I developed two kinds of phobia. I became hydrophobic and acrophobic from thoughts of what would happen if the poorly managed facility breaks while I get to its midsection. I left the bridge early to enjoy my bird-watching and nature-walk.
Osun-Osogbo sacred forest is one of the remnants of primary forests in Southwestern Nigeria. It connects the fainted dots forming the missed link between Yorubas and the Yoruba pantheon. In attestation of the grove’s cultural and historical significance it was approved as World Heritage Site by the United Nations Education, scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Although this era of globalization of the economy has taken its toll on nature, yet the Osun-osogbo sacred forest depicts that traditional codes (“taboo”) could protect nature, biodiversity, environment and save the planet.
- Uthman Ayoku OYEBAMIJI
- : I am OYEBAMIJI, Ayoku Uthman an undergraduate student of the department of Wildlife and Ecotourism Management, University of Ibadan. I am a member of Nigeria Conservation Foundation, Nigeria society for environmental conservation and Ibadan Bird Club. A nature lover, young ornithologist, green tourism, conservation and environment journalist that preach conservation to instill in environmental consciousness in young and old. I love travelling and participating in Nature based recreational activities. I am a volunteer at zoological garden, Ibadan, Nigeria Bird Atlas project and Forest unit at IITA (International Institute for Tropical Agriculture) headquarters, Ibadan
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