From Oke-igbo with awe and an education | Sayo Aluko

There’s a tale locked deep in Yoruba folklore, growing up, we were told about it.

That, long loun loun time ago, there used to be an “igbo irunmale“, a grisly forest of demons, ghoul and goth, where nobody or hunter could scavenge for game.

But that, there was a braveheart who dared this forest, they called him “Ogboju Ode ninu igbo irunmale“, a savant hunter in this dreadful forest of ghoulish demons and monsters.

Well, this folklore was actually off a book originally written and published by the great David. O Fagunwa in 1938 with the same title “Ogboju Ode ninu igbo irunmale“, the first full-length novel published in the Yoruba language; it was then translated into English language in 1968 by Kongi as “The Forest of a Thousand Demons”.

Today, I entered that forest. LOL.

Although the story was woven around the character of Akara Ogun the central hero in the book, it was actually a tale about 7 brave hunters each one symbolic of the ideal character traits of the ideal hero in his journey through life; Akara Oogun, Eifoye, Imodoye, Kako Oni kumoekun, Olohuniyo, Aramanda Okunrin and Elegbede Ode.

See, D.O Fagunwa actually wrote another novel titled “Igbo Olodumare“, Forest of the Supreme God, and another, “Irinkerindo Ninu Igbo Elegbeje“, Mysterious meander through the maniacal Forest (I hope I’m trying with this translations sha, my non-Yoruba friends, nor vex abeg); so yeah, Fagunwa had a thing for the forest, he was a laureate of loosely constructed picaresque fairy tales containing many folklore elements: spirits, monsters, gods, magic, and witchcraft.

And, today, actually it was yesterday, I got to know that the forest that bore Fagunwa’s fictional fantasies wasn’t a fantasy after all – an existential stretch of forest located in a place called Oke-Igbo in the southern district of Ondo state.

Today, I entered the forest, fearlessly, yeah, I’m Ogboju like that…The mountainous ridge in the background of these pictures aren’t made of rocks, they are thick folds of tropical forest….trees, herbs, and maybe, demons a lá Fagunwa.

Chai, Ondo is sitting on a lot of wealth!!!…If only this state knew what all this means in tourist currency.

The forest still looks feisty, but, civilization don bash am small. 😃😃

My friends from Oke-Igbo, from one of the okes (tops) in Oke-Igbo, I hail oh.

Sayo Aluko at Oke-igbo | circa 2016

First published on the 7th of August 2016.

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