The Awori are a tribe of the Yoruba people speaking a distinct dialect of the Yoruba language.
The Awori who are organized set of people share common cultural values in varying degrees with other Yoruba and Edo groups. Though the Awori are mainly Yoruba speakers, but due to trans-national and inter-ethnic interactions, the majority of the Awori Yoruba of coastal southwestern Nigeria is bilingual, speaking the Yoruba and Ogu languages (previously erroneously referred to as Egun). Such Awori Yoruba peoples are found at Apa, Igbogbele, Iworo, among others. The Ogu are also bilingual, speaking both the Ogu and Yoruba languages and they are found across coastal south western Nigeria, Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana. the Awori Ogu of the Badagry coastal area of southwestern Nigeria.
Traditionally, Awori are found in Ogun State and Lagos State, Nigeria. Towns including Isheri, Ota, Igbesa, Agbara, Ilobi, Tigbo are all Awori settlements within today's Ogun State (created 1976) in Nigeria.
The Awori speak a distinct North-West Yoruba (NWY) dialect of Yoruboid languages that belong to the larger Niger-Congo language group. The Awori as a sub-group possesses a distinguished speech.
An anthropologist, W.G. Wormalin in his Intelligence Report on the Badagry district of the colony (1935) gives a graphic description of the early Awori when he writes that:
"They speak low and slurred dialect of the Yoruba language. They mostly engage in farming and fishing. Their lack of figure and unity seems to have combined with the unfavourable nature of their habitat to render them a ‘poor’ lot from the breeding point of view with the exception of those of them within the region of Lagos from earliest time to date."
As explained earlier Awori are bilianghual. They speak Yoruba, Ogun and Edo (bini) languages.
The story is that Olofin (or Ogunfunminire, founder of the Awori) and his followers left the palace of King Oduduwa (founder of the Yoruba) in Ile-Ife and migrated southward along a river. Oduduwa had given Olofin a mud plate and instructed him to place it on the water and follow it until it sank into the river.
Several days after leaving Ile-Ife, the plate suddenly stopped near Olokemeji near present-day Abeokuta. After seventeen days, it began moving again, only to stop at Oke-Ata for another seventeen days. At the end of seventeen days, the plate began moving again, only to stop again on the southern outskirts of present-day Abeokuta, where it stayed for another seventeen days. At this location, some of Olofin's followers decided to remain, led by a man named Osho Aro-bi-ologbo-egan. The plate continued downriver, stopping again at Isheri, where it remained for a much longer period of time. Olofin began instructing his followers to begin setting up a permanent settlement, but after 289 days (17 x 17) the plate began moving again. Olofin and a few followers followed the plate, while the rest of the group stayed behind. After two days the plate stopped briefly at Iddo in Lagos. At Idumota in central Lagos, it whirled around in the water and sank to the bottom. When Olofin returned to his group at Iddo, they are said to have asked him where the plate was. He answered "Awo Ti Ri" meaning "The plate has sunk". This is how the name Awori is said to have come into being.
In accordance with Yoruba custom, they brought their crown along with them from Ile Ife. Osolo, one of the sons of Prince Olofin, settled at the Osi quarters as his father and his brother journeyed further south from the place where the plate sank at Idumota. The first crowned Oba (king) or Olota of Ota at Ota, Ogun was Oba Akinsewa Ogbolu in 1621, he was the son of Osolo.
The settlement of the Awori clan is known to have preceded the establishment of Abeokuta as an Egba kingdom in 1832, as Isheri, the foremost Awori town within present day Ogun State was settled in the 15th century.
Traditions are consistent about the presence of a distinct Yoruba sub-group around Lagos by about 1550 when the Benin Empire invaded the region of Lagos.
An anthropologist, W.G. Wormalin in his Intelligence Report on the Badagry district of the colony (1935) gives a graphic description of the early Awori he encountered when he writes that:" They speak a slurred dialect of the Yoruba language. They mostly engage in farming and fishing."
Traditional beliefs and practice exist side-by-side Islam and Christianity. Some of the Awori combined Islam or Christianity with their traditional beliefs and practices. Islam was introduced to different parts of Aworiland before the twentieth century by Muslim clerics from the hinterland, while the diffusion of Christianity followed missionary activities in the region of Badagry from the 1840s. The use of Ifa oracle in the determination of certain issues and events such as date of festival, coronation ceremony, causes of state calamity is in practice among traditional believers. Individual's future ad fortune remained an important aspect of Yoruba civilisation, which the Awori still retain. In addition, the institutions of priesthood and palace society for which the Yoruba of the interior are famous featured prominently between them. For instance, the possession of Ade crown and recognition of Oba, which is the highest conception of political authority among the Yoruba, is what every tradition leader; especially those from royal lineages in Aworiland aspire to.
Oro and Oree, Egungun, Elegba, igumuko,Opa, Osugbo and Gelede festivals among the traditional Awori communities are celebrated as people celebrate modern Sallah and Christmas with indigenes trooping back home from far and near when dates are fixed.
In the distant past, agriculture was the main economic activity of Aworiland. The original Awori inhabitants practiced crop farming, poultry farming, and cattle/sheep rearing, fishing and hunting on a small scale. Of all these, the people concentrated more on crop farming and fishing.
Crop farming was of two geographical categories: compound farmland called Oko-Etile and distant farmland called Oko Egan. It is in Oko Egan that most of the permanent crops like cocoa, palm trees and crops of commercial value like maize cocoyams, cassava, guinea corn etc, were grown. The Oko Etile is marked by cultivation of garden crops such as pepper, tomatoes and onions, Okro lemons, melon, vegetables, pumpkins, and soya beans, etc (Olatunji, 1998). Oko Etile was visited at short intervals, particularly when there was the possibility of the farmer having an important visitor at home. On the other hand, Oko Egan was usually located at a far distance and the farmer usually spent a relatively longer period there compared to the Oko Etile.
Swamp farming was very common in Aworiland. On these swamp farms, vegetables, rice, maize and other consumables were cultivated. Though, the women did not feature prominently in farming but they had the responsibility of accompanying their husbands to the farm in order to assist them particularly during the harvesting of farm products, such as cassava. The women processed them into finished products such as gari, the staple food of all Aworis. The women harvested, peeled, washed and processed the cassava into either gari or fufu.
The peasant farmers also practiced some form of animal husbandry. They engaged themselves in keeping and rearing of such animals as goats, sheep, short-horned cattle, local pigs and domestic fowls in family compounds. These animals, with the exception of fowls are kept in special places (within the family compound) variously called Ogbo Maalu, Ogbo Ewure, Ogbo Elede etc. as the case may be. These animals were usually taken to the field by young children for pasture or they are fed with cassava or other edible leaves while other people kept their animals within the compound and fed them or practiced guarded pasturing in order to avoid conflicts with other farmers in case the animals destroy the crops.
The Awori also engaged in fishing. This is done either early in the morning, late in the evening or night depending on the fishing implement to be used and the weather condition. The people, particularly, the women engaged in swamp fishing. They usually had a field day during the dry season when the swamps were relatively dry, thereby allowing unhindered access to the fish. There was also fishing through the use of combination of hooks and nets. The hooks, armed with bait, such as earthworms, are set in the water with a float on the surface of the water. The float helps the fisherman in knowing whether a fish had been trapped or not (i.e the float sinks whenever fish is caught). The fisherman may go to river the following day to collect his catch, or wait around until a catch is made, depending on the period of the day. In addition, the people fished via the use of Ogu, a conical basket-like trap made from Opa, raffia palm fronds. This trap that permits only water to flow in between the woven pieces is tied to some reeds or a strong tree at the edge of the river. As the river flows, the fish which are unaware of the trap enter it and remain there until the fisherman comes for inspection. The economic value of this venture was that the fish were sometime sold fresh to standby customers or taken home to be preserved through smoking before selling at the neighborhood market usually at a higher value than the fresh type.
Traditionally, Awori women performed such roles as cooking, washing, fetching of firewood, drawing water, nursing and cleaning of their surroundings. Among the Iba clan, they cleaned the markets and swept the whole town, from its centre to Oba Oyonka’s shrine and to the Oniba’s palace (Balogun, 1999).
Women also served as the earliest set of teachers for the child. They tutored them on pronunciation, greeting, dressing, toileting and bodily care. Furthermore, women helped their husbands in fishing and farming activities. They carried cassava, maize, banana, coconut, vegetables and sea foods to the market for sale. They also engaged in food processing and preservation, gathering and processing of local herbs for medical purpose. Indeed, women in Aworiland contributed greatly to the physical and mental well-being of their communities. Some of
these women, variously called Iya Alagbo or Elewe Omo, were traditional physicians and chemists who saved many people from dying from curable diseases. The women were highly skilled in the preparation and utilization of traditional medicine. As early as the pre- 1900 period, there were medicine for curing various diseases, keeping away evil forces and attracting prosperity (Ajetunmobi, 1996).
Women also contributed immensely to the socio-cultural festivals of the area. As an illustration, women featured in varying degrees in the festivals of Gelede, Oro, Ogun and Egungun. In fact, the Iya Agan performed a central role during Egungun festival. After obtaining the Oba’s consent, the Iya Agan in conjuction with Alaagba (head of all Egungun worshippers), proceeds to make necessary arrangements for the conduct of a successful festival. She joined the Alaagba at the Igbale for necessary preliminary rituals. The Iya Agan also performed the responsibilities of informing her associates about arrangements, including the date and attire for the festival (Balogun, 1999).
According to tradition, the Agan who is the traditional spiritual leader of Egungun is like a son to Iya Agan. Significantly, without Iya Agan no Agan could come out and no Egungun festival could take place. Iya Agan is a post held by a woman who is next in rank to Alaagba. She is the head of the female wing of Egungun adherents. She is highly respected by the cult to the extent that she is allowed access to the Igbale, generally a no-go-area for women. Moreover, all masquerades and females pay homage to her during the festival. She performs spiritual functions of holding Isan (a special cane), giving the sword to special Egungun, handing over religious power to them and withdrawing it during the visitation to Igbale (Ajetunmobi, 1996)
The Oloris (kings wives) and Iya Oba (kings mother) also performed important roles in the traditional socio-political set-up of Awori. These women gave moral and psychological support to the Oba. They were usually gaily dressed, and sat around him, particularly during ceremonies in the palace. It was unheard of for an Olori to abandon the side of the Oniba during such occasions. Sometimes the Oloris treated the Oba to dance steps. They also coordinated and oversaw feeding and other domestic requirements. In the contemporary period, women in Iba still perform much of the traditional roles, although to a lesser degree due to the effects of modernization.