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Two Deji of Akure palace chiefs share what the Ulefunta Festival is all about. Chiefs Omoniyi James and Adeola Oguntunsin, explain how the festival is celebrated while the king secludes himself from the community. They say Ulefunta is the last in the year, and also the only festival that the king participates in.

Chief Oguntunsin, head of palace chiefs, and Chief James, who entered the palace in September 1958, said chiefs join the Deji of Akure to observe the tradition of Ulefunta.

What is the Ulefunta Festival all about?
Ulefunta is a festival celebrated for the Deji of Akure. It has been a tradition for ages as the only festival attached to the king. Residents join in celebrating with him after he has observed the tradition.

The festival is all about the king going away from the people, work, and stress for seven days. Like government officials go for annual leaves or vacation. From January to September, the king doesn’t rest. He keeps attending to people to settle disputes most especially on land issues.

They do say the king enters for Ulefunta. That means he went for rest. No matter how important that visitor can be, the king will not attend to him or her during this period. He must observe the seven days’ rest. He cannot reject it. This has become a tradition that he has to attend to every important issue when the time is getting closer. Then he enters the prepared place for him for seven days.

When and how did it start?
It started In the olden days, more than 400 years ago. The elders and chiefs thought among themselves to make the king have special days to rest from all the stress he goes through. They decided to make his rest last for seven days. During this period, he will be indoors. Only his wives would be able to have access to him. No visitor would be allowed to enter the palace. There would be no selling or buying in the palace premises. The king must not hear any noise around. There is an underground in this palace where he sleeps during the seven days. Only the wives of the king enter. After seven days, he would come out. That is when the people would start celebrating the king. This brings in another seven days of festive celebration.

Chiefs take a rest during this time, too, because of their work. Chiefs usually attend to crucial matters but only invite the king to settle the ones they are incapable of handling. They run the customary court in the palace where land disputes or family matters are mostly settled.

Since the advent of the tradition, any king that emerged to the throne must observe it. It has become a norm to be celebrated in the ninth month of the year. It is also the last and greatest festival being celebrated for the year. The Ifa festival is the first in April, Ogun Festival comes next. Then Sawaoroko. Ulefunfa is the last for the year.

How is it celebrated?
After the seven days of Deji’s rest, the king’s masquerades would come out with him. Aremojajajo’, ‘Oriokaloka’, ‘Oriejolejo’, and ‘Ajagunmole’ the four masquerades would be out on the day the king comes out of rest. The masquerades would parade the Akure Kingdom singing with drums. They will tell the people that the king has come out from the Ulefunta. The celebration would now start.
Akure residents have now extended the festival to a seven-day celebration which the king would attend. It was not always like that. It used to be that the masquerades would only come out, parade the city, and chant that the king was out after the 7-day stay.

Why should indigenes be interested in it?
Akure indigenes should be interested and participate in the Ulefunta because it is the only festival celebrated by the King. The king does not participate in every other festival. All princes, princesses, and chiefs must be around during this festival. No matter how far they might be away from the palace, they have to be around during the festival. Akure celebrates the king during this period. They welcome him back to the throne.
Also, the Ulefunfa Festival is different from others. Its major feature is the four masquerades that would come out. They only come out during the Ulefunta Festival.

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