QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE

QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE 1
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QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE

The Ooni of Ife is seen as the most supreme or paramount sovereign in Ile Ife, which is regarded as the source of the Yoruba race. Generally, he is recognised by his subjects as their spiritual leader and Chief Custodian of traditions. The Ooni dynasties can be traced back to hundreds of years and it was perceived that men have always occupied the revered stool. 

QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE 2
Ade Aare

There was no date to give an exact clue to how long she was on the thrown for. Dating only started from the 38th Ooni Akinmoyero 1770 – 1800, yet some historians claim that Ooni Luwo Gbagida reigned around 1100. Also, this revelation tells forgotten story of women involvement in contributing to the society, not just as workers but as a leaders.

QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE 3
Aare Crown

BRIEF INTRODUCTION

Ilè-Ifẹ̀ is a town in Osun state seen as the cradle and ancestral home and source of the Yoruba race, making any presiding ruler, the Ọọ̀ni, a reverred and very powerful leader.

QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE 4

Because Nigerian ancient history was mostly passed down through oral tradition, transcribed lists of the previous Oonis differ and sometimes, contradict each other. However, most accounts have stated that a female, Ooni Luwoo Gbagida, was the 21st Ooni of Ife, the supreme traditional ruler of Ile Ife. She succeeded the 21st Ooni of Ife, Ooni Giesi and was succeeded by the 22nd Ooni of Ife, Ooni Lumobi. 

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Ooni Luwo Gbagida was crowned spiritual leader, and chief custodian of the source of the Yoruba race around 1100CE. As reported, she was a woman of immense physical beauty – a proper “slay queen” who took pride in her attractiveness.

Though she was once the most paramount sovereign of Yoruba land, history has not been kind to her legacy.

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Lúwo Gbàgìdá, descendant of Otaataa from Owode compound, Okerewe. She was the first and only female to take the crown as Ooni after the demise of Ooni Giesi. She was said to have been married to Chief Ọbalọran of Ilode and became the mother of Adekola Telu, the founder and Oluwo of Iwo town. (Some historical piece claims that Obaloran was also a king not a chief; there were many obas in Ile Ife, apart from the Ooni).

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QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE 5
Ooni Luwo Gbagida is an ancestral queen mother to Oba Dr. AbdulRasheed Adewale Akanbi

LUWOO GBAGIDA: A BEAUTIFUL, CLASSY AND CIVILIZED QUEEN

It is reported that the female Ooni was a beautiful and sophisticated queen who took pride in her physical appearance and that of her surroundings. She was also known to be the one to commission unique Yoruba custom of construction of decorative pavements; open-air courtyards paved the pottery shreds.

QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE 6
Apaadi Ooni Luwo Gbagida (Queen Luwo Gbagida’s Potsherd pavements)

She was also known to commission the unique Yoruba custom of construction of decorative pavements and open-air courtyards paved with pottery shreds. The streets of Ile-Ife were paved with quartz pebbles and broken pottery as punishment for anyone who committed an offence. The offenders were ordered to bake the clay, and afterwards use their bare hands to break it into pieces and then lay it on the floor for the queen to walk on.

QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE 7
Handmade clay tiles in Ife commissioned by Ooni Luwo Gbagida 

She was so sophisticated and finicky that she refused to walk on the bare floor, and some of the hand-made clay tiles she walked on while she reigned are still available in parts of Ife and other parts of Yoruba land she visited while on the throne.

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THE BIOGRAPHY OF ONILALA OF LANLATE; OBA ALH CHIEF ABDUL-LATEEF OLAWUYI OLAGOKE 3
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OONI LUWOO GBAGIDA’S PRINCIPLES

Ooni Luwo Gbagida was said to hate injustice and cheating, she was just and punished erring townspeople accordingly, she was very hardworking and expected the best possible contribution from everyone. Queen Luwoo was said not to spare the menfolk when they offend her or her constituted authority. She was noted to ride erring men as horses for violating laws. She was a terror to lazy people.

QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE 8
Statue of Ooni Luwo Gbagida

But because of her principles, she was perceived as wicked and a terror to the Yoruba people and deemed “uncontrollable” and “high-handed” by the elders of the land. After her reign ended, the council of Obas came together and vowed to never make a woman the Ooni of Ife again.

WRONG MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA

It’s intriguing that Ile-Ife once had a female Ooni. There must be very good reasons Queen Luwoo was trusted to be crowned in her time – a concept known as “gender equality”. Also, this revelation tells forgotten story of women involvement in contributing to the society, not just as workers but as a leaders.

QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE 9

There was no record of luw Gbagida marrying plenty of husbands just because she can, afterall kings are known for their taste in multiple women once they assume the throne. Like many kings of that era, not much was written about Queen Luwoo except that she was another person to grace the throne.  While working on this historical piece, My Woven Words came across different online platforms and books that described Ooni Luwo Gbagida as a merciless and harsh queen.

QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE 10

They failed to mention how she was hardworking, just, neat, innovative, efficient, civil and smart. She is known to birth a great king among others; Oluwo Adekola Telu. She started a dynasty that has thrived for centuries. The current Oluwo of Iwo, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Dr. AbdulRasheed Adewale Akanbi is from her bloodline. 

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QUEEN LUWOO GBAGIDA; THE FIRST AND ONLY FEMALE OONI OF IFE 11
The Oluwo of Iwo, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Dr. AbdulRasheed Adewale Akanbi

REFERENCES:

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By Johnson Okunade

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4 Comments

    1. Lots of facts in our history are nearly forgotten and rarely mentioned. Asides Luwoo Gbagida, I’m sure there are still lots of great people in history you and I still don’t know of!

      Here on this platform; My Woven Words, We are passionate and particular about resuscitating our “nearly-extinct” noble heritage, you can join us in realizing this goal in any way you can. Donations will be well appreciated too: https://mywovenwords.com/support-us-with-your-donations

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