Ooni Luwoo Gbagidi was a woman way ahead of her time who reigned as the only female Ooni of Ife and also the most predominant supreme ruler of Yoruba land. As history would have it, she was a woman of enormous beauty, who derived great joy from her good looks.
The Ooni of Ife is seen as the 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 hundreds of years and it was perceived that men have always occupied the revered stool.
There was no date to give an exact clue as to how long Queen Luwoo Gbagida was on the throne as dating only started from the 38th Ooni Akinmoyero 1770 – 1800, yet some historians claim that Ooni Luwoo Gbagida reigned around 1100.Also, this revelation tells the forgotten story of women’s involvement in contributing to society, not just as workers but as leaders.
Queen Luwoo Gbagida’s Immergence as Ooni of Ile-Ife
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 revered and very powerful leader.
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, Queen Luwoo Gbagida, was the 21st Ooni of Ife, the supreme traditional ruler of Ile-Ife. She succeeded the 20th Ooni of Ife, Ooni Giesi, and was succeeded by the 22nd Ooni of Ife, Ooni Lumobi.
Queen Luwo Gbagida was crowned the spiritual leader and chief custodian of the source of the Yoruba race around 1100 CE. As reported, she was a woman of immense physical beauty – a proper “slay queen” who took pride in her attractiveness.
Lúwo Gbàgìdá, a 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 first 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).
It is reported that the female Ooni was a beautiful and sophisticated queen who took pride in her physical appearance and of her surroundings.She was also known to be the one to commission the unique Yoruba custom of construction of decorative pavements; open-air courtyards and paved pottery shreds.
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.
Queen Luwoo Gbagida’s Reign
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.
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.
It’s intriguing that Ile-Ife once had a female Ooni. There must be very good reasons Queen Luwoo Gbagida was trusted to be crowned in her time – a concept known as “gender equality”.Also, this revelation tells the forgotten story of women’s involvement in contributing to society, not just as workers but as leaders.
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.
They failed to mention how she was hardworking, just, neat, innovative, efficient, civil, and smart. She is known to have birthed a great king among others; Oluwo Adekola Telu. She started a dynasty that thrived for centuries.
- Dayo, Ologundudu (2008). The cradle of Yoruba culture. Nigeria: Centre for spoken words. p. 206. ISBN 0615220630. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
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