top of page

Folu Oyefeso

History of Sogidi Lake; Natural Conservation through African spirituality

Scattered around Nigeria, there is a multitude of sacred groves that hold special meaning for the people that live in those areas. One of such locations is the serene Sogidi lake in the town of Awe, Oyo State which I had the opportunity to visit recently. This lake and the stories that surround it are a historical vat of information and they go on to play significant roles in the founding of Awe town and the identity of the people.


According to the the oral history of Sogidi Lake and Awe town, this lake was discovered accidentally when the princes sent hunters out on a water-finding excursion. Potable water is vital for life and most towns were not established until there was a suitable source of it in the area. In the case of Sogidi lake, the hunting expedition had sighted a troop of monkeys in the forest. Their first instinct was to chase after them with guns pointed, as is the way of the hunter. This pursuit led them to a grove with numerous fruit trees and a unique water body beneath it. It is in this crystal clear lake that the people of Awe see reflections of themselves, and hold it so sacred today.


Sogidi lake picture photo by Folu Oyefeso
Sogidi Lake and the massive trees that grow in and around it, a tale of conservation through African spirituality

The hunting party was halted since their mission to find water was complete. They saw no further reason to pursue the monkeys because they believed the monkeys had led them to Sogidi Lake. Today, the monkeys are no longer present at the grove as development in the area has commenced, and so I think more land should be given back to Sogidi so more trees can be planted and the monkeys can be encouraged to come back.


On closer inspection, the hunters discovered a thriving catfish population, and instead of harvesting, they swore never to fish from this lake and protect this sacred grove. Over time, a mermaid deity was attached to the grove and this further forbade people to catch and cook these fish. It is on record (oral), that some have tried to cook these fish with disastrous consequences. One soldier is even said to have lost his 3 children while he was in Awe during the civil war (Biafran genocide), after cooking fish from this lake. Today, there's a healthy population of fish swimming happily in the lake, some as big as a mans leg.


sogidi mermaid, sogidi fish that cannot be cooked
Mermaid goddess and her thousands of fish children.

On top of that, the hunters had discovered unique trees that produced "good fruit", which when translated to Yoruba is "Eso Gidi". This was eventually shortened, and is what we know today as "Sogidi lake". To honour the life-giving discovery, the people of Awe regard the lake as sacred ground, the home of a mermaid goddess and her many fish children, The towns people were able to establish the town of Awe hereafter, the year was 1750.


agbalumo udara at Sogidi lake, awe, oyo state
Eso gidi, Yoruba language for “Good fruit”, known in the Southwest as Agbalumo and Southeast as Udara.

This story fascinated me for many reasons, so I went to visit my Awe neighbors an hour from Ibadan. It's a unique mix of mystical and geological as well as a conservation story, so lets talk about it. As with all lakes because it has no tributaries and holds water all year round - its only source is rain. It looks muddy when you see it, but drawing from the lake using a cup, you see how clear it is. I also tasted it, fresher than any water I had tasted but a study revealed some marginal levels of heavy metals but nothing alarming (to me). Pa Ojedele, one of the lake's custodians informs that their has been no case of disease associated with drinking water from Sogidi.


art mural sogidi lake history, awe town origins
Entrance to Sogidi Lake - The art mural tells tales of the discovery of Sogidi Lake and the origins of Awe town. Do not forget to take off your shoes before passing the gates.

The people of Awe were the most interesting part of my trip and I was happy to be in their presence and learn from them. They spoke eloquently and proudly identified with the lore surrounding their origins, despite being Christians and Muslims. This is proof that it is possible to be a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society, without throwing away our roots. They are eager to welcome travelers who are also interested in seeing the lake and are preparing to host visitors from around the world sometime in November for their annual Awe day. Rather than be tempted to catch and cook the fish from Sogidi, you are encouraged to try the variety of chicken dishes available, as Awe town is known for its poultry products.


Sogidi water heals and provides children to the childless
Crystal clear waters of Sogidi, believed to have healing and child bearing properties

It was an amazing experience visiting Sogidi grove and her people, one that I encourage visitors to seek. Not only is the area shrouded in the beauty of nature but it also felt like a historic reminder that there are ways for human beings to revere, protect and live in harmony with nature. It is an important reminder about never forgetting ones roots, as it is clues from the past that provide valuable knowledge that informs the future. For deeper reading, you can access this article here.


I would love to see this model of (spiritual) conservation replicated in other areas. Our people are losing their touch with nature because they have forgotten that this is where it all started. We can start by sharing this article with 3 people, so we can start having the conversations that matter.







128 views

Related Posts

See All

Commentaires


Thanks for subscribing!

Enjoying the stories? Why don't you subscribe below

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page