KWARA'S MYSTERY STONE IMAGES
How did over 1,500 stone images manage to get to Esie community in Kwara State when the indigenes are not stone carvers? Could it be that some people deposited the images at the town and vamoosed thereafter? Could it be that the god just got angry with earlier inhabitants of the town and decided to turn all of them to stones as a punishment? Could it be that a stone image carver abandoned the images after working on them?
Questions and more questions, with no answers. That interestingly is what makes Esie stone monuments tick and the town a top tourist delight.
A visit by Sunday Sun to the site of the stone images revealed that some of the images are now consigned into a museum. The images are in various shapes and sizes. Some are images of human beings doing their daily chores like washing, batching and cooking. Another set of images captures a king holding court with his chiefs while yet another set of images shows some peoples enjoying at a place that looks like the local palm wine shop.
However, due the poor tools used in the excavation of some of the stone, they were badly damages and need to the mended
The Elesie of Esie town in Kwara state, HRM Oba Yakubu Agboola Egunjobi II explained that the people of the town are not sculptor adding that they discovered the images at some location in 1775. He said that an itinerant hunter called Baragbon, discovered the image and he later became the founder the town.
'Baragbon while on hunting expedition one day got to a tree and discovered a large collection of stone images. The images were in a semi-circle. He immediately ran away saying they are demons. He was so discouraged that he wanted to leave the area but after he consulted with the 'Ifa' oracle he was told the images are not harmful
The monarch explained that the inhabitants were so shocked by the find that several of them initially fled and it took several months of conviction for them to feel safe at the village.
According to him, 'We consulted the oracle and we were told that they are not harmful to us. It was then that we had our peace, even at that we had to send Ayarun to stay close to the images for over three days before we were convinced that they are not harmful.
'Ayarun later became the chief priest of the image. When our ancestors were worshiping the images but modernization has stopped the idea of worshiping the images now, they are now consigned to a museum for tourists to see,'he added.
The secretary of the Esie Monument Festival committee, Ololade Oyeyipo, while corroborating the monarch added that several studies are already on to unravel how the images got to Esie. He said, 'Definitely, the idea of someone bring them there is not it because they are very heavy and I doubt if anyone can carry such a collection, so there must be another explanation, our ancestors are no-stone carvers. Could it then be that a stone carver came around, did the images and then abandon them? We don't know but serious studies is going on.'
Oyeyipo added that the images have since been converted to a museum where visitors can see the richness of nature in the town. Oyeyipo added that the Esie museum was started some 65 years go but regretted that the museum is suffering neglect as it is not given the recognition it deserves.
The festival committee scribe, who claimed several appeals to the government to uplift the museum had gone unheeded, revealed that the indigenes of the town decided to start an annual festival to draw attention to the existence of the museum. The fourth edition of such festival, he added, will come up in April.
He lamented, 'the only thing we can call government presence is the road constructed by the administration of general Yakubu Gowon when he visited the museum in 1975, all effort to get the government to upgrade the museum and bring it to good standard has yielded no fruit. But I am convinced that these images can be very good revenue earners for both the government and the local community.'
Oyeyipo who noted that the town houses the largest collection of stone images in the world, revealed that the UNESCO just knew of the existence of the images in 2008. He added that the images has a great potentials to promote Nigeria's eco-tourism.