There is no doubt that the most popular festival in Yoruba land today is the Osun Oshogbo festival. This particular festival, which originated from Oshogbo, is well attended by even international communities.
Finding has shown that this great city was founded over 400 hundred years ago. It was the wide Yoruba community divided into sixteen kingdoms ruled by children of Oduduwa who was the founder and was resident at Ile-Ife. The earliest settlement was in Oshogbo grove where one could find palaces and markets until population explosion came and forced the people to build new towns at the outskirts of the groove.
When Fulani Jihad attack spread from the North and down to South in the 1840s, many Yorubas retreated into the forests and Oshogbo groove. It was in this Oshogbo that the attack was repelled and as such the town became a symbol of pride of the Yorubas.
During the colonial rule in 1914, Oshogbo continued to expand. In accordance to indirect rule adopted by the British colonialist, Obas and priests were sustained. In the middle of 19th century when the Islam and Christianity came, contacts were made through the Northern trade routes and links to the returning slaves from Central and South America. With flourishing trade, all the three religions flourished with Ogboni and Osun cults becoming fashionable.
The Osun grove began to experience significant changes in the 1950s owing to political and religious changes. Shrines became neglected, sanctions got weakened and traditional priests began to disappear. To worsen the deterioration, most of the moveable sculptures disappeared. Department of Agriculture and Forestry clear-fell the forest for Teak plantation establishment and the forbidden fishing in the groove began.
This degeneration moved an Austrian born Suzanne Wenger who moved to Oshogbo and supported by the Oba and the local people, formed a sacred Art movement that challenges poachers and land speculators to bring back the dignity of the shrine to life.
The artists created large and fixed sculptures in iron cement and mud in order to help protect the groove and stop poaching and theft. The new work made the groove a symbol of identity for the Yoruba people. And in 1965, a part of the Groove was declared a national monument and international and national tourists visit the groove to mark the annual festival.