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Documentation of Ososo language and Ovbiko Maiden Initiation Rite

Landing page image for the collection ’Documentation of Ososo language and Ovbiko Maiden Initiation Rite’.

The beautiful maiden, Rebecca, returns indoors to welcome visitors after sharing her feelings and the details of her initiation. Photo of Rebecca Oladipo (and Ruth Anuoluwapo Okunoton) by Henry Kayode Atoyebi, 2023. Click on image to access collection.


Language Ósósọ̀ (ISO639-3:oso)
Depositor Agnes Temitope Legbeti
Affiliation Federal University Lokoja, Kogi State
Location Nigeria
Collection ID 0676
Grant ID SG0713
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

This deposit results from the interest of the principal investigator in the preservation of the ovbiko female initiation rite observed to be fading away fast among the people. With funding provided by ELDP, preservation has now been made possible.


Group represented

English: The group represented in this deposit are the Ósósọ̀ people and they belong to the group Thomas (1910:1) described as “the Edo-speaking people”. There is an agreement on their historical origins with the oral account of Benin ancestry evidenced by the narratives of the aged consultants in particular and most indigenes. According to them, the Ósósọ̀ people, led by a hunter named Ọshiosọ, migrated from Ogbe quarters in the present Benin Kingdom around the 17th century due to the high handedness of the monarch. They had their first stop-over at Órùgbè but had to leave again due to attacks from marauders. When they got to Ósùnọ̀, still considered as their ancestral home till date, they stopped for awhile, but moved again out of fear until finally, they got to their present settlement on a hilly location surrounded by rocky enclaves, safe from marauders. Ósósọ̀ is between 1,200 to 1,400 feet above sea level, on longitude 60 to the East and latitude 70 to the North. The people, the town and the language are referred to by the same name “Ósósọ̀”. This documentation project was carried out in their community.

Naija (pidgin): De people wey dis work talk about
Na ososo people wey dey Akoko Edo Local Government for North Western Edo side, inside Nigeria, na im dis work talk about. According to wetin de piple talk, na from bini kingdom dem from comot for around 17th century time becos say di king dat time no treat dem well. Dem waka pass many, many places dem like Órùgbè, Ósùnọ bifor dem come settle for wier dem dey now wey rock cover dem against enemies. Some of di tradition wey dem dey still dey do till now wey concern men na itakpo and na seven seven years dem dey do am. Di women own wey concern how girl take dey cross from girl pikin to full woman na im dis ovbiko project really dey about. I wan tank di Olososo of Ososo, Oba Anselm Obaitan and him fine Olori. I thank di Chiefs of di land dem wey I mit: Chief Ajayi Buoro, Chief Iddu Oremeh Osese and Chief Joseph Odona and dem council members for blessing di project. di piple of Ososo give me full support anytime wey I mit dem and I thank dem well well. I seriously tank all di maidens dem wey giv us permission to video deir initiation bifor, during and after di whole ting. Ovbiko na really better tradition wey celebrate di joni of how girl take bekom woman for ososo. E good to remember say di piple, di town and di language dey cari disame name “Ósósọ̀”.
Special characteristics

English: This deposit results from the interest of the principal investigator in the preservation of the ovbiko female initiation rite. As the only rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood in the community, it was observed to be fading away fast, loosing its prideful place among the people of Ososo. The PI, Agnes Legbeti, got initiated in the early 1980s and recalled that practically all maidens in the community had an understanding of the rite and looked forward to being initiated as it bestowed pride on the family and brought suitors for the maiden without one and for those who had suitor, it was a pre-marriage ceremony where he shows love by bringing gifts and making merry at her place accompanied by his friends.

When she came back to collect data towards her Ph.D. research into the language’s tone system and its grammar in 2017, one particular eloquent narrative she got was about the ovbiko tradition. To her surprise, most of the indigenes who helped double check her transcription and translation, could not remember most of the details chronicled by the elderly woman in the recording. That recording aided by the grant received from ELDP has made this deposit of audio-virtual recordings taken in naturalistic setting possible and collections available in an open source repository. The only cultural tradition that concerns transition from girlhood to womanhood has now been preserved for further purposes, especially academic. Apart from audio visual recordings, some sessions containing pictures illustrating the items used for the ovbiko rites have been included.
For the language documentation, attention also focused on obtaining relatively natural discourse. Included in the session are paradigm elicitations and focus group discussion with elderly women, with youths and council members on other rites, procedurals and historical narratives as well as stories have been included in the collection. Others are vocabulary elicitation using the Ibadan 400 Wordlist and the West Africa Language Data Sheet.

Naija (pidgin): Special tings wey interest pesin for di work:
Dis work come from inside di interest wey di main investigator put on top di preservation of dis ovbiko female initiation rite, as e be say na di only rite of passage every girl dey do when dem wan welcome am to womanhood for di community be dat, yet some piple don dey want make e end. Agnes Legbeti do her own initiated dat kain 1980 time and she remember say dat time na ting of joy wey pesin and im family dey do yanga put sef sey im do ovbiko. if she neva get who she wan marry, men go begin come round bekos now she no be girl again and if she don get who wan marry her, di man go dey come check her, giv her gift and make smal smal party for her wit him friends dem.

But as she come back come to come gader data for her Ph.D. research wey she start for inside 2017, one particular woman knack am one sweet tori wey surround how di village take dey cross girl from small girl to bekom full woman for bifor bifor days. Agnes come really surprise as most ososo piple wey help her check wetin she write as wetin di woman talk inside di record of di tori don forget most of di tings she sey dem dey do for girl befor. Dat record with support wey ELDP giv her na im dis deposit of video and audio wey we take inside normal everyday life of te piple don make am possible to fit find ovbiko inititation for open place like dis.
For tings wey concern di language, attention face natural tori dem. inside di session paradigm elicitations and focus group discussion with elderly women dem, go join di ones wit youths and council members plus story dem join dey inside di work.


Collection contents

English: The session to be treated as an introduction to the corpus of this project includes a session which provides brief introduction to the maiden initiation rite, still faithfully observed by the indigenes and naturalistic language use documentation showing an everyday conversation and a folklore that is part of the oral tradition of the people.

Naija (pidgin): Wetin dey inside di Collection dem.
Di work wey dey here already na 8hours of video recording. inside dis data, 5hours and 15minutes don get explaination wey follow as di piple dey talk, wetin dem talk and wetin e mean.


Collection history

English: This documentation project was finance by an ELDP Small grant (SG713) awarded to Agnes T. Legbeti for the period of September 2022 to September 2023. Along with Emmanuel Olaku and Mary Taiwo, her two research assistants, they arrived the community for their first 1month pilot study in September 2022 carrying very sophisticated audiovisual equipment. Although it was said to be a wrong time for intitiation in the community, the team got lucky to find a maiden was going to be initiated the following week. Securing her consent and her family’s consent, video recording of her rite was documented. Others who had and who will undergo initiation were also documented. The community records large number of intiation during December when parents in diaspora bring their daughters home as the rite is done only in the village. Needless to say the second period of documentation begins in December to January.

Naija (pidgin): History wey surround di collection
Na ELDP dem cari Small grant (SG713) giv Agnes T. Legbeti to cover September 2022 go reach September 2023 when she go do dis work. Dose wey join bodi assist her na Emmanuel Olaku and Taiwo Mary Folake. Dem reach di community for dem 1month warmup study to take understand how di work go take go. Dem cari beta beta equipments dem follow bodi go. even as e no be right time to jam initiation, one girl come village to do her own initiation di week afta dem reach. wit permisiion from im family and her own permission, dem video her. Bekos na da dat december time people wey no dey village dey bring dem girls wey don reach di age come initiate dem, around dat December go reach January, we go carry waka go di village again.


Other Information

English: This project provides access to women’s language use, which tends to be generally under-documented compared to men’s language use. As a transition stage rite from girlhood to womanhood, nudity is involved in this project, however, young girls, either naked partially or totally in several parts of the documentation, have been professional blurred in line with participants choice, universal ethics on nudity and ELAR’s advice. Some parts of the recording will be placed on ”user access’’ only to ensure data is used for purely academic purposes.

A challenge to transcription is the lack of an orthography by the community. The orthography used in transcription is basically as proposed in my work legbeti (2016, 2021) Thanks to the the bible society who is currently funding the creation of a standard orthography for Ososo, a working orthography will be arrived at hopefully and soon enough.

Naija (pidgin): Oder information dem:
Dis project giv us chance to fit know as women language be becos most work wey dey about language dey about men dem many times. base on sey na project wey concern how girl dey cros bekom woman nakedness dey inside di collection. Young girls wey either naked small or fully for som kain places for di work, we don use professional system take black am small make e follow as di piple we record inside sey dem want am, make e still no offend general law wey control how pesin go take show naked bodi dem for open where everibodi fit see and make e follow as ELAR dey do im tings too. Some kain parts of di recording no go free for everibody to see, who need am go ask permision as e go dey under ‘user access’ only. so dat na only book matter dem go use any part of dis work take do.


Acknowledgement and citation

English: Users of any part of this collection should acknowledge Agnes Legbeti as the Principal Investigator (PI). They should also acknowledge The Endangered Language Documentation Programme as the funder of the project. Use of any part of the corpus must acknowledge by name the individuals appeasing in the part. Any other contributor involved in the data collection, transcription and translation or who contributed in any way to the session used should be acknowledged by name . All relevant metadata needed towards this acknowledgement are available in the metadata.

Naija (pidgin): Anybody wey use inside dis work make e acknowledge Agnes Legbeti as di main Investigator (PI). Make dem add Di Endangered Language Documentation Programme as na dem bring moneytake support di project. Any oder person wey show inside, who use di work must acknowledge dem. Dem names dey available inside metadata

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Legbeti, Agnes. 2022. Documentation of Ososo language and Ovbiko Maiden Initiation Rite. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].


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