It was fun and excitement at the Banana Island in the Ikoyi area of Lagos last Saturday as nationals of different countries across the world came together to celebrate their cultures.
The event, Banana Island Cultural Festival, organised by the Banana Island Property Owners/Residents Association also provided an opportunity for friends of Nigeria to celebrate the country’s 59th independence anniversary.
It was a colourful event where people had a feel of different countries’ rich cultures, food, attires and music.
There were a few corporate firms including Coscharis Motors and Mandilas dealing in premium brands that saw the event as an avenue to take their products to the doorsteps of their target customers.
Coscharis went with its latest BMW 7 Series and X7 to the Ova Garden Ikoyi, venue of the Banana Island Cultural Festival
Countries represented at the festival are the United States, Venezuela, Italy, China, Botswana, Philippines, Kenya, Ghana, Morocco, Egypt, Jamaica and Azerbaijan.
Senator Florence Ita-Giwa is a resident of Banana Island. She did not only literally bring the Calabar Kitchen and the Cross River State cultural troupe to the arena, she also came with her friends.
She said, “I came to showcase my culture. Apart from the cultural troupe performing, we have brought the typical Efik cuisine and came to promote the Echoes of Calabar, which serves fantastic first-class Calabar cuisine.”
According to her, the cultural festival is indicative of something positive taking place in Nigeria.
She said, “Banana Island is like the United Nations. Everybody from every part of the whole lives here. The festival is an opportunity for people of diverse cultures to come together to exchange ideas, information and see what they do in their countries.
“Everybody living on the island is busy; we don’t know one another; we just drive in and out focusing on our work. But this avenue is just one of those rare opportunities for us to interact and showcase our culture.
She contended that the annual festival had become a form of tourism and urged the government to tap into it.
Julia Akpologu representing Echoes of Calabar Restaurant and Bar, said, “Everybody knows Calabar food is nutritious. We have fresh fish from the sea of Bakassi. We also brought all our ingredients from Calabar.”
Akpologu was also captivated by the demonstration of the driverless feature of a new BMW 7 Series, especially “the way the car was made to move on its own without a driver controlling it from inside. It was really amazing.”
Leader of the Botswana team at the event, Mrs Victoria Pam, told Sunday PUNCH, “We are here to take part in the Nigerian Independence Day celebration and Banana Island Cultural Festival. We like the atmosphere because it offers the chance to see different countries and what they portray. We also share ideas.
“We represent Botswana with the traditional meals in our country. We came to sell our country to other people. Many people don’t know about Botswana, what they eat and what they do there.
Specifically, Pam said this year, the team “brought pap-pap, made from goat meat and you have to boil it for a long time to make it soft.
“We have also made a vegetable type they call moroho in Botswana to balance it with local juice drink that can be used to press down the food which we have made. We call it ginger beer; it’s not an alcoholic drink. Whenever they do any festival in Botswana, you will never go there without finding ginger beer. Everybody will ask for it.”
The Botswana lady who has been in Nigeria for a number of years, said she relished moinmoin and described it as her most favourite Nigeria’s food.
Catherine Lopez is a science writer from Philippines, working for IITA in Ibadan, Oyo State
She was part of the country’s team at the event and spoke about her experience and what they came to showcase at the festival.
“We are showcasing our food with our colourful culture. We have brought roasted pork, usually served on special occasions such as wedding in Philippines.
“I’m excited to be part of this unique event. It is good to see people from other countries coming together to display their cultures. I’m beginning to learn about other people’s cultures. It is indeed an interesting thing.
Jelica and Venia are from Venezuela and were proud to serve visitors to their stand what they called chicken salad and their country’s form of pancake
“We are here with our beautiful ladies and music to cheerfully serve people with some of our food and make them feel like they are in Venezuela,” said Venia.
Keneth Nwanzoma is the Head of Sales, Norman Industries Limited (Mandilas). He spoke in an interview with our correspondent why the company attended the event, saying, “Banana Island is a community of quality people and our brand is a premium product. This is the right place to get the target buyers for the product. This is our first time and we hope to keep coming.”
President of the Coscharis Group, Cosmas Maduka, said his company was proud to launch “a unifying first ever BMW X7 and a new 7 Series” at an event where people were celebrating diversity and culture.
Ugochi Owenna of Banana Island Resident Association said the event was organised to encourage good neighbourliness and gave its theme as ‘Acts, arts and culture’.
“Every nation is represented here at the festival; it is meant to give us a feel of what their culture is about. At the end of the day, everyone is happy,” she said.
She also said, “Our intention is to sell Nigeria to the world and show that we have so much good things to offer. We want to correct the erroneous impression that the country is bad and chaotic.
“Our foods are absolutely rich and delicious. These are the things that define us and bring us together as a unique people.”
Banana Island is an area of Ikoyi, Lagos known for its high density of millionaires and multi-cultural community.