Coming from various parts of the country, the rich and varied arts and tradition of the peoples, for one week, held spectators spell-bound at the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) in Benin.
Clad in traditional attires and dancing to the beats of drummers, participants at the 32nd National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) held dignitaries and spectators spell-bound as they showcase the rich cultural heritage of Nigeria.
Culture, they say, is the way of life of the people. And when the people across the states, including the Federal Capital Territory converged in Benin City, the Edo state capital, to showcase their culture, it brings to bear the axiom that says though tongues and tribes might be different, in unity we stand.
This colourful festival showcased the rich cultural heritage Nigeria has to offer. According to participants, NEFEST provided a platform for the states to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the people of the nation.
Interestingly, this is the first time Edo is hosting the festival after 40 years of its existence, despite being the home of culture.
During the festival, Benin became a Mecca of sort for visitors who trooped into the state to relish cultural displays and the rich culture and traditional attire of the participating states.
The one-week event started with a match past and cultural display to the admiration of dignitaries and the spectators.
Twenty-six states participated in the event and the participants clad in their state traditional attire and performing an indigenous danced around the University of the Benin sports complex where the festival was declared opened by the state Governor, Godwin Obaseki.
The performance by 70-year old legendary musician, Sir Victor Uwaifo, hip-pop artist, 2Baba and Nigerian Army Women Corps added glamour to the festival.
The festival witnessed the display of artefacts of the Benin bronze cast, local fabric and assorted leather apparels, quiz competition and panel discussion at the Oba Akenzua cultural centre.
Also, there was traditional wrestling competition by the participating states witnessed by the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II.
At the end of the wrestling event, wrestlers from Anambra, Adamawa, Borno, Delta, Bayelsa, and Zamfara and River states were victorious in various categories.
Other activities that took place yesterday included preparing royal cuisine and poetry recitation.
Declaring the event opened, Governor Obaseki described the hosting of NAFEST as “a return to the home of culture” in the country.
“We are very happy because this festival is a source of unity for Nigeria. Culture is a means of uniting our people,” he said.
On his part, the Director-General of National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Segun Runsewe, said the display of the rich culture of Nigeria at the opening ceremony was an indication that God loves Nigeria.
“There is no reason for us to disagree on anything. The beauty of Nigeria is in her multi-ethnic and multi-culture society,” he said.
The Edo State Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism, Mr Osemwengie Ero, said the festival would provide cultural integration among the states of the federation.
Speaking with Daily Trust on Sunday, the acting director, Imo State Arts and Culture, Mrs. Asumpta Ebere, Akujobi, said the festival allowed the state to showcase their rich culture after eight years of non-participation.
“The festival allowed us to meet with people of other culture, interact and also appreciate their culture. Many people got ‘married’ to other culture through this festival,” she said.
Also speaking, a Nollywood actor who was part of the Rivers State contingent, Gentle Jack, said: ” The festival is about our culture and tradition.”
He added: “We are different when it comes to culture and traditions, but we are one when it comes to this festival. So we are here to talk about unity through culture irrespective of the fact that we are diverse.”
On his part, Ojekudo Fidelis, an indigene of Delta state, said the festival has achieved its purpose of uniting the people.
“You see people from a different ethnic group coming together, dancing, eating together and interacting happily. The festival has brought unity to the country. The festival has achieved its aim and I believe the only way we can improve on it, is by hosting the festival every year. When there is continuity, the relationship, unity and brotherliness will be sustained because we will be yearning for another festival to see our friends who were brought together by the festival,” he said.
Ojugu JP from Benue State Arts and Culture, described the event as very colourful, judging by the cultural heritage of the participating states.
“As you can see people from the different states are participating and showcasing their different culture, interacting with one another and making new friends.
“For us, we have many dance steps, but Swange dance is the most important one and it is the dance of the Benue people both at home and abroad.
Anna Ibrahim from Gombe state said the festival has made her know the different cultures in the country.
“I don’t know anything about the Edo culture before, but with this festival, I now know some Edo cultures and have even made friends. From my interaction with them, they are good people,” she said.
Anna added that she has learnt many things about Edo state with the few days she has spent at the festival, saying that she is willing to stay in Edo if she gets a job offer or marries an Edo partner.