By Fidelia Ben-Udi
The 35th edition of the National Festival for Art and Culture (NAFEST) has kicked off at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, formerly known as the Onikan Stadium in Lagos State, the Centre for Excellence.
The yearly event which has been moved from one State to the other over the past years has found its way back to Lagos for the fourth time, giving them the opportunity to showcase their hospitality and warm reception of guests from across the Country.
The opening ceremony which is usually a cultural parade of the States present, witnessed the presence of 29 States including Delta, showcasing their culture heritage in the display of their masquerades, dances and traditional attire in line with the theme, “Culture and Peaceful Co-existence”.
The movement of such large number of people of diverse cultures across the Country is certainly a sight to behold. Delta has not been left out as over one hundred people including trained performers in various form of indigenous entertainment have arrived at Lagos for the festival under the leadership of the Honourable Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Sir Lawrence Ejiofor, the Permanent Secretary, Angalaere Umukoro-Prest and the Director Art Council, Patrick Clark.
Declaring the event open, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, urged Nigerians to elect leaders who will protect our rich cultures and unit our Country. He said, “rather than seeing the differences in our language and culture as a dividing factor, I implore us to see it as one of our largest resources to be embraced, celebrated and used to our collective advantage”.
The Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otumba Runsewe, speaking to the press, said this year’s event is meant to help unite the Nation. Nafest has always been focused on the unity of the country but this year, “Nafest is to open up a new synergy to unite Nigeria. We must not allow other people to tell our stories for us”.
The rest of the festival which is to hold at the National Stadium Surulere, is to showcase a line-up of activities and performances including indigenous fabrics and Fashion competition, drama competition, Indigenous materials and interior decoration competition, traditional cuisine competition, traditional board games, archery, children’s music competition amongst others.
All States present would be in competition for performances they have registered for and expected to put in their best for the next few days in hopes of returning home with a befitting medal. The point however of the seven day event as has been explained in the various speeches made, is not the competition, rather, engendering the spirit of unity even in our diversity.