Badagry Diaspora Festival 2017 to open ‘door-of-return’ to the source
The infamous ‘Point-of-No-Return’ through which Africans were forced out of the continent in millions as slaves centuries ago before the TransAtlantic Slave Trade was abolished already has a positive counterpoint. It is the ‘Door-of-Return,’ which organisers of Badagry Diaspora Festival 2017 have conceived as open invitation to Africans in the Diaspora to access and return to be part of their ancestral heritage once again.
Scheduled for August 19 through 26 in Badagry township, Lagos, and August 27 and 28 in Imeko and Ketou in Republic of Benin, Badagry Diaspora Festival 2017 has as its symposium theme ‘African Diaspora Beyond the Atlantic: Dynamics and Significance in Latin American World and Elsewhere.’ Stakeholders met recently at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos, to chart a path for this year’s festival.
Those in attendance included Emeritus Professor of History, University of Lagos, Prof. A.I Asiwaju, former Ambassador of Benin Republic to UNESCO and Chairman, UNESCO Council, Prof. Olabiyi Babalola Yai, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Crawford University, Ogun State, Prof. Alaba Simpson, former Director-General, Centre for Black and African Civilization (CBAAC), Prof. Tunde B. Babawale, HOD, Department of Foreign Languages, University of Ife, Ile-Ife, Prof. Ayo Omidire, a Brazilian Ph.D student at University of Ife, Jose Henrique de Freitas Santos.
Others were former Director, National Troupe of Nigeria, Lagos, Mr. Akin Adejuwon, representative of Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Dr. Senayon Olaoluwa, President, African Renaissance Foundation (AREFO), Mr. Babatunde Mesewaku, Department of English, Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos, Dr. Henry Hunjo, Programme Officer, AREFO, Mr. Peter Mesewaku, Logistic Officer, AREFO, Mr. Sola Adeyemi, and Mr. Tunde Ajose, Protocol Officer, AREFO.
President, Africa Renaissance Foundation (AREFO) and organiser of the festival, Mr. Babatunde Mesewaku, informed the gathering that the selling point of the 2017 festival would be the ‘Door-of-Return’ ceremony as against the ‘Point-of-No-Return’ through which members of the historic African diaspora would be encouraged to return to Nigeria through a symbolic ‘Door-of-Return’ to be opened for them at the Lagoon-shore, Badagry Marina by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, his representative or the Governor of Lagos State. He explained that the ceremony would be a combined one of welcome and traditional atonement of prayers and symbolic funeral for the peaceful repose of all the souls that were lost to the obnoxious Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
Omidire commended AREFO for taking the festival beyond the shores of Badagry, Lagos State, and Nigeria to the diaspora even in the face of challenges. Asiwaju also described what AREFO has been doing as ‘Locality in Universality and vise versa,’ and commended the vision and tenacity of AREFO. He said Badagry is the cornerstone to the creation of Nigeria and gateway to the country.
This year, the festival would be dedicated to the late African cultural icon, Descordes Maximiliano Dos Santos, also known as Mestre Didi, for embarking on a heroic search in 1967 from Bahia, Brazil, for his African ancestral origin after centuries of separation and, by dint of dogged determination, he successfully reconnected with his primordial homeland at Kosiku, in Ketuland, Republic of Benin.
Asiwaju gave a brief introduction on Mestre or Master Didi Alapini, as an embodiment of African culture and arts, whose memory would linger for centuries to come. Yai also gave extended chronological details of the cultural and historical emblem that Mestre Didi’s life symbolises to Africa and the diaspora. Yai said Mestre Didi remains the only man in history in Bahia, who is referred to as Mestre, that is, Master.
With America’s recent election in mind and the emergence of Mr. Donald Trump as president, Babawale described the effort and vision of AREFO as laudable, saying it was high time the diaspora focused its attention to the homeland and make their return journey, as it was becoming evident that in the 21st century no other race would stand to protect and advance the course of the diaspora except Africa. He said Badagry Diaspora Festival offers a veritable platform and vehicle for diaspora homeland return and integration.
Also, Mesewaku emphasised the objective of the festival, which he said is basically to encourage diaspora return to their original homeland, noting, “The festival provides the platform for global integration and re-integration of the historic African diaspora. The diaspora is always in constant search for a place to reconstruct its identity, history, culture and beliefs.
“Part of its strategic objectives is to make annual dedication of the festival to an individual in the diaspora, either late or living, who had distinguished himself/herself in the course of human history, especially as it concerns the history of the black race. In 2011, the festival began with this innovation and dedicated it to late Elder Agosu. In 2013 it was dedicated to Marcus Garvey; in 2015 it was dedicated to Toussaint L’Ouverture, and in 2016 Olaudah Equiano took his turn.”