Celebrating New Yam Festival in Abuja
While speaking on the relevance of the festival to a brand that is situated far away from Igbo land, Public Relations Manager of the hotel, Mr. Shola Adeyemo, said New Yam Festival is one of the most important celebrations of the year and it was in that spirit that the hotel celebrated along with the Igbo community in Abuja.
Adeyemo, said the primary reason for the celebration was to marry Nigeria cuisine with its culture. He said: “If you look at great civilizations of the world, whether French, Roman, Chinese, Indian, you would see that their culture and food are closely interwoven. And as a great civilization, we believe that the culture of Nigeria and its cuisines should be celebrated.
“Yam is one crop that is so important within the cultural and culinary culture of Nigeria and this is reason we felt that it is time to celebrate it. As a proudly Nigerian organisation, we have a responsibility to promote Nigerian culture and that is the reason we felt the need to celebrate the New Yam Festival this year. The festival coincides with the celebration in most of the Igbo areas and as such, we brought some life-size tubers of yam from there to celebrate with.”
Friends and guests at the hotel enjoyed variety of yam dishes served with various sauces.“For some of the guests who were waiting to go home at Christmas to have a taste of traditionally homemade cuisine with the right balance, the evening cut short their wait as they had unrestricted food portions of yam, ugba, ayanra and plantain to consume”, said Adeyemo.
There were side attractions as well as guests were entertained with traditional dance performances.Former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Chidoka Osita, who did the official cutting of the symbolic yam, explained the significance of yams in Igbo land. According to him, yam has remained the most important crop in Igbo land. This, he stated, was because the crop requires a man to be strong, diligent and hardworking to produce it.
“It is yam that is the seedling with which you have capital. Every Igbo rich man is recognised by the quantity of yam in his barn. It is the only crop that we eat and do not exhaust it because we must keep it for planting in the next season.
“When a man has come of age, the father or uncles give him a gift of yam-seedlings so that he can start his own life. If you handle the yam in a hurry, it will tax your patience.”
Osita added, “in the 1700s when slave trade was on, Igbo slaves were in demand in the state of Virginia, United States of America, where they planted tobacco because it required one to have extensive patience and capacity. The Igbos had this ability because of the yam farming. Yam is the only crop that titled men do not eat until the community has given sacrifice to the gods to thank them for the season. Stealing of yam from the ground is an abomination in Igbo land.
“There are so many ceremonies associated with the yam but the most important is that it was a measure of a man’s wealth. Yam is a significant part of the Ibo economy, politics, hard work and expansion because the yams made us go beyond the frontiers of our land in search of fertile land.”
On account of the hotel organising the event, Osita said: “We cut this yam as a sign of Hilton’s economic sustainability. In spite of the season of famine that has come upon Nigeria like it did for Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart, cutting this yam will open up the business of the Hilton Hotel and all those who work in it.”