At Ekifest 2019, arts, culture take centre stage
Last week, Ekiti State stood still, as art and culture took over the landscape. The entire state literally poured into Ado, the capital, to celebrate this year’s Ekiti Festival of Arts and Culture (EKIFEST 2019). The streets of Ado were overrun by a cultural heritage that was rich and highly treasured.
Held from December 11 to 13, 2019, the festival was full of colours and fun. It was, indeed, a festival of African dance, music and other performing arts.
On the opening day, a babble of excited voices and panoply of drum displays welled up in the typical Ekiti dialect at the Ekiti Parapo Pavilion on New Iyin Road, Ado-Ekiti. The capital city was magnificent in bold colours, as the festival provided the avenue for unleashing the best of the state.
From the pavilion’s entrance to the auditorium and adjoining streets, guests and visitors streamed into the available space, intimidatingly.
The opening equally paid homage to the forested spirits embodied by the villagers who wore colourful costumes and fabulous and handcrafted masks (many handed down from one generation to another).
The 16 councils of the state and other residents from Ndigbo, Ebiraland, Tarok and several ethnic groups in the state also provided unmatchable entertainment, spectacular colours, unbeatable activities and unimaginable exhibition of culture. Dances, music, sale of foods, wine, beer among others also formed the highlights of this festival.
And for those three days, politics took a back seat in the state, as everybody was soaked in culture, as well as the sight and sound of Ekiti.
Organised by the Ekiti State Council for Arts and Culture, led by Wale Ojo Lanre, the festival was part of the council’s efforts to reposition the state cultural values.
Over the years, Ekiti people have been noted to host different festivals that have evolved into widely participatory events featuring extraordinarily rich musical traditions and dance.
The Udiroko and Ogun festivals, in fact, have established themselves as two of West Africa’s traditional spectacles. Other festivals include, Okorobo Festival (held in Ifaki-Ekiti), Ajagbo Dance (Isinbode-Ekiti), Ladunwo Masquerade (Oke-Imesi), Iromo Igede Festival (Igede-Ekiti), Odun Ifa, Aeregbe Afao, Igbara-Odo, Emure, Epa (Masquerade) Isan, Okudi Iyin July, Eegun Ijan,Olosunta Ikere, Egungun/ImaleIdiroko, Oodun Iyin, Odun Opa Iyin, Amomo Ise, Odun Ijesu (New Yam Festival) and others.
EKIFEST was initiated with the view of promoting the culture of the people of Ekiti and harnessing the potential of the state to further drive indigenous economic enterprise, generate employment and ultimately make their state a vibrant destination for tourism.
Though there was an interregnum of about six years between the last edition and now, this edition did not lose its large following. It was an opportunity to lift the tourism potential of the state using culture as the product of the state’s investment viability.
The event showcased the rich cultural heritage of the state to the world market and equally created opportunity to harness the talents of the people to build an art and cultural economy that could support the state in all spheres.
It is meant to build the state’s social-economic sphere, in line with the diversification programme of Governor Kayode Fayemi’s government.
At the opening, Governor Kayode Fayemi announced an upgrade of the state’s Council for Arts and Culture to the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism.
Fayemi also disclosed the determination of his administration to increase its investment in the creative industry and exploit the potential of arts and culture sector for the economic prosperity of the state and its citizens.
He told the new Ministry to consolidate on its various achievements, enhance the potential of creative practitioners and boost the Internally Generated Revenue of the state.
He added that the role of Arts and Culture as catalysts to progressive multiculturalism is gaining more traction in the world over.
The governor described EKIFEST as an economic and social strategy aimed at repositioning the creative industry of the state for optimal performance and drawing the attention of the global public to the unique landmarks of the state in tourism and culture.
“In Ekiti State, our cultural heritage keeps our memories alive of how beliefs and cultural expressions have contributed to the development of our society. Ekiti is a state of rich artistic and cultural heritage and endowed with the abundance of talents. Our riches are well demonstrated through arts, dance, literature, music, food and folklore.
“I commend the efforts of the Ekiti State Council for Arts and Culture towards the attainment of the target set for it. We still want the council to go a step further by consolidating on the various achievements, enhancing the potential of creative practitioners and boosting the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Ekiti State. And to enhance the progress already made in the last year, I have decided to re-establish the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism for better synergy and integration,” the governor said.
Governor Fayemi who assured investors of necessary support and encouragement, called on entrepreneurs to visit the various tourism corridors in the state and invest in them, stressing that their investment is not only secured but also bound to yield good dividends.
In her welcome speech, the Chairperson of EKIFEST 2019 planning committee and wife of the governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, said the festival was aimed at creating tourism attraction and enhance investment opportunities as well as create viable markets for local businesses.
Mrs. Fayemi noted that the previous editions of the festival in 2012 and 2013 increased tourism visits to the state and created the needed exposure for the cultural infrastructure.
“EKIFEST 2019 is designed towards the restoration of our core values as well as empowerment against the scourge of poverty. Our culture is a viable solution to several problems bedevilling our society. It is in our culture to be diligent, honest and peace-loving. Our culture abhors laziness; our culture goes against the shirking of responsibilities,” she said.
In his address, the Director-General of the Council of Arts and Culture, Wale Ojo-Lanre, said Ekiti people are gradually getting used to EKIFEST as an economic diversification project and called on the people to promote the state’s tradition of excellence.
“What we are trying to create in the 2019 edition of EKIFEST is a product that can be marketed in the subsequent editions. We are rich in arts, culture, and tourism and this is the best opportunity to market them,” he said.
The Director-General, Ekiti State Festival of Arts and Culture, Mr. Wale Ojo-Lanre, said the intention of the programme is to develop the talents of Ekiti young citizens, in tandem with the human capital development policy thrust of Fayemi’s administration.
He thanked the governor for providing the wherewithal for the resuscitation of the council, which has helped to remove the state from the list of absentee states at both local and international cultural festivals.
He disclosed that the governor sponsored the State Cultural Troupe to Budapest, Hungary, the last National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST), Benin City, Edo State, as well as the International Drum Festival held in Ogun State to promote the State’s cultural heritage. Recall that the state was on ground for the botched Abuja Carnival.
There was a big parade, with cars and people floating through the streets and their bodies painted or dressed in colourful clothes.
Highlights of the opening session of the festival were a colourful and carnival-like parade by all the 16 local government areas, Nollywood stars, artists and ethnic groups in the state as well as musical jamboree around the major streets of Ado-Ekiti, the state capital.
The festival featured arts and crafts exhibition, keggite gyration, traditional games, Ekiti culturepreneur, Ekiti dress fashion show, Heritage carnival by 16 councils, musical concerts, freestyle carnival, Fun Ride to Ikogosi, Kiddifest, a symposium at Ikogosi Warm Spring resort, screening of a film Tennats of the House.
Speaking at the colloquium held at Ekitiparapo Pavilion, Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort on Thursday, panelists urged the youth to explore the many opportunities in arts and culture sector as avenues for empowerment. The colloquium, which has as theme, Arts and Culture: Tools for restoration of values and socio economic development was organised to educate the tourists and guests on needs to drive arts and culture through tourism.
According to the speakers, tourism creates many windows of opportunities, which are capable of solving social economic problems. They noted that it would also attract international conference organisers who are desirous of serenity and tourism potentials.
On marketing strategies, they observed that ‘if you don’t make noise on what you have nobody will do it for you. The symposium is a greater way of showcasing tourism.’
The panelists were veteran Yoruba actor Jimoh Aliu; founder of Ebedi Writers’ Residency, Dr. Wale Okediran; Prof Oladele; Wale Ojo Lanre; Akeem Lasisi; Kezia Togun; Prof Bakare Ojo Rasaki and Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Alhaji Gani Ibrahim.
Meanwhile, the convener of Yoruba Mandate Group Worldwide, Akogun Banji Ojo, has commended the governor for his upgrading of the Council of Arts and Culture to a ministry.
“It is a good and welcoming development for the advancement and preservation of the Yoruba culture. While giving it a face and Identity to stand as a ministry, it would lead to an increase in investment and economic prosperity for the benefit of the masses.”
Additionally, it would also create career opportunities for the unemployed through cultural infrastructures and tourism projects. It will also be an avenue for skills acquisition through the arts and creative industry.
Akogu Ojo urged all governors in the South West to keep promoting arts, culture and tourism in their respective fields as any country seeking development must consider its cultural diversification.