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Colour, glitz at Afenmai festival of artistry


Agbeloje dance troupe

Agbeloje dance troupe

An Un-biased documentation of happenings could naturally be tempting, especially when expected from a stake-holder fully involved in an exercise under discussion.

This was the situation I had found myself during the 5th edition of the “Mass Assembly of Afenmai Masquerades and Traditional Troupes” held last month at the Ikelebe Sports Arena, Auchi.

Otaru of Auchi, Ahaji Aliru Momoh (right); Barr. Obahiagbon representing Governor Adams Oshiomhole; and others being conducted round the exhibition stand during the festival

Otaru of Auchi, Ahaji Aliru Momoh (right); Barr. Obahiagbon representing Governor Adams Oshiomhole; and others being conducted round the exhibition stand during the festival

The weather was encouragingly friendly, in another moment, the sky looked darkened, giving a threat, further, the sun would emerge as if to demonstrate that it was fully in control. And that was the beginning of the much colourful outing as strokes on drums and gongs, announced the arrival of the various groups.

Two days earlier, a last telephone call was put through to confirm the participation of the Fugar-based double troupe (masquerade/female dancers) caused a worry, the leader, Mr. Anogbor, in a painful tone,regrettably said they won’t be able to attend.

Egbogio dance

Egbogio dance

Reason? There was a disagreement over a sharing formula within his quarter of proceeds from a ceremony: “Can’t I come to effect a possible
settlement?”, I had asked. “You can”, he said.“I was in Fugar with my Production Assistant, Mr. Kakulus Braimah.

The trip, I discovered later, was totally a waste of time and fuel in the car as Mr. Anogbor explained that the matter wasn’t as simple as I had earlier thought as he has been going round members, appealing to
honour my first contact with them.”

We returned to Auchi to await the D-day.It was a soothing atmosphere: master of ceremony-Felix Umoru was at his best, his language of introduction made me sock my bottled water with ease.

The host Royal Father, Otaru of Auchi kingdom, Alhaji Aliru H. Momoh Ikelebe II arrived with his respectable palace daudus. Comrade Governor Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole’s representative, Barr. Patrick Obahiagbon who is his C of C (Chief of Staff) was there.

The troupes in attendance – Afegiemhe female troupe of Egbogio, Agbaloje female troupe of Owan Aluaye female troupe of Okpella, Ilukpekpe male troupe of Okpekpe, Isiko (hunters dance) troupe of Auchi and versatile solo performer Oyase (of late Madam Agbaobesi Ikhenabomoh group of Ayogwiri) was also there.

Varied costumes of the troupes were symbolic, patterned in the Nigeria
National Flag.

It wasn’t a competitive production, but the applause of the audience told the whole story as they shouted in unison-“leave them, leave them” as a troupe excelled in performance.

Okpekpe dance

Okpekpe dance

Master of ceremony in round off pep talks indirectly called the results.The host Royal Father, offered prayers to Allah to continue to give his subject, Prince Usman Abudah, the strength, health and foresightedness in his propagation, promotion and the documentation of the artistry of the Afenmai people.

In my remarks, I did call on the Federal Government Agency, to handover the management of the Skill Acquisition Centres built in various zones by the National Council for Arts and Culture (N.C.A.C) to serious minded artistic disciples to run for the benefits of the various communities where the centres are located as none is functioning as at present and I need to be proved wrong.

In his remarks, the Governor’s representative, Barr. Obahiagbon (popularly called Igodo Migodo) said he had seen the dexterity of the dance steps of the artistes, heard their inciting songs, which nearly made him to want to ask for an “eben” (a Bini Royal Traditional Dance item) to join the dancers. He spiced his remarks with a few of his well-known rib-cracking English phrases which are really in place to those who understand the spoken English.

It was another satisfying seasonal production with a particular regret that the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka wasn’t able to come to see the growth of the tree he planted from the nursery in 2010.
• Abudah, a journalist is founder and Artistic Director of Afenmai Heritage and Cultural Studies, wrote from Benin City, Edo State

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