How maiden Festival of India-Lagos turned out a success
This is the most colourful phenomenon I have ever witnessed in my life,” exclaimed Bamidele, a Lagos based banker, who had shared the fun-filled weekend with his family.
The much-anticipated Festival of India-Lagos has come to stay. The parade was a total showstopper, as three gigantic, hand-pulled chariots from the ancient city of Orissa, India, towered high into the Lagos skyline. Only a cluster of birds flew higher. But wait, these were not birds at all; they were drones – cameras in the sky! After all, this was the only way the event could have been filmed. The parade was a human sea, stretching as far the eye could see.
Igbokiti from Western Nigeria slugged it out with the Kerala Samaj – an ethnic group from Southern India while the Durbar horsemen raced with their Punjabi counterparts from Northern India. Heavily bearded, power biking, turbaned and screaming Punjabis, added spice to the blend! What entertainment! This showstopper could be Nigeria’s premiere international tourist attraction. The Igbokiti cultural group won first prize in the Parade category, while the Oriya Samaj won first prize in the Chariot Design category.
But it’s only just started! What about the Indo-Nigerian Expo that followed? And the concert? Phase two of the Festival was an international Expo, with up to 115 corporate bodies, ethnic exhibitors and retailers taking stalls at the TBS ground, Lagos Island. The Lagos Ministry of Commerce also accompanied 15 SMEs to the venue to help showcase their works in the international arena.
Sponsors like MTN, Godrej and Zee World were bustling with activity. The food court occupied a section of the ground and you could buy anything from Biryani, capatis, assorted masalas; name it! The much-advertised fashion and jewelry section was awesome in the array of Indian articles on parade. Yes, all those Bollywood sarees, Punjabi suits, trinkets and whatnots where all available at affordable prices. All the stalls of the Festival of India were beautifully decorated and the prize of best stall went to the Rajasthani Samaj.
A word of advice to the organisers. Never plan such an event in the rainy season. Twice it started drizzling and I was afraid for the worst. Luck shinned on them that Saturday though. But it was risky.
FINALLY, dusk ushered in the final leg of my adventure at the Festival of India: the concert. The performances began with colourful children from the various Indian Samajas and cultural shows from all over India. Up-and-coming acts like Aditi (Nigeria) and Pandey (India) were also given an opportunity. Pandey surprised and thrilled the Nigerian audience with his rendition of ‘Emergency’ from Dbanj and other Nigerian songs in Nigerian languages. Top Bollywood star, Yuvika and Anup Jalota, as well as Nigeria’s Sammy Okposo, Tee Mac and his Gold Convention, Ara and Pasuma were in a class of their own. Nollywood personalities such as Desmond Elliot Tina Mba and Saheed Balogun, to name a few, spent precious moments sharing thoughts with their Bollywood counterparts in the special Artists’ Green Room.
The surprise of the day must have been when Yamuna, a Nigerian dancer (Eastern Nigeria), who had studied in India, took the lead in the Indian classical dance category. Yamuna was brisk and controlled, with intricate finger gestures, characteristic of the complex Kathak style. Even the Indian audience was held spellbound by her footwork. Yamuna had chosen a particularly difficult repertoire and this is what earned her the title.
Chairman of Gaurapad Charities (the official sponsor of the festival) and Chairman, Festival of India-Lagos Organising Committee, Mr. Bolaji Rosiji, had this to say: “Now that the festivities have taken off, we’re asking Nigerians to please join us as we embark on a collaborative project for the revival of our SMEs in Lagos State. We need to come out of this unprecedented economic crisis by building Nigeria from the bottom up. The largest economy in Africa (Nigeria) and the second largest SME network in the world, India, will partner for mutual benefits.”