NAFEST 2021, a culture feast with difference
The 34th edition of the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) in Ado Ekiti, the capital of Ekiti State, ended recently with a celebration of the country’s unity and diversity.
As a result of divisions, violence and agitations in the country, the theme of this year’s festival, Celebrating National Unity in Diversity, couldn’t have been more appropriate.
The host governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, expressed his gratitude to the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) for an opportunity to host the cultural feast, which he described as a ‘bond of unity.
While noting that culture is the glue for uniting Nigerian people, he said, “it allows for various forms of talent expression. Apart from sports, NAFEST is another unique platform for the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory to meet, showcase and promote Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage and diversity. This has further shown our unity in diversity.”
In his opening address, Director General of NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, said since the inception of the festival in 1970, its objectives have remained the promotion of national peace and unity, as well as, serve as a platform for talent hunt, skills development and marketing the best of Nigeria’s cultural heritage.
According to him, “the abundant potential of our cultural manifestation, if properly harnessed and developed, can gainfully engage our teeming youths and women both in rural and urban communities so that the sector can contribute meaningfully to the attainment of the desired economic diversification agenda of the current administration.”
He added, “our youths have imbibed foreign culture but this is a platform for us to reintroduce our culture to them.”
Looking at the advantages that a state could derive by hosting the national fiesta, he said Ekiti had been empowered in different ways.
His words: “The hotels were all fully booked, an indication that Ekiti needed to build more hotels.”
According to him, “another is that people coming from the far north to Ekiti for the first time and being served pounded yam for breakfast, which is very new to many of them. Many even thought it would affect them, but the reverse was the case. We drove from Abuja to Ekiti and we did not encounter herdsmen, that is to tell you, no one can tell our story better than us.”
The second day of the festival saw dramatic performances. The state to first perform was Delta. Working with the theme of the festival, the stage’s backdrop had the images of some of the country’s founding fathers, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Tafawa Belawa, Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe and Anthony Enahoro.
The drama tacitly interrogated the state of the nation with killings, lack of jobs, and social amenities, disagreements among the three major regions as to who controls what, when and how?
The message, however, was for all to stop the blame game and work in unity for the progress of Nigeria.
Why Delta focused on tribalism as disuniting Nigeria, Lagos State’ performance was hinged on discrimination and nepotism. Jigawa’s message wasn’t any different. Gombe’s simplicity, however, stood them out while Benue’s musical interlude for the different scenes made their presentation interesting.
Though Benue explored more of the internal disunity, however, its drama touched on the national dialogue as well.
The entrepreneurship roundtable, an initiative of Runsewe, was meant to educate the youth to know the importance of skills acquisition early. Secondary school students and unemployed youth had the opportunity to listen to self-made men and women in various fields and they asked questions that clarified their confusions.
While saying he is convinced that no one is useless as each one has a gift within the development of that only need, Runsewe advised participants to begin “looking inwards and become your own boss.”
Funke Awodiya, who was one of the speakers, a sociology graduate, revealed how she started packaging locust beans, locally called Iru for sale. According to her, this, in fact, has gone beyond Ekiti to other lands.
Awodiya said, she picked interest in packaging Iru on discovering the multiple health benefits as an advocate for healthy leaving. “During the lockdown, I started experimenting on how to make it more acceptable. I discovered it was delicious as an ingredient for salad making. The recipe I found was Iru, carrots, cabbage and onions. The taste was wonderful and I began pushing it via social media.”
Nuhu Najeem shared his experience on how to make interlocking blocks out of plastic bags and bottles.
Both resource persons, unfortunately, had one problem: capital. However, in the case of interlocking blocks, it was established that you could start small by just gathering the raw materials that are actually a menace to the Nigerian society for zero kobo.
The owner of one of the best-pounded yam and amala restaurants in Ekiti, who only has a secondary school certificate, but is making fortune in the food business, also shared her experience.
About 350 people were trained in various skills including, shoe and bead making, make-up and gele, tie and dye, braiding, sewing, arts and craft, traditional board game, ayo, millinery among others.
Runsewe went round to inspect each group, encouraging them to take the training seriously as they can make a living from it. A startup token of N5000 was given to the best and most serious participants at the end of the training.
Indigenous fabrics fashion competition, traditional board games, children storytelling, children handcraft, traditional cuisine golf tournament all held at the festival with winners taking away trophies.
Some participants took the advantage of the festival to explore the tourist’s sites in Ekiti such as Ikogosi warm spring where warm and cold-water flow separately to meet at a point, yet maintaining their temperatures as well as their colours.
At the end of the festival, the host state, Ekiti, emerged the overall winner, beating Rivers State to the second position and placing Bayelsa, Benue to the third position, while Delta and Nasarawa came fourth and Lagos, Ogun and FCT came 5th.
Reacting to the victory, Ekiti State Governor, Fayemi said although Ekiti was declared as the overall winner, every state that participated in the festival is a winner. Indeed no one left without winning a trophy.