For first-time attendees, the air of gaiety, the general festive mood and the pomp was extraordinary. But for those who have regularly attended the events over the years, the spectacular display met their expectation. As per the usual tradition, everyone came well garbed and properly geared in their native dresses such that the occasion could almost pass off as a fashion fair of sorts. But as the proceedings of the day would later show, the showpiece was a total cultural package that incorporated important elements of the African culture. Although, a common feature in most institutions, the Cultural Day has a more comprehensive meaning at Pacific Comprehensive College, located in Bammeke, Shasha, in the Akowonjo suburb of Lagos.
Most parents are familiar with the cultural day organised by their children’s schools. Some parents look forward to it. Pacific Schools has turned it into a big event that draws the media and a host of guests from far and near. A friend of a parent whose three children are pupils of the school told TIMEOUT: “It is an occasion of significant importance to parents. My kids are not pupils of this school, but I have been attending this cultural day since the past three years. Aside the activities which are quite spectacular, the programme strengthens parents’ faith that their children are being raised properly.”
Children are the stars of the event. Generally, it has the appearance of children haute couture show what with kids and teens turning riot in their best wardrobe that are essentially African in fabrics, design and tailoring. The pupils, ranging from four to 16 years old, were dressed in different attires that were representative of various ethnic groups, especially Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Urhobo, Benin and Efik. Presentations of the day were also according to these various cultural entities, spread across the country. In three hours, the primary and secondary sections of the institution made a raft of presentations with precocious bravura.
From the opening act of a Yoruba folk song by teenagers dressed in Aso Ofi and to the next troupe in Fulani regalia of the milkmaids and the herd boys, singing the classic northern folk song “Ahai Ye Yaro,” to the energetic Igbo dance, it was heartwarming beholding the younger generation, some of them a mere four-year-old, clad in colourful attires, performing intricate traditional dance steps. Suddenly, the vanishing landscape of African culture returned into sharp focus.
The showpiece incorporated different facets of culture such as language, folk songs, drama and cuisine.
Old-time folk songs, asphyxiated by the new-age melodies of hip hop and Afro-pop, were revived on stage. Whether sung in Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo, the melodious renditions evoked nostalgia, of idyllic past, of parts of African culture lost to modernity. In 2018, the Bini attire and dance stole the show. This year, the Fulani dance was clearly the most outstanding.
The audience was also treated to a brilliant and thrilling short play whose dramatists were secondary school students.
The last part of the event was the cuisine section which turned out to be an interesting showcase of Nigeria’s ethnic cookery. Lest the food appeared as window-dressing, everyone had a taste of the offerings. After all, the taste of the pudding is in the eating.
Altogether, it was a scintillating show which lived to its billing so to speak.
The Cultural Day, to all intents and purposes, turned out as a lesson in African culture from the young ones and a sort of awakening for adults witnessing an event of such a nature and of such magnitude.
The principal, Mekwunye Obioma, who in his speech intoned that the cultural day is “earmarked for a ceremony of this nature…” avowed that the lifestyle of a people is a reflection of their culture. In his homily, he enjoined the gathering to imbibe in the young generation the love of their ancestors’ way of life and teach them to embrace the African culture, take pride in it, preserves it and transmits it to the next generation.
The school chairman, Mr Omosowon Idowu Remigious, made an even stronger case. On why the school goes to such a length to host the annual cultural fete, he offered: “Culture is about how we live. Different individuals have different ways of life, and we come to live together, despite our differences. That is civilisation. Despite our diversity, we have to live in harmony. That is the reason for the proclamation by the UN General Assembly of May 21 as UN’s World Day for Cultural Diversity and Development.”
As to why the school had taken on the cultural mission, he said: “We think that it is very important that we begin to make children know very early in their lives the importance of culture; and secondly, we hope to also bring to society’s consciousness the need not to forget our language, which is a very important aspect of our culture.”
Omosowon cited Japan as an example. “That is one country where people work almost 16 hours a day. They are workaholics. Yet they know that culture is so important that they created a national holiday for culture. That is a lesson for other countries. We must underscore the importance of culture. And the school is the right place to do that.”
For him, there is no better time to have a cultural renaissance in Nigeria than at this present time. Culture, he affirmed, is a panacea to the deep-seated distrust in the country and the pervading clashes that have become a feature of the country in the past few years.