It was a day that began with a downpour. An unusual January rain. Yet guests and participants to the carnival were not deterred. They turned up en masse, gaily dressed in traditional attire that was patently Igbo. The carnival kicked off with a road show––a circuitous procession starting from the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) field, through 22 Road and its environs, and back to the FHA field. It was a parade with the right degree of pomp that created a lasting impression in the minds of FESTAC residents.
If there is one thing the Igbo treasured above all other things, it is culture. Their culture. They have seized every avenue available––literature, music, films and festivals––to propel and propagate the Ndigbo cultural essence. Down the years, their zeal neither waned nor withered. As it was years ago, so it is today, a pursuit that has yielded a consciousness that percolates from Nigeria to Africa and other parts of the world.
It was in the spirit of this tradition that the Igbo cultural festival took place on January 26, 2019, at FESTAC Town, Lagos. Tagged Igbo Heritage Carnival with the theme, “Igbo Culture and Language is Our Pride,” the event had the blessing of the apex socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo. It was as endorsed too by the Igbo Stakeholders’ Forum. Hence, it was not surprising that it turned out a grand cultural gathering of people of Igbo ethnic origin. What was more surprising was the presence of non-Igbos who loved the Igbo way of life that turned up in their numbers. What was more, all who came to the occasion relished the rich cultural endowments and enterprise of the Igbo race.
Though a maiden edition, the carnival, spearheaded by actress Chioma Igwe, chalked up an unequivocal message: Youths are presently in the vanguard of socio-cultural development. Given the order of events on the day, it was evident those of the younger generation are championing the needful causes.
This social rally championed by the versatile actress (who is the founder and president of the Ndigbo Heritage Carnival) was essentially a cultural outing, a fact reinforced by the day’s activities, such as music performance and cultural dances, display of native costumes and hairstyles and a showcase of local cuisine.
As evidenced by the theme and as amplified in the welcome address by the convener, language was at the heart of the event. Ndigbo Heritage Carnival, Igwe affirmed, was borne out of the fact that in Lagos––where she was born and bred––her parents raised her in a home saturated with Igbo tradition, culture and heritage, and she grew up fascinated by the tone and nuances of the Igbo language. The actress has so far sustained the legacy by featuring in Nollywood movies that mostly depict rich Igbo culture and tradition.
Now her real motivation: the UNESCO report that figured Igbo as one of the languages at the risk of extinction.
“Sometimes we stay in Lagos, and completely forget a lot of things about our culture, including our language. Most of our children are very fluent in other people’s language but can hardly speak a word of Igbo. That and many more are the basic things we are trying to stop,” she said.
That prepared the way for the major highlight of the day, which was the teaching of Igbo language to children, supervised by the Keynote Speaker, Prof. Chidozie Bright Nnabuife, associate professor of Igbo Language at the Department of African and Asian Studies, University of Lagos.
Though a very entertaining, fun event, parents went away from the celebration with a weighty message––a call to duty to teach their children their native dialect so they can be able to communicate effectively just like the way they do with the English language.
Overall, the day was successful. The occasion was a melting pot of Igbo tradition. Troupes including C World Entertainment, Mindset band, The Three Wise men and Obele cultural group thrilled and entertained guests.
Non-Igbo guests, who could not hide the fact that they enjoyed the cultural fete, applauded the vision, the effort and the outcome.
“I commend the organisers for this noble effort as there is nothing as good as honouring one’s culture and tradition. This is Lagos, home to all, where we celebrate and appreciate other people’s culture,” said Dipo Olorunrinu, member, Lagos State Assembly.
Ayodele Adele who stood in for the chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government echoed a similar sentiment.
“Without culture, we will lose our identity and our way,” he intoned. “Therefore, people should protect their culture and this should always come first.”
An array of dignitaries graced the occasion including royal fathers and titleholders as well as politicians and socialites.
The one-day jamboree, billed to become a yearly programme, was successful as a promotional vehicle for the Igbo culture. Can the organisers pull off a more impactful sophomore effortlessly? Of this Chioma Igwe was hyper-optimistic. “The second edition of Ndigbo Heritage Carnival will be bigger and better,” she assured.