Carniriv 2012 lights up Rivers State

Posted: December 13, 2012 in travel & tourism

carniriv 2012 1With artistes like American/Jamaican reggae rave, Shaggy, his compatriot Patra, Nigerian top acts like Tuface, Duncan Mighty, Burna Boy, and many more, the 2012 edition of the Rivers State Cultural Festival, otherwise called Carniriv, officially kicked off to a jam-packed crowd at the Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt, last Monday night.

Also popularly known as the Port Harcourt Carnival, the Carniriv for this year, celebrates the centenary of the garden City of Port Harcourt, which was established in 1912 by Lord Frederick Lugard and designated as the port city for the export of coal from the vast Enugu coal mines.

This year’s edition of the Carniriv therefore represented more to the indigenes of the state not just in terms of the scope but also in the scale of the programmes and celebrations lined up to mark the occasion, as the state government through the Rivers State Tourism Promotion Agency had pulled all stops in ensuring that the Centenary carnival registers in the minds of residents and tourists alike.

Carniriv which will formally close this Sunday night, had kicked off with the Praise Jam at the Civic Centre headlined by the Soweto Gospel Mass Choir, from South Africa in a mix of nearly a dozen gospel acts who took turns to thrill the appreciable crowd of gospel music lovers.

A new addition to the over two decade-old cultural celebration was the colloquium which debuted at the State Assembly Auditorium chaired by the state’s deputy governor, Engineer Tele Ikuru and featuring three position papers by a panel comprising scholars, administrators, artistes in addition to the keynote paper by Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka.

The spectacular opening ceremony at the Liberation Stadium had performances by former Miss World Agbani Darego, who read from a poem, masquerades showcase, fireworks displays, as well as the Dance of the Fireflies, which choreography, theme and movement completely awed the crowd, that also included the state’s deputy governor, Ikuru.

 Speaking earlier at the colloquium, Prof Soyinka noted in his paper titled; Reminiscing our past; Consolidating our future, that it had become imperative for authorities in the country including performing artistes to discern real cultural heritage showcase with a view to distancing themselves from idolization and what he termed ‘participatory performance.’

carniriv 2012 2Soyinka who was drawing from situations in dictator-styled governments of the world where the people’s culture and art have apparently been hijacked to serve the interest and praise purposes of the despots in power, noted that fears raised over the case of Nigeria might over stretched, added “with Nigeria, you may never know as there’s always that possibility.”

“We should take care not to mistake idolization of despots and dictators in power for real and proper showcase of cultural heritage by people. This is obscenity. The tradition of participatory performance has become a trend in the continent, but what purpose does it serve to the people if not just simply debasing the heritage of the people to the amusement of the usurpers in power,” Soyinka stressed.

Citing cases of countries like North Korea, China, Togo, communist Albania and Romania, the Nobel Laureate told the audience at the State Assembly auditorium that in reminiscing the past, the Rivers people and Nigerians in general should strive to go beyond the trend of self adulation, even as he acknowledged the imperative of a partnership between politics and culture on one hand and politicians and culture, on the other.

“Some say it cannot happen in Nigeria, but you cannot know for sure. However, I must ask the artistes, and others to seek to know better because they are the ones who create these spectacles of glory that end up being dedicated to the glorification of the despots. Cultural celebrations should never be used as platforms to glorify despots but instead to celebrate the cultural heritage of the people,” Soyinka summed up.

According to the Director-General, Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA), Dr. Sam Dede, the scope of the colloquium will be broadened with each edition as the agency seeks to attract bigger personalities as keynote paper presenters.

“This is just the beginning for us. This is the first in the series for the carnival. We are just starting but the direction of the carnival is for us to host the likes of Koffi Annan, Ali Mazrui. That is the direction we are looking at starting with this very first edition,” Dede noted.

Speaking further, the Director-General, Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA), Dr. Sam Dede, explained that “the main difference between Carniriv and other carnivals in the country is Carniriv is mostly a display of the indigenous culture of the Rivers People. The costume, dance and music on display are indigenous.”

Others who presented papers included the Executive Secretary of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr Barclays Ayakoroma, Prof A. Okowa (Fiscal federalism; The Rivers State experience), and Prof Frank Agboyebo (The Art of Rivers).

Highlight of the colloquium was the announcement of Prof Wole Soyinka as the Official International ambassador for the Rivers State Carnival (Carniriv) by the state’s deputy governor, Tele Ikuru.

Sunday night’s Praise Jam at the Civic Centre had indeed, set the tone for the week-long celebrations as it appeared the Soweto Gospel Mass Choir had raised the bar for performers while it could be said that the Dance of the Fireflies’ performance raised it further.

The Soweto Gospel Mass Choir capped the night with an intriguing performance of Miriam Makeba’s signature tune “Pata Pata”, as a tribute to the late Empress of African Song and Mama Africa.

The Praise Jam also featured local acts like Samsong and Heritage crooner, Jadel. There were also electrifying performances by several Port Harcourt based upcoming artistes and a glorious presentation by The Fused Ensemble Mass Choir.

Among the special activities planned for the carnival is the Raggae-360, Drama and the Black African Music Festival (BAMFest). Other activities lined up for the carnival include International Aquatic Fiesta on December 12, while the Heritage Parade and the Old Port Harcourt Town Groove respectively hold on December 14. The weeklong Carniriv will be rounded off with the World Peace Concert on December 15.

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