Lagos Black Heritage Festival‘ll be bigger than Festac 77—Soyinka, Holloway

Posted: March 14, 2013 in arts/culture

lagosWith well over performing 300 artistes from Nigeria and Brazil in attendance, and a year-long programme of events, organizers expect the forthcoming Lagos Black Heritage Festival (LBHF) to be biggest cultural showpiece since the Festival of Black Arts and Culture (Festac) of 1977 in the state.

Making the disclosure at the Freedom Park, Onikan, Lagos, Thursday, the Festival Consultant and Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, in company of the state’s commissioner for Tourism and Inter-Governmental Affairs. Mr. Disun Holloway, as well as a host of the festival’s sub-committee heads, said the event has expanded in content and theme, such that it will now run in two parts first from March 25 to April 1 and October 1 through to 10.

With this year’s theme of Bring Back Brazil, Soyinka added that the expansion of the programme to include a second part was to accommodate the full participation of the Brazilian contingent as it ‘was also the year of the Brazilians.’

“2013 Lagos Heritage Week takes place within an event framework that the festival has designated the Year of Brazil. After Italy and the Horn of Africa in the series The Black in the Mediterranean Blue – comes the turn of Portugal, once a great European maritime nation, and the first European nation to establish diplomatic relations with an African counterpart the Benin Kingdom. Alas, this historic encounter between equals would later degenerate into participation in the infamous slave trade, but would also result in the greatest “rainbow” nation in the world The Republic of Brazil.

“Brazil, inevitably, once a Portuguese colony, became an irresistible magnet to the Festival planners. There, the Africa identity emotion runs deep, rendered vibrantly in cultural retentions in forms of worship, largely of the orisa of the Yoruba (the candomble), in performance modes, cuisine, language, attire and music. Such was the enthusiasm from Brazil that it became necessary to transform the Festival into a two-part celebration, so as to provide more time for the participation of the Afro-Brazilian Diaspora,” explained Soyinka.

Continuing, the Nobel laureate noted that to the Brazilians, the festival promised the fulfilment of the life-long dream of homecoming as the second part October 1-10 may yet prove the largest Diaspora Return since the Black and African Arts Festival (FESTAC) in Lagos, in 1977.

While urging for support of the corporate sector to realise the objectives of the theme for this year’s edition, Soyinka maintained that this plea had become imperative as the content of the festival could only be realised with the active participation of the corporate sector who could leverage on the festival’s agenda to drive their brands.

“What we are experiencing in terms of problems is the non-participation of the corporate organizations especially those in the state. Let’s face it, the Brazilians are coming this October and the event was endorsed by the Brazilian President when she visited Nigeria last week. So we need corporate sponsors to enable us execute our programmes,” said Soyinka.

On the Vision of the Child art competition, one of the programmes of the LBHF, Soyinka explained that the visual art competition for school children, majorly sponsored by the Diamond Bank, was not at its preliminary stage.

“The preliminaries have been done for that competition in terms of verification of the works submitted by the children and that is to ensure that the works they claim they did were not done by their parents on their behalf. So for that aspect of the festival, we are on track,” said Soyinka.

On the seeming disinterest to engage Nigerian contemporary music artistes for this year’s LBHF, Soyinka and Holloway explained that theme level of funding and choice of theme informed that decision to work with what was on ground.

Joining in the call by Soyinka for corporate sector support, Holloway said: “For the families, I can only say please come out and be part of it. Bring out your children since it is the last day of Easter. This is what the Lagos State government wants; to see the economic empowerment of the youth though gainful employment for them through the festival and also good business for the corporate sector which are participating.” Hollolway stressed.

While explaining that the Street carnival routes for this year will follow the same pattern as last year’s event, Holloway used the occasion of the media briefing to alert motorists in the state on the planned closure of the Awolowo Road, Ikoyi and its adjoining roads as these form routes of the Street Carnival, which is the highlight of the LBHF on April 1.

“The Awolowo Road and its adjoining roads in Ikoyi will be closed from 8 am for the Street Carnival as these are the routes of the carnival but the roads leading into the areas from Victoria Island or the roads in Victoria Island remain open. So if you have business to attend to in the Ikoyi environ especially around Awolowo Road be sure to come before 8 in the morning,” the commissioner sounded.

One of the highpoints of the LBHF for the year would be the expanded Water Regatta which would now see 30 participating communities in the state, an power engine boat race, an increase in viewing platforms, expanded swimming competition featuring over 200 swimmers to be trimmed to 50 on the final day, as well as the regatta proper that will feature competitions for best decorated boat and best performances categories.

The March events pay homage to the late Afro-Brazilian playwright, painter, revolutionary and senator, Abdias do Nascimento, whose life-long dialogue with the orisa will dominate the exhibition galleries. His spiritual play, Sortilege, also takes the stage for the first time in West Africa.

Abdias is the most impassioned Brazilian link with the continent in the realm of culture, racial identity and political struggle. Exiled in Nigeria’s Yoruba cradle of humanity, Ile-Ife, for some years during the Brazilian dictatorship, it is only fitting that this radical humanist be brought back to his most memorable place of exile.

According to organizers, Abdias remains the dynamic symbol of Africa affirmation in the face of historic odds, the vitality of her cultures, and the assertiveness of racial identity.

Befittingly, his widow Elisa Larkin do Nascimento will flag off the year’s Lecture series with a lecture on Abdias’ life, art and struggle.


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