Destination Badagry gears up for maiden Igbo Arts and Culture International Festival

Posted: January 24, 2017 in general
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The impressive Ijele masquerade set to appear in Badagry

VICTOR NZE

The ancient town of Badagry, in the south west region of Lagos will come alive for three days as the Ndigbo community gather for a cultural event geared towards showcasing the traditional values and heritage to the rest of the country and beyond.

The event is also expected to provide a unique platform for the promotion of Badagry twon a heritage tourism destination.

Tagged;  the Igbo Arts and Culture International Festival, the showpiece is a joint collaborative effort of the socio-cultural organization, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Badagry and the Badagry Conventions and Visitors bureau (BCVB), an indigenous culture and tourism outfit in the state.

According to the Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the festival, Chief Everest Ozonweke, the festival is intended to be biennial event with its maiden edition slated for April 28 through to 30 in two venues spread across the Badagry Town in Lagos.

“As people in love with their age-long cultural heritage, the Igbo carry with them their culture and traditions wherever they go. From time to time they showcase these cultures. That is why in Badagry here, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Badagry in conjunction with the Badagry Conventions and Visitors bureau (BCVB) has decided to organize this great event. It is going to be a bi-annual festival and it will take the shape of the Calabar and Brazillian Carnival.

“The essence of this event is to promote the Igbo culture, traditions and language among the Igbo in Diaspora. It will also be a veritable platform to bring to the awareness of our children the rich culture of their forefathers, especially those of them that have not set their feet on their native land. This event we strongly believe will re-enact that nostalgic longing of our heritage and make our people begin to think home in all that they do,” Ozonweke said.

Continuing, Ozonweke said: “For Day 1, the festival will kick-off with a colloquium where intellectuals and erudite scholars of Igbo extraction will elucidate on the important issue of our origin, ancestral progenitors, identity and more importantly the position of Ndigbo in the present political structure of Nigeria.

“The venue of this colloquium is the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON), Topo, Badagry,. The first two days will be a display of artworks depicting the very best and significant symbols of Igbo arts, masquerades, dances by the various Igbo states in Badagry. The official venue of these events will be the Nigeria French Language Village, Badagry.”

For Ozonweke, who says responses are already coming from the United States, South Africa, United Kingdon, China and others, ‘this event in all ramifications will be an avenue to bring to our brothers and sisters in these countries to the awareness that there is a common bond that binds us together and this is culture. Our culture is our pride.’

On his part, secretary of the BVCB, Mr Ashamu Sewanu Fadipe, a former Permanent Secretary in the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism and Inter-Governmental Relations, it is what the Bureau had worked for all this while; the idea of taking Badagry tourism to the next level, which according to him, portends many positives for both the people and business community.

“I would like to point out first that the BCVB was originally established to focus on international conference management in and around Badagry, and to meet the needs of conference participants, visitors and destination operators alike, in addition to tour guide services.

“In line with this mandate and in the light of the recent developments in the form of the deep sea port and petroleum refinery lined up for the town, we on our part, have also lined up a host of programmes for next year 2017. These projects we believe are tailored to raising the profile of Badagry as a Meetings, Incentive, Conference and Events destination which is also a build-up to the ultimate goal of sensitizing the minds of the people and business community of what is coming ahead for them by way infrastructural development.

“We have the Igbo Art and Culture Festival,  an event planned for April 28 to 30, 2017 by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Badagry in collaboration with the bureau which is expected to feature Igbo cultural performances, visual art exhibitions, colloquium, workshop and many more from the Igbo community in the town,” he said.

Founded around 1425 AD, Badagry, populated by the Egun and the Awori majorly, has many things going for it; aside from the fact that it remains a serene and unspoilt natural town. It happens to be a very historic town with regards Nigeria’s journey to political independence from the British.

As a tourism hub, Badagry was a major slave trading port and market on the West African coastline. The town alone accounted for nearly one million slaves sold to the Newfound Lands in the Americas.

Today, Badagry, is a preferred destination for heritage tourism, with its historic sites, landscapes, cultural landmarks, and relic telling the Trans-Atlantic slave trade era. There are structures, sites, and memories of this iniquitous period for domestic and international tourists to see as proof of the inhumanity suffered by Africans; and those structures form the heritage tourism attraction Badagry has now become.

Badagry is also heritage tourism destination recognized by historians across the world, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as well as the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and others.

Notable Heritage sites in the town  include: The Badagry Heritage Museum, First Storey Building in Nigeria, Old Slave Market, where slaves were purchased, District Officer’s Residence and office, the Williams Seriki Abass barracoon, where purchased slaves are holed up awaiting shipment to the Americas, the Agia monument, the Mobee Royal Family original slave relics museum and the administrative office of the bureau located on Vlekete street which it shares with the old slave market and DO’s residence.

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