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…Don’t lose your identity, Mexican envoy urges Nigerians
The saying that “man is a creature of culture.” reverberated in Abuja on February 9, as the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), in collaboration with the organisers of the 20th IBB Open Ladies Golf Championship, held a classic cultural night.
The cultural dimension given to this year’s tournament showcased the link between culture and the game of golf.
It began with the ambience, which was every bit Nigerian, coupled with the venue that was colourfully decorated in cultural highlights. In addition, all the things served at the event were local delicacies, including drinks, which were neatly labelled in local languages, namely, masa, kulikuli, yari, danbun, zobo, hawara, kunu and others.
A play performance by the NCAC troupe titled “Echoes of Culture,” also brought to the fore the essence of people’s way of life and the need to sustain one’s cultural identity.
To further add flavour to the event, a traditional wrestling contest was showcased. The customary use of a pair of scissors to cut the tape was jettisoned, as the director-general of NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, instead, launched the event by opening a calabash to unveil golf kits made with local fabrics.
According to the nation’s number one cultural ambassador, what took place was just the beginning of tweaking the narrative of adopting foreign trends when dealing with Africa.
He disclosed that an order for about 400 pieces of the unique golf kit had been placed in Lagos and advised golfers to key into the campaign of promoting African fabrics by using locally-made kits.
He noted that golf has become big business, which Nigeria must tap into.
“I have taken time to produce one of the best golf outfits in the history of the world and I gave it my own brand. It is called the ‘OSR golf brand.’ If all of us are waiting, we may have to wait until Jesus Christ comes. But the time is now.
“Golf is the best game ever in the world. If you go anywhere in the world, nobody will ask you if you play ludo, badminton, lawn tennis. They will ask you what your handicap is. Today, Nigeria and Mexico will have exchange of polo culturally to tell the story that we are prepared.”
Also, the Ambassador of Mexico to Nigeria, who was the special guest of honour, Gracia Moreno Elizando, applauded the cultural display and urged Nigerians not to allow African culture to be supplanted with foreign culture.
The ambassador told the story of Mexico: “Mexico was conquered by the Europeans and Mexico was in captivity for about 300 years. We struggled for independence and won it in 1810. After that we had to ask ourselves who we are and what defines us. How are we going to stand in the world before other countries? We had a costly revolution between 1910 and 1920.
“And we lost almost one million Mexicans. But after that, the answer was our history. It is our culture. It’s our pride that defines us as Mexicans.
“The only way you can stand with pride in this world is by keeping very proudly your own identity. And that does not happen just like that, it happens gradually, to be part of national project. And that project should be kept for the next generation.”
He said he looked forward to closer ties with Nigeria, pointing out that both countries had established diplomatic relationship 42 years ago.
The envoy’s wife and representatives of eight African countries also graced the cultural night.
Nigeria’s cultural renaissance
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s first minister for arts and culture and member, board of trustees of IBB Golf and Country Club, Major General IBM Haruna (rtd.) gave a brief history of the nation’s cultural renaissance, which, according to him, was triggered by the World Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977, otherwise called FESTAC ’77.
Haruna said the journey had problems of misconceptions on the part of those who never understood the motive and the future implications.
He said: “Forty years ago, this kind of performance and exhibition was a dream. A dream, which I did not start but I was privileged to be Nigeria’s commissioner then, now called minister for arts and culture.
“But 40 years ago, I headed the World Festival of Arts and Culture, which brought all black people all over the world to Lagos. In preparation for that big exhibition, I was fortunate to see the Ipi Ntombi dance from South Africa in London. When I invited the group to Nigeria, we thought we wanted to just give them a forum for Nigeria to see. When they arrived, we had a deluge of outcries for importing an art group to Lagos.
“Incidentally, they were in Zaria, Enugu. If we had not done that, people would not have understood the purpose of bringing art and culture, which was meant to portray civilization, in the sense that it goes beyond dancing.
“It was not easy for us because people thought we were bringing the culture of singing and dancing. And also because people thought Africa was a forest of Tarzan depicted by baboons and monkeys swinging from one branch of a tree to another.
“Many of us who ventured out, after the unfortunate slave trade, to other countries, got questioned. So, coming down the track of changing the perspective of black people was promoted by FESTAC 1977. People did not understand why we went into that adventure. We were lucky in the sense that God has bestowed on Nigeria the blessing to have the wherewithal to fund FESTAC in 1977.
“We are free today because we can use our adversity to bring about understanding and unity. That you cannot do if you live by the bias marketed to divide you. I am very pleased to see the harvest of what was planted 40 years ago for black people all over the world. We should hold our heads high that we have our identity.”
Commenting on the event, Lady Captain of the club, Mrs. Grace Ihonvbere, lauded the collaboration with NCAC, stressing that Nigeria’s culture would not be eroded.
“This event is one of its kinds. We have about 10 countries taking part in the IBB Golf Tournament. Over 60 international ladies’ partnership. This goes to tell you that when you give women things to do, they sure know how to do it,” she said.
The day set aside for culture at the ladies open golf tournament, which held February 8 to 11, featured Nigerian arts, cuisines, music and dance.