By SOLA BALOGUN
For the first time ever, the yearly National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) otherwise known as Unity festival, opens in Ilorin, Kwara State capital on Tuesday, October 16 through 20. Already, Chief Edem Duke, Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation said in Abuja that this year’s edition would be a unique one, as it aims at harnessing cultural heritage for economic empowerment and job creation. He also disclosed that the festival is being targeted at raising raw talents particularly in the areas of indigenous sports and games, with the ultimate aim of exploring the fundamentals of peaceful existence among Nigerians.
Under the theme, Culture, Peace and Economic Empowerment, the festival, according to Duke, is being reorganized to drive the transformational agenda of the Federal Government. This, according to him, would facilitate job creation, talent hunt as well as empowerment of women and youths across the federation.
Duke also hinted that as a national event that is envisioned to raise entrepreneurs in diverse areas of creativity, NAFEST 2012 shall showcase Nigeria’s diverse culture and heritage in many colours, with all states, the FCT Abuja, individuals, corporate organizations and stakeholders assembling to celebrate the country’s endowments
As the giant of Africa, Nigeria will use the festival to celebrate its treasures, and the richness of its diversity. It shall also promote community understanding and tolerance through various competitive and non-competitive events. Using diverse events such as arts and crafts exhibition, traditional moonlight games, dance drama, children drawing and painting competition, food fair and traditional wrestling, NAFEST is expected to promote peace, love and national identity.
According to Duke, part of the dream of the festival is to reduce social vices among youths, aside using creativity to exchange ideas and to celebrate African culture.
While calling on all stakeholders to participate at the festival, Duke also allayed fears on security challenges, saying “ We need to focus our attention on traditional sports by throwing up competitions such as traditional wrestling. We also need to embark on talent hunt early enough…all committed stakeholders are welcome to the festival. There is no plan or reason to shut out any organization or stakeholder from NAFEST. We expect stakeholders to be more active and committed. They need to disclose their areas of interest in order to pave way for partnerships and collaborations with the ministry and its parastatals.
Also, Mr M. M Maidugu, Director General of the National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC) explained that this year’s festival would offer the best opportunity for participants to market their creative works, particularly in the craft industry. He reminded that the events of the festival have been carefully selected to showcase and celebrate what Nigerians are capable of producing in the arts and culture sector.
Maidugu said that the wrestling competition was strategically targeted at the intermediate category, with a mission to raising new and dedicated talents who can compete with their counterparts around the globe and win laurels for the country.