Reputed for being one community in Nigeria with the presence of people from virtually all the continents of the world, Banana Island residents, through their annual cultural festival, celebrate the rich cultural diversity of the island. Peace Obi reports
In recent times, the interconnectivity of the world through technology has become so pronounced, that it has become a common expression to refer to the world as a global village. The internet precisely has become one invention that has not only helped machine to machine communication but more importantly, it has bridged the gap and barriers to smooth and timely communication among people.
Just as technology, nay internet becomes a connecting force linking man to his immediate environment as well as to distant lands, culture has emerged to be a strong cord that binds the residents of Banana Island together. And gradually, the island is rising in fame as one island where diversity is explored, appreciated and celebrated. To enjoy the flavour of the diverse culture found on the island, the residents every October 1st converge at the community centre to celebrate and savour diversity.
Remarkable for its landscape, tight security, waveless serenity and its aesthetic appeal, Banana Island welcomes its visitors with an aura of opulence and grandeur. Banana Island equally enjoins the reputation of an island that houses the rich and highly placed individuals from around the world.
According to the cultural festival organisers, the island can pride itself as one island housing people from virtually all the seven continents of the world. Thus, if described as a global village, it may seem to be a better way to portray the island. Serving as residence to many busy executives, expatriates, and professionals in different fields, now makes it home for different culture, different tradition, different language and ethnicity. Considering the Island’s unique demographic characteristics, one would have thought that the people would be divided along their colour, culture, language and even ethnicity. But the opposite is the case.
In this beautiful island, the same factor that divides nations and tear people apart stands as a unifying factor for the people. To strengthen this unique feature, is an annual event, tagged ‘Banana Island Cultural Festival’. The cultural festival according the organisers, is a celebration of the diverse nature of the Banana community. Designed and tailored to serve as a community get-together event, it had turned out to be a cherished and pleasurable occasion, where residents come together as one community, celebrating diversity. The fun-filled occasion, usually has on display traditional foods, drinks, attires, dance, music and cultural exhibitions of historical artifacts by the different nationalities represented in the Banana Island community. With sense of community, people moving from one country’s band to another taste and eat different delicacies on display by these countries, exchanging pleasantries and jokes.
The test of the pudding, they say is in the eating, the Banana Island Cultural Festival which had its maiden edition in 2014 has turned out to be an annual event, residents and their visitors earnestly look towards every October. Describing Banana Island as a unique community that stands out with so many interesting features among various islands in the world, the General Manager, Banana Island Property Owners and Residents Association, Lagos (BIPORAL), Mrs. Ebi Bankole, said that various countries of the world are represented on the island. “Here, we have people from all over the world, representing practically all the continents, and in a large number. Today’s event is meant to be a get-together of the Banana Island community where they showcase their culture, dance, food, artifacts and generally have good time.”
According to Bankole, since the inception of the cultural festival in 2014, residents’ participation has remained quite impressive despite their busy schedule. The General Manager noted that the community’s cooperation has been a major source of inspiration and encouragement to the Executives of BIPORAL in organising the festival for the past three years. “Today, we have 16 countries that have taken up stand to display their culture.
Although, the number of countries represented in the community is far more than that, but this is the number that have signed up to take up a stand in today’s event.” Stressing that residents’ massive turn up at the maiden event spurred the executives of BIROAL in making the cultural festival an annual event, Bankole said, “The first and second editions were very successful. We had about 2,000 people in attendance in each. For the 2016 edition, with the publicity we have done and all the hard work we have put into it, we are also expecting about 2,000 people.”
Disclosing that BICF is an innovative event that the BIPORAL members are enthusiastic about, Bankole hinted that it has equally attracted both local and multinational companies. “What happens is that each country displays food, for people to sample. And we have partners/sponsors who work with us to provide the funds for the food, the rentals, the printing and other logistics, you can see them, they are well represented here.” And on the list of the sponsors for the 2016 edition are such big brands likes of Multichoice Nigeria, Arik Airline, Airtel Nigeria, Coca Cola Bottling Company, Nigerian Breweries, Leadway Assurance Company Limited, Joe Faraday, among others.
For every country that signed up to be officially recognised at the event, space was allocated to it. In a silent ‘competition’, the representatives of the various countries decorated the allotted space to their own taste, symbolising their identity, with their flags conspicuously placed. And excitedly, these communities freely shared their food, discussed their culture with some enthusiasts and dance to the rhythm that fills the air. And for a country like Azerbaijan, Banana Island Cultural Festival makes a lot of sense. According to the country’s representative, Ms. Billura Bayramova, the festival paints a picture of an accommodating country, that values good relationship and cares for its visitors in many ways. “It gives a good imagination of Nigeria. It is something fantastic for people in this Island to set aside one day just to celebrate their culture, share food, music and network.”
For Bayramova who is also the Vice President, Lagos Francophone, an organisation of French people in Lagos, the cultural festival among others gives participants the opportunity to know more about other countries and their people. “Just like some people may not know much about Azerbaijan, some do not know other countries’ food other than theirs. For me, it is all-friends day in Banana Island where people are happy, and I am very happy representing my country in this important occasion,” she said.
Busy serving Japanese guests with one of the country’s cuisines, Mr. Hisashi Fujii who told THISDAY that part of the Japanese community’s commitment to make their guests have a memorable 2016 cultural festival, the community chose one of their best staples for the occasion. According to him, Tonkotsu Ramen, wheat-based noodles was chosen along with snacks and drinks for the occasion. Served in soup, garnished with vegetable, guests savoured the hot and steamy meal. Allowing the spirit of diversity in its hospitality, the Japanese community provided fork for those who could not use their chopsticks in eating the meal.
Sharing his thought about the festival with THISDAY, Fugii said, “We like this opportunity, it has an international atmosphere, and we want to offer our trendy food to our guests.”
Stating that the festival will further strengthen the relationships individuals had built adding that it also offers one the opportunity to meet new friends and do some kind of networking, “Already, I know many of the residents but it is nice to eat and see different people, different culture, fashion, and their drinks. In fact, we are very satisfied.
I have eaten and enjoyed different foods today, like from Poland, Indonesia, South Africa, and France. The foods taste different from one another.” Expressing his love for the festival, Fujii praised the BICF organisers’ saying that it he looks forward to participating in the 2017 edition. He urged participants to enjoy their time out at the festival adding that, “Let us enjoy, have good collaboration and also enjoy life in Banana Island. It should continue every year, we like it,” Fujii said.
With her sonorous voice, Miss. Alexandra Levigne welcomes her guests. Excitedly, Levigne explains to Polish guests the different items they have on their menu, “I am Levigne Alexandra, I represent Poland today. I am excited to share my culture with you. You can taste whatever you want. We are open; we are friendly, so come around and have a wonderful time.”
Listing the menu, Levigne patiently explained the content of each meal and the preparation process to anxious guests willing to learn about the Polish culture. “We have here Barszcz, Kapusta, placek and Vodka.” And as it is usual for Polish lunch to end with a dessert, the Polish community equally had enough quantity of that for the guests.
The fun-filled event had different dance groups entertaining the crowd along with different cultural presentations from countries. Performing to the admiration of the crowd was Odidere Art of Africa performing its Drum Ensemble, Bata Dance from Oyo State. Others include Poco Poco dance from Indonesia, Signgkil dance from Philppines, South African dance, Dance from Azerbaijan. However, a resounding applause greeted nine-year-old Miss Manasvi Singh’s performance of Indian dance.