A Stampede of Arts at Anambra Homecoming Festival

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Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Indigenous Artworks, Culture and Tourism, Dr. Sally Mbenefo, flanked during the opening ceremony of the Anambra Homecoming Festival

Omolola Itayemi

Like never seen before, Anambra was lit for four days in December when ‘Ndi Anambra’ were treated to a rich bouquet of visual, poetry, musical and theatrical performances.

Organised by the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, Indigenous Artworks, Culture and Tourism, the maiden edition of “Anambra Homecoming Festival: Celebrating Friends of Anambra and homecoming of the Diaspora” in Awka got off to soul-lifting music with the Anambra Christmas Carol of Nine Lessons at the Hollywood Garden and Event Centre, near Government House, Awka.

‘Youth’ was the fair on display, underpinning the vast reserve of young talents in Anambra State.

On the second day, Governor Willie Obiano undertook the grand commissioning of the Mmilioma Anambra art exhibition- a permanent Art Exhibition centre under the Sally Mbanefo-led ministry.

On display were tasteful pieces of sculptures and paintings by master artist Chidi Okoye with the eye-catching “Mmilioma Anambra” sculpture showing a maiden pouring the water of life into a larger communal bowl.

Also, “Irunne”, a high relief composition of grandmother’s face with the strong presence of daughters leaning on the strength and integrity of motherhood has a cultural significance as Mbanefo explained.

“The treasure in living together joyfully entails that homecoming and keeping in touch with one’s roots is immense. Homelands are the bastions of a Diaspora’s strength.

“This makes experts in development economics advocate a healthy and harmonious regular interaction between homeland and Diaspora,” Mbanefo said.

She added: “Though the economic benefits of such regular interaction between home and abroad are often noticeable in the GDP and other indexes of the economy, the real treasure rests in the human capital.

“Anambra State’s wealth in human resource is not quantifiable. At home and in Diaspora, the state’s economic impact is hugely impressive. What feeds that huge economic growth is the rich homeland and Diaspora harmony.’’

Incidentally, Anambra is the only state in Nigeria with a ministry that attends to Diaspora matters. The launching of the epochal Anambra State Diapora Portal by Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa reflects Governor Obiano’s ‘Think Home Policy’.

The Anambra State Government collaborated with the United Nations to launch the Palm Wine Festival in the homecoming fiesta and expectedly, participants had their fill of the best of Anambra palm wine alongside some tasty cuisine.

The palm wine tasting festival is designed to educate, inspire and connect entrepreneurs, governments, captains of industries as well as nation builders to effectively understand Anambra’s pride of place in a connected world.

The festival was organised in partnership with the United Nations within the context of Sustainable Development Goal 17 (SDG 17). Aare-Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Otunba Gani Adams oversaw the ceremony.

The carnival was a steamroller just as the Mmanwu Festival which kicked off at the Ekwueme Square with “ancestral spirits” springing forth and dancing onto the highway. Titled Elders such as Chief Pete Edochie ensured that the uninitiated did not break the taboo of the masked spirits.

Over 40 artworks curated by Sir Chuka Nnabuife proved to be a parade of Ije group of young artists sharing the visual space with established artists such as Chuka Nnabuife, Chidi Okoye and Nkiru Ekemordi, witnessed by renowned art connoisseurs such as the Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Achebe.

Bob Manuel Udoku, leading actor turned politician introduced the young thespians behind the homecoming festival drama. A one-hour thrilling sketch drama, a theatrical adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart’’ was a refresher of sorts, especially for the symbolism in the characters of Okonkwo and Umuofia in the pre-colonial Nigeria.

Executed by a cast mostly undergraduates, the select literature is one of the most translated African novels, which was 60 years old in 2018.

The distinguished guests at the event include Otunba Gani Adams; Secretary to the State government Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu; Head of Service, John Harold Uduh; Permanent Secretary to the Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Indigenous Artworks, Culture and Tourism, Mr Tony Ezenwaka; Director of Programmes, Nigeria Diaspora Commission, Obienu Tobechukwu representing Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Adinuba.

The vision of Mbanefo in initiating the Anambra Homecoming Festival was more than met in this maiden edition. The motto of “Ka anyi luo uno” (let’s return home) reverberated all over Awka and indeed the entire state.

The third day revolved round the famed Owerre-Ezukala Cave and Waterfall while the Ikolo musical jam climaxed it all on the fourth day.

Mbabefo remarked that with the launch Diaspora portal, designed to promote Igbo culture especially the language, which many Igbo indigenes cannot speak these days, ‘it is a huge relief to see culture take its rightful place in our society.’