By Taiye Olayemi
Promoting African culture appears to be a herculean task in present day Nigeria, no thanks to modernisation and western influences after many decades of colonisation.
Many Africans, especially the elites, who often times place western culture above the time-treasured and unique African culture, poss great challenge to its promotion on African continent.
It is against this background that the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) has continued to champion the promotion of African culture by fulfilling its mandate of preserving, presenting and propagating the African culture in its entirety as well as restoring Africa’s rich cultural heritage.
Stepping up on its mandate, under the leadership of highly resourceful Oluwabunmi Amao, the Centre has engaged in the promotion of Pan-Africanism, creating a sense of brotherhood and collaboration among all people of African descent.
Also, the centre continues to hold conferences, seminars, and workshops that border on harnessing the creative talent of the African child and the renaissance of African culture through music, crafts, language, literature, folklore and all.
Arts and crafts exhibitions as well as exhibitions of the relics from the Festival for Arts and culture, held in 1977 were also contantly on exhibition at the centre to keep alive the spirit of FESTAC ’77 among Africans.
Going steps further, Amao built CBAAC Black and African Hall of Fame in Abuja, celebrating black personalities and professionals that have played prominent roles in the emancipation of Africa.
Among those in the CBAAC Hall of Fame are former African presidents during FESTAC ’77 like Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo; Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta, late Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Ahmed Sekou Toure of, Guinea.
Others curated were Jean Bedel Bokassa of, Central African Republic; Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe; Leopold Sedar Senghor, Senegal; Moktar Ould Daddah, Mauritania; Felix Malloum Bey-Ndi, Chad; and El Hadj Omar Bongo, Gabon.
Amao said the Hall of Fame is also to showcase the achievements of FESTAC ’77.
According to the CBAAG boss, artistes and non artistes from 59 countries who participated in the international festival are showcased in the Hall of Fame.
The CBAAG boss said that the Hall of Fame is a deliberate effort to preserve the historical legacy of FESTAC ’77 for present and future generations of African children.
She encourages Nigerian and African tourists to visit the Hall of Fame located on the third floor of the Office of Head of Service at Federal Secretariat, Abuja for knowledge acquisition and education.
Under her watch, CBAAC also commemorated the 45th anniversary of FESTAC ’77 with a cultural potpourri held at Abuja Transcorp Hilton in December 2023.
Amidst glitz and glamour, there were displays of African cuisines, arts, crafts, musical rendition from different African countries, colloquium and awards during the well-attended Gala Night.
The event spurred some nostalgic reactions when relics and memories of FESTAC ’77 was brought to the fore through documentary presentations of various cultural displays exhibited during FESTAC 46 years ago.
The initial documentaries were juxtaposed with a series of performances yet again by various states and delegates from other countries.
Suffice to say that the entire performance revealed how culture had evolved over the years and the enormous potential yet untapped for economic benefits.
Countries in scintillating African dance styles and songs were seen in colourful display of various aspects of African culture, arts, crafts and all.
At the gala night, Zimbabweans exhibited an important aspect of their historical cultural lifestyle in acrobatic movement with rhythmic claps and drummings.
Ditto for Ugandans who, in classic appearance, made synchronised movement of their indigenous dances in their presentation relaying stories in captivating manner.
Our neighbouring Togolese danced in their Rafia costumes and beaded legs, while the Sudanese performance revealed their nomadic lifestyle usually displayed during joyous occasions.
South Africans indlamu dance expressed their cultural regalia and the Somalians, in dramatic expressions, tell stories of their exploits and travails as a nation.
Other countries whose documentaries were exhibited were Libya, Mozambique, Cuba, Cote d’Ivoire and many more.
The event had Indians display various fabrics peculiar to different regions of the country.
African fashion and hairdo across different countries were also on display.
Present at the gala night were former Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who commended Amao’s efforts at championing cultural promotion in the country.
Mohammed described Amao as a leader with deep love and sense of responsibility for arts, culture and heritage.
He said FESTAC”77 served as a sanctuary for the unification of the Black people across the world because the historical festival recorded a series of positive narratives.
According to him, the festival inspired many to go back to their countries of residence and preach the messages of bravery and freedom.
No fewer than 21 traditional rulers and members of the diplomatic community were conferred with awards of excellence in appreciation of their remarkable contributions to cultural promotion and propagation.
Among the traditional rulers honoured are: Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; Olugbo of Ugbo Kingdom, Oba Frederick Akinruntan; the Dein of Agbor Kingdom, Benjamin Ikenchukwu I; Olubadan of Ibadan, Senator Moshood Balogun; Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar; Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe; Emir of Zazzau, Ahmed Bamalli and the Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare II.
Others are: Oba Olusola Alao, the Olugbon of Orile-Igbon; Goge Africa; Zainab Ahmed, former Minster of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Mrs Omotayo Omotosho, a tourism consultant and Geoffrey Onyeama, former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Awardees from the diplomatic community include: Clara Culido-Escandel, the Cuban Ambassador to Nigeria, and Dr Yanko Yordanov, the Bulgarian Ambassador to Nigeria.
Also, recipients from the creative industry are: Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye, Founder, Nike Arts Gallery; Aralola Olumuyiwa, Cultural Ambassador to Ife Kingdom, and Nollywood Actor, Ramsey Nouah.