Sunday, June 5, 2016

tallest drum

Behold the world’s tallest drum
Thousands of guests last week converged on Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, for the maiden edition of the Nigerian Drums Festival, organised by the government. Dressed in colourful attires, the guests defied the scorching sun to witness the unveiling of a 16-foot tall Isokan (unity) drum, the world’s tallest traditional drum. The venue was the June 12 Cultural Centre in Kuto, Abeokuta. Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports.
The phenomenal role of the drum in the socio-cultural life of Africans took the centre stage last Tuesday at Abeokuta, with no fewer than 12 individual and state troupes drawn from Ogun and Kano states performing at the first Nigerian Drum Festival. Apart from the entertainment value, the four-day  festival, which ran from April 19 to 22, brought to the fore the critical role of drum as a communication tool as well as the need to revive the act of drumming among Nigerians.
The message on the need to revive a dying culture was not lost in the drumming performances as each speaker emphasised the significance and relevance of the drum to the socio-cultural life of every African. Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed summed it up saying that the drum festival initiative was laudable and should be encouraged and supported by all.  He urged every state to design a cultural product to boost tourism, create jobs and generate revenue.
“The drum signifies a lot to every community. I see this festival going places,” he added.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State who unveiled the two drums, Isokan and Saatogaa described the festival as a cultural reawakening to connect to our roots, as well as a platform to glorify that which connects us as Africans. He said the festival is also an opportunity to learn more about dance steps of the people, describing Ogun as a cultural haven.
Governor Amosun declared that from today, ‘we will not just call it the Nigeria Drums Festival, but the Africa Drum Festival’ adding that drums are the sensual parts of the African race and our day to day experiences as Africans and are measured on improvement of ourselves and drums. “In fact, drums have been in existence since time immemorial as they all perform different purposes,” he said.
He stated that apart from the entertainment value, drums are also part of our spiritual health and it is therefore not wrong to say that drums are drawing a similar part in our culture. “Beating the drum is a matter of awakening us to our rich cultural heritage; that is all what the festival is all about. If there is anything to take away from the festival, it is the need for cultural re-awakening in various states, genuine social economic and political development. The festival was indeed the first of its kind and the government used it as an opportunity to announce that Ogun state is a cultural and tourism ground. Tourists should not just to pass through the state, but allow the state to pass through you as you will not regret doing that,” he added.
Ogun State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism Mr. Muyiwa Oladipo said culture and tourism make invaluable contributions to the economic, social and environmental well-being of a society and its people, adding that in Nigeria, this sector is unique in its commercial and cultural significance and has the potential to contribute to every state’s economy while enabling Nigerians to explore their heritage and celebrate their cultural diversity.
He said the 16ft tall drum has a symbolic relevance to Ogun and the IFA heritage and that with the numerous heritage sites and festival, Ogun should qualify as cultural capital of Nigeria. He noted that ‘our culture is dying and the festival is part of efforts at reviving it. Drum is universal to all mankind and as such it is central.’
The opening of the four-day event attracted frontline custodians of culture and traditions such as His Imperial Majesty Adeyeye Babatunde Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the Ooni of Ife and Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo Okukenu IV, the Alake of Egbaland, Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, the paramount ruler of Yewaland.   Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed represented by Executive Secretary of National Institute for Cultural Orientation Dr. Barclays Ayakorama, Director General National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) Mrs Dayo Keshi, Director General Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Mrs Sally Mbanefo and CEO of La Campagne Tropicana Mr. Wale Akinboboye  among others.
Also at the event were Aambassadors of six African countries to Nigeria ­— Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal and Zambia.
His Imperial Majesty, Adeyeye Babatunde Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the Ooni of Ife, stressed the critical role of heritage in governance dating back to pre-colonial Nigeria, noting that before the amalgamation of Nigeria there has been governance, which was driven by heritage and tradition. He said there is a strong binding force- drum, which is common to all Africans as well as the dress culture. The Nigerian Drums Festival, he said, is a strong binding force and ‘we should not joke with it. This will reflect in the nation and continent as witnessed by the presence of African ambassadors at the festival.’
“We should work on harmonising our resources to help promote our cultural heritage. This is what we own and must be proud of it. I am proud that we are rejuvenating our heritage and culture. This is a good starting point,” he added.
Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo Okukenu IV, the Alake of Egbaland said since the 1977 FESTAC, Nigeria has not gone back to its roots but that with the Nigerian Drums Festival, ‘we are back to what we should have done.’ He noted that oil is gone and Nigeria must use what it has to get what it needs. “Ogun you have set the pace for others. Let us learn the culture of our neighbours,” Alake said.
Oba Olugbenle, the paramount ruler of Yewaland, said the festival would usher in blessings and turn-round in the state economy. He stated that ‘our heritage remains our roots and we will not go back to Egypt.’
Director General NCAC Mrs Dayo Keshi said there is an increasing recognition of the enormous potentials of festivals such as Nigerian Drums Festival in stimulating economic growth. She stated that festivals also present one of the best ways to integrate and generate economic growth right from the grassroots which has the custody of our heritage to state, national and international levels.
“Every state in Nigeria has cultural products around which cultural industries could be built in such a way that it becomes a win-win situation for income generation from grassroots in a bottom up creation of wealth. In furthering the economic growth of Nigeria creative industries, I wish to recommend that each state should establish an arts and craft village in its capital which pulls cultural products from all their local governments. These would serve as a cultural and commercial hub which would stimulate growth of rural economy and wealth generation from bottom up,” she said.
According to her, to further promote and expand on the economic gains from the sector, the private sector supported by government should give a serious consideration to the establishment of art malls where the best of works drawn from all states are sold.
The evening was not all about long speeches as troupes from Ogun and Kano states as well as solo and individual cultural groups thrilled the guests to scintillating drumming. They included the late Hubert Ogunde Troupe, ARA dance troupe, Unique Fingers, Olo Bata group, Palm-wine Kegite  Club(Ilya Olumo), and Oluweri, which featured a 84 year-old woman dancer. Others were Bata Egba, Zealous, a hip-hop two-man group, Ogodo Egba and T-Raper, a 10-year-old boy.
The evening performances got to a crescendo when the late Hubert Ogunde Troupe mounted the stage. In unison, the audience joined the troupe in rendering the popular yet controversial song entitled Yoruba Ronu, a clarion call on the need for Yoruba to evaluate its position in national development. To the audience, the presentation was a refreshing outing with lots of nostalgic feelings. All through the duration of the festival, it was drumming extravaganza as different troupes took turn to perform every evening.
The festival would have been more grandious but for the challenge of funding. It was learnt that about 15 states cultural troupes confirmed their participation but couldn’t make it due to lack of funding, including neighbours like Oyo and Lagos states.
The maiden edition of the Nigerian Drums Festival could not have come at a better time than now when Nigeria is seriously in dire need of alternative sources of income apart from oil. If well packaged, the festival is capable of generating revenues for the state and the country at large. But to achieve these, the organisers must start planning for next year’s edition today by creating specific committees and setting targets for them. The marketing of the festival as a cultural product must be done aggressively in order to reach wider audience and corporate sponsors.
Branding rights should be granted to local artists who can produce gift items, souvenirs, t-shirts, and other unique crafts that bear the logo of the festival. This is one way of making the locals feel a sense of belonging and ownership of the cultural product and consequently protect it. The organisers should also  keep records of visitors and guests to the festival. This will be useful for planning and marketing strategy when sponsors are being approached.
Isokan: Tribute to Africa
The drum was conceptualised and produced by Femi Coker of Femi Art Warehouse. It is designed on the concept that the family is the most important unit of the community and the society as a whole. Historically, man was created to be provider and head of the family, while the woman’s role is to be his help-meet and manager of the home. The children are the fruits and reward of their union. Isokan drum is very symbolic of this aspect of our history and it is a tribute to this heritage.
‘It is a representation of the nuclear family that expands to becoming the extended family. The concord, affection, peace and love that exist in the family are shared and extended to members of the community.
The tallest drum stands at 16 ft tall, and number 16 is a significant number to the Yoruba race. IFA, a popular traditional religion in Yorubaland typifies 16 Odu (corpus). Also, in Ijebu part of Ogun State, the notable deity Agemo, is typified by the number 16 (Alagemo merindinlogun) hence the world’s tallest traditional drum is significantly measured at 16ft.
Isokan drum is made of hard wood and sealed at the top end with deer’s skin. Constructed around its long solid body/frame are carved reliefs of various cultural and historical representations and interpretations. The performance on Isokan drum represents three slit-dancers in a ceremonial and celebratory dance and the folklorist who chants the cognomen of the monumental drums.  This is a tribute to the true history of the African continent, the irrepressible spirit of Africa and the immense contributions of the people of African ancestry to global trends, innovations and civilisation.”
Saatogaa: Africa’s Commemorative drum
Saatogaa, a re-adaptation of the Saato drum is conceived and designed by Abiodun Fagbire. It is common to the Egun speaking people in Ogun, Lagos and Benin Republic.
It is constructed from Apaa wood found in Dagbewe forest in Benin Republic.  It took the artist two months to complete the construction which was done at Isembaye Gallery of Drums, Iju-Ota, Ogun State.
The drum is designed to look like the Igunnuko masquarader of the Tapa Community in Ogun.
Among the illustrations on the drum are Ori Olokun, Queen Idia head (Iyoba of Benin, mother of Oba Esigie), Nigerian Drums Festival logo and theme and Olumo rock.

drum fest

Mbanefo lauds Drums Festival initiative
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Assistant Editor Arts
DIRECTOR General Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs Sally Mbanefo has described the Nigerian Drums Festival as a big boost for tourism in Ogun State and Nigeria as a whole.
Mbanefo said the Yoruba has a lot to showcase to the world in terms of cultural heritage and tourist destinations both natural and man-made.
She spoke at the opening of the Nigerian Drums Festival last week organised by the Ogun State government and held at June 12 Cultural Centre, Abeokuta.
She said: “Africa has come to standstill today because of Ogun State. The state is the centre of action with this well-packaged event. The Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Eniitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, came with many African Ambassadors to this event. That shows the importance of Yoruba heritage and culture in Nigeria.
“Most of the African Ambassadors are here today because of tourism. All the Ambassadors have come here to support the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, the people of Ogun and the Egbaland in particular. We want to unify from within: the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba and African countries at large.
“The success of the Drums Festival 2016 is a clear indication that if cultural tourism is well-developed and promoted in Nigeria, we will have labyrinth of tourists’ footfalls, which will greatly boost the nation’s economy, create huge employment and empowerment in the communities where the tourist sites and cultural festivals are located. It will interest you that the crowd-pulling carnivals in Nigeria are so much that you cannot finish writing about them.
The NTDC boss, however, decried the adverse effects of  civilisation on the culture and heritage of the Nigerian people, saying “civilisation has made us forget our culture and heritage. We must know that a country that forgets its culture and heritage has lost its essence. Thus, we need to appreciate and be proud of our culture and heritage and give good attention to the promotion of our cultural heritage.
“I made the traditional rulers my first point of call wherever I go because they are the rightful custodians of our culture and heritage. To practically promote our cultural heritage, we must work together with the traditional rulers.”
Describing the importance of drums, Mrs Mbanefo said drumming is a good form of communication and a fantastic means of entertainment.
“We are happy to be here today. We are here to celebrate the unity of the Nigerian people,” she added.

culture summit

Repositioning culture, tourism for a new order
A three-day summit on repositioning culture and tourism in a diversified economy has been held in Abuja. Governors and other top government officials, members of the academia, captains of commerce and players in the creative industry gathered at the event to chart the way forward, Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports.
The Culture and Tourism sector is a big industry; it cuts across many sectors, such as agriculture, business, transportation, health, sports, aviation, information, technology, architecture, etc. It is arguably the biggest means of economic growth. Nigeria cannot afford to fold her hands, ignore the culture and tourism sector while other nations are reaping the immense socio-economic benefits derivable from this global vibrant sector.
“Consistency and continuity in government policies at all levels are non-negotiable to develop the sector. To this end, Nigeria should muster the political will to accord the sector preferred status to effectively develop it.”
These were part of the resolutions reached at the close of a three-day national summit on culture and tourism in Abuja last week.
In a 34-point communiqué, the summit recommended that to “create positive image for our national buildings, corporate offices and edifices, there is need to adorn them with Nigerian artworks. The interior and exterior decorations (of private and public corporate) offices of our political leaders, chief executives and Nigerian Embassies should make strong cultural statements. The Presidency should lead the way by ensuring that the furniture in the President’s office and others are designed by our master carvers’’.
It also recommended that action must be taken to make the reviewed National Policy on Culture, Tourism Master Plan, Tourism Development of Fund (TDF) and the National Endowment Fund for the Arts functional for effective development of the sector. Also on the list is the call for the resuscitation of the Presidential Council on Tourism (PCT), chaired by Mr. President with all the State Governors as members. This, according to the statement, is to ginger accelerated development of culture and tourism. The lingering call for the transfer of Nigerian Copyright Commission to Ministry of Information and Culture was re-echoed at the summit for maximum efficiency.
The communiqué also recommended that Nigerian cultural icons, both living and dead, be celebrated to inspire the younger generations to strive for excellence. According to it, the change mantra of the Federal Government can only succeed if the sector provides the fulcrum to drive it. Community theatre projects, musical concerts and visual designs are very effective tools for reorientation from bottom-up.
Other issues raised include: Stakeholders need to imbibe the culture of research and documentation, so as to increase availability of RECORDS and statistical data on the sector to aid planning. The availability of empirical data enhances funding opportunities;
  • Government should engage stakeholders in concluding the nationwide Mapping of Creative Industries whose pilot was conducted by the British Council, NBS and SONTA in 2013. This is imperative because verifiable statistics on the performance of the sector will demonstrate clearly the viability of the industry and attract more investors.
  • The MOPICON and Theatre Arts Regulatory Council bills need to be harmonized into one bill, which government could present to the National Assembly for timely legislative action. This is in line with the need to urgently regulate the sector and maintain high ethical standards;
  • More stringent legislation need to be in place to protect national monuments from the growing cases of trafficking and willful destruction across the country. Measures should be put in place to protect the nation’s cultural sites during times of conflict by engendering communal ownership of such sites.
  • In view of difficulties encountered by prospective tourists, businessmen, conference participants, pilgrims, travelers in acquiring Nigerian visa, there is need for a more friendly visa regime.
  • In recognition of the strategic role of security to sustainable tourism development, effort must be re-doubled to provide the much-needed confidence for tourists and travelers visiting Nigeria.
  • The current name of the ministry does not properly portray Nigeria as a country where culture and tourism is at the front burner of development. The ministry should be renamed Federal Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism to adequately reflect its mandate.
In tandem with the present administration’s drive to diversify the nation’s economy, the communique recommended that museums and indigenous languages/cultural/crafts centres should be made part of requirements for building schools across the country in order to orientate our younger generations on our history and cultural values as part of their education. Also, a law should be promulgated to compel Local Government Councils to establish and maintain community museums and craft centres and fund at least one community festival yearly.
Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed described the summit as a thorough learning curve, which showed that there are many outside the ministry that can teach us about the sector. “It is really a market place of ideas,” he added. He said a smaller committee would be set up to harmonise all the issues raised at the summit with a view to come out with modalities on how to implement the policies.
Mohammed disclosed that beginning from last Saturday in Jos, an average listener and viewer will view 15 channels free to air with better resolution. This, he said, would take away the challenge of signal while producers of programmes would concentrate on content. He added that the ministry would soon organise a night to honour our heroes in the creative industry along with new talents.
The first day of the summit witnessed an exhibition and gala night, which featured a dance performance from the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN), entitled, Nigeriana, written and choreographed by Arnold Udoka. The summit had two plenary sessions, breakout sessions for the culture and tourism sub-sectors, and presentation of reports from the respective breakout sessions. Africa’s first Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, represented by Dr. Wale Adediran chaired the first plenary session.
In all, six papers were presented at the Summit, namely Culture in a Diversified Economy by Mr. Frank Aig-Imoukhuede, Tourism in a Diversified Economy by former Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke, Tourism in a Diversified Economy by President of Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN Chief Tomi Akingbogun, Culture in a Diversified Economy, by Prof. Sule Bello, Developing Data Bank in the Culture and Tourism Industry by National Bureau of Statistics and Private Sector Perspective of Nigerian Culture and Tourism by Bolanle Austen-Peters of Terra Kulture, Lagos.

young photographer

Young photographer with a mission
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Assistant Editor (Arts)

Emily Nkanga, 21, is one of the few young Nigerians with a strong passion to excel using photography as a launch pad. Nkanga, who studied TV and Film at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, Adamawa State capital, urged Nigerian youths to engage in meaningful enterprise instead of waiting for the elusive white collar jobs. She also tasked the youths to use the social media positively and make good money from it.
The young photographer, filmmaker and Chief Executive of Emily Nkanga Photography, said she drew much inspiration from everyday activities and fine art. Last year, she undertook the documentation of the plight of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the northeast.  She also initiated a concept titled: “Keep Hope Alive” – which gave back to the community a percentage of cost of her photographs sold.
But her recently published book entitled: The caged and the free spirited, revealed her story telling talent, using images to pass strong messages. The book, a product of her personal experiences in relationship, contains mainly photographs of a model and quotations that reflect two extreme sides- a soul in bondage and a freed one. But, it is also spiced with darkness, tears, pain, colourful ambience and smiles.
She said as a photographer her aim is to  to convey messages apart from knowing the technicalities of taking pictures. She said people should not just see images and scroll, but should be able to relate to them. “It wasn’t just enough to connect with people on a personal level I needed something that would actually connect to people. So, there was a time when I had a personal experience. This book was done from a personal experience,” she added.
She continued: “The book also reveals that lots of people go through challenges, but because they smile, one is tempted to believe such persons  and do not have deep stories to share.”
Speaking during a chat with The Nation in Lagos, she said choosing photography as a career is very challenging because you don’t want to repeat the same creative idea all over again. “If not, it will get boring and people will get tired of it. So, if you have about 10 clients, you need to create 10 different ideas for them. Interestingly, my major clients are in the music industry maybe because that is where I started off,” she said.
Though she wanted to be a cinematographer, she believed that a good photographer is capable of being a great cinematographer. So, instead of going into films, she chose to start with photography. According to her, when she eventually becomes a cinematographer, she would have great experience from photography.
Nkanga is not a stranger to the entertainment industry. At an early age, her mother introduced her to the church choir where she played the clarinet.
“I was actually in an orchestra. But it was more of an all-women gospel orchestra in a Redeemed Christian Church. It was mostly elderly women, but my mother drafted me in,” she recalled.
When asked what attracted her to movies or films, she said: “It is an art. Basically, my foundation is to tell stories. If you check most of my projects, there has to be a story. I can’t just say I am putting out images; there has to be a story behind it. So, for me it is just like storytelling and the ability to tell the stories is what inspires me towards filmmaking.”
Undaunted by the teething challenges of the Nollywood, Nkanga described Nollywood as a success story, although she agreed that it could be better. “In fact, Nollywood has improved. I watched some of the new age movies and I told myself that there is hope. In fact, hope is here. But, I think apart from proper technology, it also has to do with proper training. People feel they can go ahead with something without wanting to go the extra mile. But modern filmmakers know their onions and are seeking to improve,” she added.