Monday, 4 November 2019


The 2019 National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST), has come and gone from October 19th to 26th in Benin City. It was the biggest Arts and Culture event in Nigeria, the Benin edition was the 32nd edition since inception but it was the first time NAFEST program was hosted in Edo State in the last 40 years. Interestingly, the festival coincided with the 3rd coronation anniversary of the Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpokpolo, the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II.

declaring NAFEST 2019 open

In preparation of the event, some of us who were accustomed to different parts of Benin City, noticed that the city was adorned with bright colours and landmark cultural artworks. The State Governor His Excellency Godwin Obaseki led top government dignitaries, artistes including:  Seventy-eight-year-old legendary musician - Professor Sir Victor Uwaifo; Nigerian pop star Innocent Idibia, aka 2Baba to the officially opening of the event for NAFEST 2019 on the 19th of October 27, 2019. Also there were displays performances by the Combatant team of the Nigerian Army Women Corp, Silent Drill Platoon and the Guard Brigade Band of the Army, the Nigerian Army Women Corps stole the show. About twenty-six states participated in this year’s opening parade, all the states that participated displayed their various traditional dances and in traditional attires. 

The Oba of Benin and the Governor of Edo State 

Governor Obaseki, in his opening address, described the hosting of NAFEST 40 years after it started as “a return to the home of culture” in the country. In his words: “Today, we are celebrating Edo State because, 40 years after this festival had been born, it is coming to the home of culture. He also noted that Edo State is not only the home of culture in Nigeria but the entire African continent. We are very happy because this festival is a source of unity for Nigeria. Culture is a means of uniting our people,”

Prof Victor Uwaifo and Otunba Runsewe

The Director General of National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, said the display of the rich culture of Nigeria at the opening ceremony of NAFEST was an indication that God loves Nigeria. Speaking further at the University of Benin Sports Complex, Ugbowo, Benin, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe said that National Council for Arts and Culture was determined to use empowerment programme to take teeming unemployed youths off the streets and make them productive members of the society. He said that this was part of the vision of the council to make culture a key player in the nation’s economic growth. He further explained that culture was capable of creating mass employment and empowering the people in line with the economic diversification policy of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. “It is in the light of this that we have expanded the scope of the festival to include skills acquisition programmes. “The essence of this is to train youths, women, the physically challenged and other vulnerable members of the society in various skills in arts and crafts. He described NAFESTE as “The platform for talent hunt, identifying, nurturing and training of young Nigerians who have exhibited unique expertise in various areas in our competitive events,”
Otunba Segun Runsuwe glad in his Oba's Coronation outfit 

The State Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Osemwengie Ero, in his welcome address, promised that the festival would provide further cultural integration among the states of the federation, and it sure did.
Oba Akenzua Cultural Center

Several sites were selected for the event based on their historic as well as captivating importance, they included the Oba Akenzua Cultural Center, Igun Street, the University of Benin Sports Complex, Oba’s Palace and Benin Golf Club. 

Oba of Benin playing golf at the Benin Golf Club

At the Benin Golf Club, His Royal Majesty Oba Ewuare II, Oba of Benin, the Director General of National Council for Arts and Culture Otunba Runsewe and other dignitaries were seen playing the Royal Golf Tourney.
the crowd 
The people of Benin City came out en-mass to contribute to the successful hosting of the event, very friendly with almost everybody we met at the event and outside in the town.

Dr Raphael James at the National Museum 

As the explorer that I am, I could not stay in place as I criss-crossed round Benin, I visited areas like: Five Junction, Urubi, Iyaro,  Akpakpava Road, Ring Road, Ogba Zoo, the National Museum and even sneaked to Sapele in Delta State.

Dr. Lizi Ben Iheanocho with the the Amayanabo of Mbanmiri and his Queen

From my observation, I may want to put the capacity of crowd for the 6 days program to an estimated 30,000 visitors, cutting across tourists and guests from different parts of Nigeria and neighbouring countries. The list of guests are commendable, I may not know all that attended but I was able to pick up some few faces like: His Excellency, The Vice President of Nigeria Prof Yemi Osibanjo, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, Deputy Governor of Edo state, The wife of the Enugu Governor, Hon Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Diaspora Affairs of Edo State - Hon. Osaze Osemwengie-Ero, Prof the legendary musician Victor Uwaifo, Innocent Idibia, aka 2face, Amb Lancelot, Princess Patricia Eweka of the Benin Royal House, the Amayanabo of Mbanmiri and his Queen.

Town hall meeting with the Vice President 

The vice president and other dignitaries reacts at the Town Hall meeting 

Vice President enjoying the hospitality of NAFEST 2019 

The event covered different cultural activities showcasing and celebrating Nigeria’s rich and diverse culture as a united people, including: Children's Essay Writing Competition, which focused on "Five Reasons why I'm proud of my Royalty" 17 States participated in it. There was the Children's Crafts Competition, Celebration of Royal Splendor, and Poetry in our local tongues. Also there were competitive and non-competitive events like Culture Quiz Competition for Secondary Schools, Indigenous Fabrics in Royal Apparel Competition, Free Skills Acquisition, Drama Competition on the theme ‘Our Royalty, Our Pride’. There was a traditional wrestling competition.

Dr. Lizi Ben Iheanacho cross checking the traditional dishes 

skill training 

Dress making, as part of the skill training  

traditional wrestling 

The non-competitive events were the Stakeholders Roundtable on Entrepreneurship of which my 14 years old son was one of the Resources persons. He spoke on “Photography – Hobby to a Profession”. The young man walked up on stage with so much confidence, opened his presentation with a musical rendition by Ed Sheeran, titled ‘Photograph’ in which he sang the lyrics and played his guitar alongside. His presentation which was on slide for easy comprehension lasted for about 30 minutes, as he talked, he demonstrated with his camera. His presentation started with the definition of Photography, which he described as “as the art, application and practice of creating durable images with a camera”. He told his audience that  “there is no photography without a camera”. Then he defined a camera, using the Oxford English Dictionary definition that, “a camera is a device that produce an image on film, paper, or another medium”. He went on to tell the crowd how in about 2, 300 years ago Aristotle wrote about the camera obscura, as being a device that produced only light without image, and how  in 1827, Joseph Niépce modified the camera to be able to produce a photographic plate, making him the inventor of the first camera to produce an actual photo. He also informed them how Niepce had refused to disclose the process he was using to produce images and how in 1829, that is about 190 years ago, he went into partnership with Louis Mandé and they made the first commercial camera. The crowd was amazed when he displayed a sample of Niepce vintage camera which is dated 1892, about 127 years old. He also explained the difference between Niepce 1892 camera and Mr. Russell of the USA 1957 first digital camera. The young photographer also had some of his works on display at the venue
Ikemsinachukwu got a handshake from the DG Otunba Runsewe

Ikemsinachukwu Jordan James got a standing ovation after his talk, in fact in the words of Dr. Elizabeth Ben Iheanacho – The Director of Research and Documentation of National Council for Arts and Culture, she described him thus: “A young boy who clicking his way into national and world reckoning. Dubbed "The Youngest Professional Photographer" by the highland influential Guardian Newspaper, Ikemsinachukwu Jordan James was one of the three resources persons at the NAFEST 2019 Roundtable on Entrepreneurship. The young boy challenged his peers to find a hobby they can honestly turn into a skill and turn into a profession like he's doing while getting on with education, living life and making money as he smiles. His performance so thrilled and wowed his audience that the Director General of NCAC pronounced him the official photographer of INAC 2019. INAC is the International Arts and Crafts Expo, a major platform for networking Nigerian crafts to the world. It attracts participation from all foreign embassies in Nigeria”. Ikemsinachukwu received the “Outstanding Young Entrepreneur Award at the Closing Ceremony of NAFEST 2019 on Saturday, 26th October, 2019. “

Dr Lizi Ben Iheanacho with the young Ikemsinachukwu after his presentation

There was a woman who was referred to as mama akara. Madam Robinson told us her story in order to encourage other women and young ladies, she has been frying akara for years and use it to train her children through higher institutions all the way from Kano to Benin. She explained thus "From Kano, we come return to Benin. Ehn no easy at all. I first try sell rice but I come see say na akara I fit do well. I come change, get my things ready, I will wake up wash mortar very well and boil oil well, well because different oil dey but na good ones I dey use. I mean red oil. Some people dey run for fire but if you get money, make you use gas instead way you go try to go cross desert and die for there."
Madam Robinson frying her akara at the venue, courtesy of Otumba Runsewe who asked her to fry
 for everybody who cares to eat and he will pay 

There was also Ambassador Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, the director and producer, known for ABCs of Death 2, Home in Exile, Invasion 1897 and Isakaaba 1-4. His presentation was most captivating and straight from the heart.
Ambassador Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen with Ikemsinachukwu

There were free medical screening such as eye screening, body massage index, blood sugar test and more.

I noticed that the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) were fully represented at the NAFEST with art exhibition, conference, talk shop, paper presentation, cultural carnival, and workshop.  The Art Exhibition themed was ‘Multidisciplinary Approach to the Issue of Societal Egalitarianism’ and it was held at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Benin, Benin City, and the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre. The Edo state children contingent performed a stage dance drama where they showcased cultural and historical values of the Oba of Benin. NAFEST brought out the best of Arts and Culture and these were displayed through dozens of means including: paintings, sculptures, graphics, ceramics, prints, digital art, photography, metal design, textiles, drawings, mixed media and installations, culinary celebration among others. Even the Food Court and Live Band Stand areas displayed our culture with lots of traditional Cuisines and music of years to year. The Vice president of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo took advantage of NAFEST and held a Town hall meeting and interface with the artists and creative sector, including market women. He encouraged the audience to use culture to empower people and also to grow the state economy among other issue on development.
Benin royalty on display female

Benin Royalty on display make 

Ambassador Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen decorates Mr. Soni Irabor

Otunba Segun Runsewe, the tourism giant  

On the 21st I had walked into the auditorium of Oba Akenzua 11 Cultural Center and behold I witnessed a drama “The fall of Nekighidi a Benin historical drama by Osa Earliece” I was impressed with what I saw on stage.

A play in action at NAFEST 2019

The event came to an end in a colorful ceremony on the 26th of September. By all indications, it was obvious that the 2019 edition of the NAFEST, consolidate Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration’s reforms in boosting tourism through arts and culture, which is one of the six thematic pillars of his administration in Edo State.

Colourful display of beauties 

Rivers state team

River State was judged the overall winner of NAFEST 2019, the Ogun State Council of Arts and Culture won 4 awards in various categories as participant. Certificates of participation were presented to the participants of the 4 Days Skills Acquisitions Programme organised by NCAC at the Cultural Centre, this was done by Otunba Segun Runsewe - the Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC).

Ekiti state team with Dr Lizi Ben Iheanacho

I agree totally with the Director General of National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Segun Runsewe, that: “There is no reason for us to disagree on anything. The beauty of Nigeria is in her multi-ethnic and multi-culture society.” 
My humble self with the Tourism Giant Otunba Runsewe, the man with great tourism foresight 

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