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“2009 Abuja Carnival will return as the people’s event”

By McPhilips Nwachukwu
Hopefully, the  2009 Abuja Carnival will  witness a re-birth going by the number of reform changes, which the newly inaugurated committee led by notable theatre artist, dance scholar and choreographer, Ojo Rasaki Bakare revealed to art and tourism journalists over the week end in Lagos.

At the break fast meeting held in his room, 206 at Excellence Hotel, Ogba, the University of Abuja multi art scholar admitted before the inquiring journalists that the Abuja Carnival since inception has not lived to the biddings of its founding visions, and therefore argued that some factors accounted for the non performance.

Abuja Carnival
Abuja Carnival

According to him, the previous organizers of the carnival failed to run the festival as a cultural cum tourism product. He reasoned that there are carnival parameters, which if properly employed, would have opened up the economic potentials locked in the carnival project.

In his opinion, the only effort made at realizing the primary vision of carnival in the tradition of carnival festivals as done in other parts of the world was in 2006, during the tenure of Runsewe as Artistic Director. During this period, he noted, the carnival was taken to the people as there was a street walk through some Garki villages in Abuja town.

But sadly after that year, “the carnival is taken away from the people. And what we have had since after that year is artists performing for other artists in a closet.” He said.

The failure of not leaving the carnival among the people, Bakare argued, is a major failing and draw back to the whole exercise. Carnival, he said is “a street party. It has to do with color and ramattaz. It is the commitment of this team to take the festival back to the street. We have marked out the movement chart, through which the carnival party will navigate the city.

We are speaking with Road Safety and VIO to come in to make sure that traffic is properly managed. So, the fear of traffic should not come in. After all, the roads in Abuja are bigger than the roads in London and still, the Nottingham Carnival holds there. We must take the carnival back to the people; it is a street party and keys into the spirit of the people’s communal cultural festivals.”

The event, themed, Celebrate Nigeria, which takes place in the nation’s capital city from 21st November through the 24th, will also witness some adjustments in some program packages like the poetry and performance night. According to Bakare, some of the programs will be merged to make room for varieties. He argues that,” a night spiced up with music performance, comedy, poetry performance and other art forms will appeal more to the audience than one that holds the audience bored with an over fed of one repetitive art form.

Also, the craft exhibition day, he said, “will run together with Nigerian cuisines day so that a tourists who attends such an event will have something to engage his attention. While one person will be busy buying craft work, another tourist, he said, might be busy sampling Nigerian cuisine varieties.”

On the prize attachments to the various competing categories, Bakare revealed that his committee has decided to add cash to go along with the gong prize gift usually given to winners. Though, he did not disclose the amount, he however stated that a Nigerian based telephony company has indicated interest in funding the cash prize. He also proposed plans of taking up winning performance troupes on continental tours as another way of supporting them and also as a way of selling Nigerian culture across the boarders.

Asked how he is going to achieve all these with the limited time frame of two months. He answered that,” The foundations have been laid. We are only to improve upon what our predecessors have done. More over, I am not a novice. I have been involved in event management both in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. I have had the opportunity of being technical consultant to other cultural fiestas both in Nigeria and overseas. In Nigeria, I have worked for National Festival of Art, NAFEST since 1988 as a technical consultant. I worked at the National Troupe of Nigeria as Artistic Director for Drama. I have also handled the National Troupe of Jamaica.”

Continuing he added that,” I don’t know of any Nigerian artist that has my experience. I started as a young man at the age of 15 and began my artistic tutelage under late Hubert Ogunde.”

Reacting to critics position that Abuja Carnival is a duplication of the National Festival of Art, NAFEST, Ojo Bakare explained that” All the countries in the world that have carnivals also have festivals.

They are two different brands. NAFEST is a cultural festival, which in its essence is a unity festival, where people interact through culture. It is like National sports festival. It has its own content values. Carnival on the other hand is a street party that has to do with color, glamour and ramattaz.”


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