BY EMMA ARUBI

Last week, the Itsekiri people  from all walks of life gathered at the oil City of Warri, Delta State, to celebrate the second anniversary of the formation of an Itsekiri elite club-“Itsekiri Cultural Renaissance” (ICR) intended to exhibit the rich cultural heritage of the people.

The one-day epoch making event which held at the palace of His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse 11, CON, the Olu of Warri Kingdom with a retinue of his Chiefs attracted other first class royal fathers like the Orodje of Okpe Kingdom who was represented by his chiefs, the Agadagba of Egbema Kingdom, the Osuvie of Agbarho kingdom, the Ovie of Uvwie Kingdom, HRM Abe 1 and the Ovie of Mosogar Kingdom amongst others.

Of course, the Hon. Minister of Culture, Tourism and Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke as the Chief Guest of Honour was well represented with Ogbushi Uche Okpuno as Special Guest and Ojoye Oma Eyewuoma as Chairman of the occasion. Others include Chief (Major-Gen.) O.A. Obada; Alaowei Broderick Bozimo; Pastor Power Ziakede Aginighan; RT. Hon. Victor Ochei (Speaker, DTHA) and the Honourable Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Richard Mofe-Damijo respectively.

This 2012 edition of the Itsekiri World Cultural festival organized by the ICR has its theme as “Culture for Peace and Unity” with a keynote address entitled: “World Heritage Sites” delivered by ace writer, author, Historian and a former Civil Commissioner in the defunct MidWest/Bendel state, Pa. J.O.S Ayomike.

Cross section of Itsekiri elites at the event

As rightly stated by the lecturer himself the topic, “World Heritage Sites” is a real ‘cheese-cake’ and hot-selling noble subject far beyond national debate and one that goes within the bosom of the United Nations.

He defines it as comprising the cultural and natural destinations “which the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) considers as having outstanding Universal Value. Pa. JOS Ayomike reveals that as at June 2010, Heritage Sites world wide numbers over 936 with 725 being cultural sites and 183 being natural sites while only 28 are of mixed status.

He further disclosed that for the Itsekiri nation, the Nanna Living History Museum in Koko is a national heritage site like the Ijala Royal Cemetery that has continued to accommodate the bodies of demised Olu of Warri since about 1500 with huge Iroko trees planted as makers of the graves.

He therefore  urged every one to support government to establish national heritage sites while we as a people must make concerted effort to promote same as “Heritage is our legacy from the past, for the present and what we pass on to future generations”, adding that “our culture and natural heritage are irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration”.

The Itsekiri World Cultural festival featured 8 dancing groups; 9 masquerade dances; 2 Egogo boys group; 16 Ukueke groups; 4 past Gofines; arts and craft; Itsekiri marriage drama; Trumpeters; fashion parade and Jokotin musical group respectively that kept the show in an electric mood.

How the organizers of the magnificent event managed to condense this very elaborate package that should have lasted almost 3-days in a real Oyo-Ekoro context of fanfare to just a 2-hour show is still one of the wonders that ended the celebration without any of the masquerade entering the event venue to display their complex and intricate dance steps that is the beauty of the Itsekiri custom. It was indeed a cultural day devoid of the most critical aspect of the people’s culture.

But the truth of the matter is that allowing the masquerade display would have abruptly drawn people away from the main show at the venue where His Majesty and his august visitors would have been abandoned in the lurch high and dry with no more spectators or audience except his Chiefs.

Perhaps, another venue would be created for masquerade dances in subsequent World Cultural Festival to give disappointed Itsekiris, groups and persons the opportunity to relish their best innate wishes.

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