By Jimoh Babatunde
With a mission to preserve the Anaañ history, language and culture and to promote our cultural heritage, promote and market Anaañ language, industry, arts and crafts including advancing the appreciation and understanding of Anaañ artistic production, and scholarship, through a yearly cultural event, tagged Annang Festival of Arts and Culture (AFAC), in partnership with other Anaañ organisations, Nto Annang Foundation (NAF) is set to host this year’s edition of the festival, AFAC 2019.
Slated to hold between December 20 and 22 at Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium and Ikot Ekpene Plaza in Akwa Ibom State, activities lined up to mark the cultural tourism festival is according to the organisers a reflection of the theme of the celebration: “Harnessing Anaañ Cultural Assets for Economic Gains.”
The festival, which enjoys the endorsement of the National Council for Art and Culture (NACA), Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, promises to be one of the biggest show stoppers and largest fiesta in 2019.
Now in its third edition, the national President of the NAF, Abom Ephraim Okon, said arrangements have reached an advanced stage for the hosting of the event. According to him, it promises to be a colourful and exciting showpiece of the cultural wealth of the Annang people, with exhibitions spanning both the intangible and tangible heritage of the people and spiced by the culinary display, arts and craft as well as live performances by notable Nigerian musical Icons.
He further disclosed that the theme for the festival is: ‘Harnessing Annang cultural assets for economic gains.’ To this the end, he said efforts are being made to ensure that every component of the festival displays the vast and unique cultural assets of the people of Annangland and how the people can take advantage of them to enhance their living. With endorsement from the state government and the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) among others, he said the three days event is also geared at developing and promoting travel business in the state.
‘‘The event shall model strategy for effective travel trade business, cultural synergy and enduring unity through culture and tourism as a special purpose vehicle. This model we intend to replicate for global peace efforts and to mark our cultural product at the international stage,’’ said Okon. He stressed that the festival, which debuted in 2016, has helped greatly in developing the tourism market of the state, as it has gone in a long way in generating tourist traffic to the state and Ikot Ekpene. Therefore, he disclosed that the projected tourist traffic for this year is 15, 000.
According to him, the rich and enlarged content of the festival this year include: Colourful cultural display from over 5, 000 cultural revellers; 800 spectacular masquerades display; Annang warriors trek, drum ensemble of over 5, 000 extinct African drums; art exhibition and colloquium/cocktail party for VIP and foreign envoys.
Others are: Night of legends; Ujai Annang beauty pageant; Annang language essay competition; Annang hall of fame induction ceremonies; inauguration of children royal troupe; and festival theme song/Annang ballad.
This Night of Stars and Beauty comprised the celebration of the Anaañgness the Annang Hall of Fame and the awards of excellence to deserving sons, daughters and friends of Anaañ; dance, poetry, arts and performances by a star-studded squad of renowned artists in Nigeria and this will be crowned with the Ujai Annang Beauty Pageant.
Also speaking on the festival, the Executive Director of Akwa Tourism Development Company Ltd (ATDC), Mr Ubong Ekpe, whose company is consulting for the festival, said it is informed by the need to promote Annang and re-enact its unique cultural heritage, stressing that it is aimed at exposing the Nigerian people to the city of raffia and its colourful and attractive heritage.
According to him, Annangland is host to the 500-year-old Usaka virgin forest, custodian of 400 years old Iso Ekpo Nkwubia mask, the mythical blue river of Ukanafun, the Ibibid Abak traditional stool of Annangland and the oldest raffia dunes in Africa.