The open space at the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos, was agog with theatrical performances showcasing the colour and grandeur of African festivals.
The event was this year’s edition of Traditional African festival, which took unusual and new dimension as five festivals were selected from four African nations: Agbon-Osara and Osun Osogbo (Nigeria); Voodoo (Republic of Benin); Bakatue (Ghana); and Umhlanga (Southern Africa).
For the first, the 100 level students of the department celebrated African history, culture, tradition and communal ways of life by selecting not only Nigerian but other African festivals and then led spectators to their historical past. This idea of celebrating other African nations was initiated by Dr. Saheed Bello who taught the course, for the first time, and also organized this year events. Held on Tuesday September 4, 2018 at the Department of Creative Arts, these various festivals were re-enacted by theatre arts students as one of their practical projects. The students exploited the diversity of African culture, language, custom and tradition and staged the most colourful, stunning and spectacular traditional festival in the department. Not only that the spectators were held spell-bound with the sight of colourful costumes, make-up and performance properties but they were also surprised by the students who were singing songs, speaking languages, dancing dances and performing rituals that are foreign to them.
Agbon Osara festival, from Ile Ife, was celebrated in honour and remembrance of Osara or Olosa one of Oduduwa’s wives whose children founded other Yoruba kingdoms. Oduduwa loved Osara as she the only woman through whom he had children who founded other Yoruba kingdoms. The conflict of rivalry between Osara and Olokun, (Oduduwa’s first wife who brought Osara into the marriage), was also re-enacted as the myth of origin of the festival. Voodoo festival is most popular and biggest religious celebration in Republic of Benin and other Caribbean worlds. The theatre arts students unlocked the peoples’ memory of the past with the celebration of the annual festival through which a pantheon of Voodoo deities are venerated by using dances, mimes, rituals, songs, masks, drama and so on.
In Osun Osogbo festival (Osogbo Nigeria), the students re-enacted the myth of origin of the festival and also captured the major rituals of the festival which include: the Iwopopo Ritual; the Ina Olujumerindinlogun Ritual; the Iboriade Ritual; and the Arugba Ritual. In Bakatue festival, the students used symbolic and ritual objects in celebrating the opening of the Lagoon with the chiefs, devotees and the entire Elmina people of Ghana. In the festival, they displayed the rich cultural heritage of the people. In Umhlanga festival, the students used costumes and reeds to interpret the roles of young Swazi and Zulu women who walk and dance bare-breasted for their king.
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