FESTAC ’77 challenged assault on the black race, say Obasanjo, Mohammed
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed have commended the vision behind the Festival of African Arts and Culture, held in 1977 (FESTAC ’77), saying it was a challenge to the unmitigated assault visited on the black race through the monstrosity of 400 years of slave trade on Africans across the world and decades of western colonialism on the African continent.
Both men made the assertion yesterday in Lagos at the opening of the week long 40th year celebration of FESTAC ’77 at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos.
Obasanjo, whose administration as military head of state oversaw the pan-African festival that had over 50 countries in attendance, said contrary to the view of most people, FESTAC ’77 was not a fetish festival, “but a display of our culture, which is the totality of the way of life of our people. It is important for us to remind the world that they all emanated from Africa.
“We should never hold on to the wrong narrative that others has given to Africa, which is a narrative of poverty. As Africans, we endeavour to be part of the world we live in and have a fair share in the world’s division of labour. This is what FESTAC ’77 was all about.”
The former president was crowned Ruby King of FESTAC ’77 and patron of African culture, in recognition for his immense contribution to the development of humanity.
Also, Mohammed said FESTAC’77 was an unusual forum that brought together in hitherto unimagined dimension the entire black and African countries and communities in a rare show of solidarity and cultural display.
According to him, “It was the desire to challenge and debunk this unsavory and unmitigated assault on the black race, decolonize her mentality, and quest for freedom, recognition and equality with other races of the world that necessitated the hosting of the Second World and African Festivals of Arts and Culture. Till date, FESTAC ’77 remains an unqualified success story that witnessed the greatest assemblage of the entire black and African communities.”
Festival host and Director-General, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), Ozo Ferdinand Anikwe, said FESTAC ’77 was the singular most important event in world history that championed equality and further gave impetus to the spirit of oneness, brotherhood and pan-African consciousness that brought about the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa.
According to him, “FESTAC ’77 has and continues to contribute to socio-economic development of the country. Are we commemorating the 40th anniversary of FESTAC ’77 for self-glorification? The answer is an emphatic ‘no.’ In fact, the celebration of FESTAC ’77 anniversary is compelled by the need to deal dispassionately and objectively with the dominant variables that are presently critical in our national life.”
Chairperson of the event and Erelu of Lagos, Princess Abiola Dosumu, noted that after 40 years of the celebration of FESTAC ’77, the black race has continued to record tremendous achievements in all fronts, adding, “Therefore, the 40th anniversary of FESTAC ’77 should not be a time for lamentation but an opportunity to appreciate the contributions of Black and African people to the world’s thoughts and ideals.”
Awards were presented to some of the heroes of FESTAC ’77. Those awarded included Prof. Wole Soyinka, Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to Nigeria, Amb. Wallace Williams, Prof. Victor Uwaifo and King Sunny Ade.
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