Babatunde Raji Fashola:Black Heritage festival is the story of Africa

Monday, April 5, 2010

By Akintayo Abodunrin

The 3rd Lagos Black Heritage Festival themed ‘Memory and Performance in the Return to Source’ began last week with the governor of the state, Babatunde Raji Fashola, restating his pride in Africa.

“The African story for me continues to remain an unfolding story, a story of pride rather than shame for the human race. Whereas so many races have suffered all forms of deprivations but I stand to be corrected, that only the African race has endured and survived captivity and from there risen to leadership,” Mr. Fashola said at the opening ceremony of the week-long festival held at Lagoon Restaurant, Lagos.

According to him, rather than people disparaging Africa, they should re-examine their appraisal of the continent.

“There have indeed been the challenges of Africa; it is a story still unfolding that shows the limitless capacity of this race, a story that requires those who disparage her to stand by again and take another look,” he said.

The governor added that the survival of the world lies in Africa. “As the world economic, environmental and political leadership enters a new age of transformation, I venture to predict that so much of planet future and its survival will depend on Africa’s blessings, her sun and renewable energy, her wind, her forest, her natural extractive oil, gas and solid minerals and most importantly, her people.”

Speaking further at the ceremony which witnessed performances from many groups, Mr. Fashola disclosed he had added ‘the city of a thousand masks’ to the theme of the festival.

“Over the next week, we will attempt through art, through dance… indeed through a boundless, timeless and jubilant celebration of the shared African ancestry to identify and appease the ancestral spirits and masquerades behind each of those masks.” He disclosed that henceforth, ‘The point of no return’ at Badagry from where Africans were taken abroad as slaves has been rechristened ‘The point of the triumphant return for our long gone relatives in the Caribbean and Americas.’

Mr. Fashola explained that the activities of the festival were combined, “to signal the emergence of Lagos on the international tourist calendar in the season of Easter, which is a global holiday period.” He assured that government would do everything possible to sustain the Black Heritage Festival as an annual tourist event.

Mr. Fashola also touched on the changing face of Lagos and its place in the economy of Nigeria. He stated that though Lagos has lost its position as Nigeria’s capital, it “remains the commercial capital and contributes two thirds of Nigeria’s GDP in any year.” Earlier in his welcome address, the state’s Commissioner for Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations, Tokunbo Afikuyomi, stated that the festival “is not just about slavery but the celebration of the achievements of black people.” He wondered how the world would have been without black people and their numerous inventions, while paying tribute to the likes of Martin Luther King and others.

“I welcome you all to this celebration of the infinite capacity of the African and the Black race. We are proud of our history, we credit our race, we celebrate our own achievements,” Mr. Afikuyomi added, while reiterating that the celebration is a festival of life. The festival consultant, Wole Soyinka, a former senator, Olabiyi Durojaiye, deputy governor of Lagos State, Sarah Adebisi Sosan, royalty and other eminent Nigerians, were at the opening ceremony of the festival which continues today with the Lagos Carnival holding at the Tafawa Balewa Square.


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