By Osa Mbonu
Whenever lovers of football feel that England is going to win the World Cup, they will throw up the slogan: Football is coming home. Similarly, since the Edo Festival of Arts Culture, titled EDOFEST, began last year (2017) and is about to continue this year (2018), it will not be out of place to say that Arts and Culture are coming home.
A quote from the statement of the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki in the festival brochure says “the arts of Benin Kingdom are global brands. Being the bastion and citadel of culture in the country, Benin artifacts are among the most exquisite and coveted in world’s history which represents the earliest civilization among blacks especially Africans.”
According to scholars, the Western world appreciate the artifacts from Benin primarily as works of art, but the artifacts themselves are seen more in Benin as historical documents which help the people to improve their ability to remember their ways of life.
In other words, the arts and culture of Edo are memory techniques that help the people’s brain to better encode and recall important information. So Edo Arts and Culture, apart from their aesthetic values, also function as ritual objects as well as devices to reconstruct history.
Although popularized to Western audiences after the Punitive Expedition in the 19th Century, Benin art has been in existence since the 13th Century.
From 17-22 December, 2018, this rich arts and cultural heritage will be on display and celebrated by Edo people, Nigerians, and the Western world where many of the revered and priceless arts of Edo people have spread to.
Addressing the media last weekend in Lagos, the Edo State Commissioner for Arts, Culture, Tourism Diaspora Affairs, Hon. Osaze Osemwegie-Ero said the theme for the 2018 Edo Fest is Harnessing arts and culture for sustainable economic development. He said Edo is richly blessed with arts and culture, therefore the festival is an opportunity to showcase to the world what Edo State has as well as use it to promote domestic tourism in the state.
He shared the timetable of the festival from day 1 to 6. Day 1, he said, will be the opening ceremony that will witness carnival and parade display, while Day 2 (music festival) offers cultural dances and other musical entertainment.
Day 3 is set aside for festival lecture and cultural display, while Day 4 (for food exhibition and fashion show of the 18 Local Government Areas of the state) will be used to showcase those familiar beautiful costumes of Edo people – all those colorful beads, dresses, and the beautiful women wearing them.
The 5th Day of the week-long event (called the grand finale) will see Award Gala Night, while Day 6 will be the Diaspora Day/Mega Concert.
Perhaps, the highest point of interest of the event will be a photo exhibition of the artifacts stolen by the British from Edo State during the Punitive Expedition of 1897. The commissioner said over 1,000 of such pictures will be exhibited, and that the Palace of His Royal Majesty, Omo No’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare II, will be the venue of this photo exhibition which will last from Day 1-6.
“Ambassadors, Embassies and other foreigners,” the commissioner said, “will be invited, and “we will use the opportunity to tell them that we know where these stolen artifacts are.
This will put up a further advocacy for the restitution of those artifacts.”
He said he was happy seeing the interest of both local and foreign citizens in seeing those stolen artifacts returned to Edo State. The exhibition will be declared open by the Oba of Benin.