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An annual Children’s Festival by the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), was held recently in Lagos. It was aimed at facilitating interaction between children from diverse socio-cultural and economic background as well as inculcating Africa values in them. Mary Ekah writes

The Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) deliberately chose to host the 2012 edition of its annual children’s cultural Festival towards the end of the year so as to bring children together to celebrate in a unique way, while giving thanks to Almighty God for His mercies and benevolence during the year that is gradually winding up.

However, the event was not just to celebrate and enjoy the various compliments the season brings, but to also imbue and inculcate in the children the value inherent in and the beauty if African culture. The event, which also feature competitions in art exhibition, drama presentations, music and cultural dances by various schools, was chaired the Yeye Oge of Lagos, by Chief Opral Mason Benson.

The schools had it tough trying to outdo one another in the various competitions, while they displayed various talents that got the audience gasping in excitement. At the end of it all, the Nigerian Navy Secondary School came first; second position went to Solid Rock School, while Stadium Secondary School came third in the art exhibition competition. In the dance competition, Rolex Comprehensive College came first; Fidel Madonna College of Excellence was second while Ewutuntun Senior Grammar School got the third position.

Speaking at the event, the Director General of CBAAC, Prof. Tunde Babawale said, “Children deserve much attention and celebration. This is because they represent continuity and serve as the vital bridge that connects us with the future.” He therefore said that to achieve the transfer of positive values in children‘s lives, the adults must build in them those values that will make the children useful and responsible citizens in future.

Babawale who lamented that the existential conditions under which the Nigerian child lives today may not be particularly encouraging, noted however that the cheering news is that government is making some efforts to address the dismal situation of rising child mortality, juvenile delinquency, illiteracy, employment and poverty.

He said further that the CBAAC’s desire to stem this dangerous tide has encouraged not only its interest and investment in children and youth programmes, but also informed its decision to dedicate this year’s edition of the children’s event to theme, “Beauty in Our Diversity, Celebration Creativity”.

He noted therefore that the citizens’ prosperity as individuals and a country as a whole lie in the value that is inculcated in them when they are young. He therefore advised parent teachers and the society at large to complement CBAAC’s effort for peaceful and progressive society.

Speaking also at the event, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke said that, “Ours continent and country is richly blessed culturally. We can derive huge economic benefits from our cultural diversity. These gains are only possible when we identify with our culture.” Duke further said that children unlike adults are amenable to change, noting: “They can grow by it and because of what they represent, our children deserve to be inducted early into our ways of life.”

Apart from the children’s annual event, CBAAC has in the past endeavoured to bring African culture and heritage to the fore by organising various programmes at the international and local levels. Last month, for instance, CBAAC in partnership with the Office of the International Studies and Programmes of the University of Missouri – St. Louis, and Pan African Strategic and Policy Research Group (PANAFSTRAG) International hosted its eight international conference with the theme “Africa and the Diaspora in the New Millennium”.

The event, which was rounded off on November 1, at the university in USA had the keynote address, “Sustaining the Continuum of African Civilisation in Brazil as an instrument of Afro-Brazilian Struggle and Emancipation”, delivered by the Secretary for Policies on Traditional Communities of the Special Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality (SEPPIR), Mrs. Silvany Euclenio Silva, who represented the country’s Minister of SEPPIR, Ms. Luiza Barros.

Others scholars and personalities in attendance were the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Nigeria, High Chief Edem Duke, St. Louis County Executive, Mr. Charlie A. Dooley, Chancellor of the University of Missouri–St. Louis; Professor Thomas George, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Director of International Studies and Programmes, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Professor Joel Glassman, Professor Wande Abimbola, (Awise Agbaye) of Ifa Heritage Institute, Oyo, Nigeria and former executive director, Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA), Pretoria, South Africa, Dr. Matlotleng Patrick Matlou, amongst others.

CBAAC during the year also hosted the 2012 edition of its annual Black History Month Celebration at the University of Ibadan, Ibadan in February where it featured a public lecture titled: “Women in Africa and African Diaspora History and Culture,” as well as a week-long exhibition at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. The lecture identified the roles and responsibilities of women in the area of peace and security and also specifically canvassed for the appropriate placement of women into the mainstream of national development.

The centre also hosted the UNESCO Slave Route Project International Scientific Committee Meeting at the Marina Resort Calabar, Cross River State, in March 2012. The Meeting provided opportunity for the Ministry to showcase Nigeria and indeed Calabar as important Slave Port that deserves acknowledgement and appreciation in the discourses on slavery, slave trade, Africa and the African Diaspora. The participants who came from different parts of the world visited the venue of the conference, the Marina Resort and the Slave Museum.

The centre played host to the international conference on, “Slave Trade and Slavery in the Arab Islamic World: Untold Tragedy and Shared Heritage” at the Marina Resort Calabar, in March also. The meeting identified the tourism potential of Calabar and slave ports in Nigeria.