By Anote Ajeluorou
The second phase of Lagos Black Heritage Festival (LBHF) scheduled to take place next month, which was dedicated to Brazilians of Yoruba origin in a homecoming ritual, has been cancelled. In a press briefing on Monday, Festival Consultant, Prof. Wole Soyinka, in company of Erelu of Lagos, Abiola Dosunmu, said a message from Brazil’s Ministry of Culture cited budgetary cuts as reason for the cancellation.
A letter announcing the cancellation and signed by one Daniel Rodrigues Brasil, read, “Dear Olu, as we talked over the phone, due to drastic budget cuts, applied horizontally to the purposive actions of the Brazilian government, I regret to inform you that the delegation of the Ministry of Culture to the Festival in Lagos has been reduced be four Brazilian filmmakers who work with black culture. I am at your disposal to provide additional information that may be necessary”.
Soyinka said in view of the drastic cut in the delegation expected at the festival (from an initial 300, then to 60 and now only four), it would not be possible to hold the festival that would have meant a homecoming and reunion with their Yoruba kith and kin. Ironically, Soyinka said the budgetary cuts cited by Barazil’s Ministry of Culture was apparently in deference to the football World Cup Brazil would host next year since football was some sort of religion in that country.
He quipped that football had obviously knocked out culture since Brazilians were fanatical about the round leather game, saying, “kicking around a ball is not something in me”.
The Nobel laureate said the Brazilian October Festival was designed as “a huge return of the Brazilians to Nigeria in terms of religion and culture and they would have visited various Yoruba towns; it would have been a huge invasion of Brazilians, which would have experienced a huge emotional outpouring and enthusiasm on both sides, but more on the Brazilians’ part. As a result, the whole planning has been cancelled.
“That is no longer a homecoming; I don’t see a homecoming of four people. There were about 12 Brazilians and Cubans at the recent Osun Osogbo Festival; that was more of a homecoming”.
The literary icon said the Lagos Black Heritage Festival colloquium originally billed to hold in October, the intellectual core of the festival, which ought to be held around events, would now be pointless as well. He also dispelled hope that another date would be fixed for the Brazilian part of the festival.
Soyinka noted, “I don’t think there will be another time for hosting the Brazilians. I’m convinced that arts and culture has just been knocked out by the football they are hosting next year. That’s my feeling”.
He, however, maintained that the vision of bringing Brazilians of black origin back to Nigeria to reunite with their Yoruba kin would not stop with this fiasco, noting, “It can’t be abandoned. In Brazil is the deepest penetration, the reality, the vibrancy of Nigerian, Yoruba culture outside the country, outside the continent. There’s the possibility of using other platforms to make that vision real”.
He also noted that the timing of the Brazilians’ pull out was too short for anything to be done for the festival to go ahead, on account of the sheer logistics involved.