By Anote Ajeluorou
It was a carnival of masquerades that gave full expression to the rich culture of Ogu people at the closing of Badagry Diaspora Festival 2015 two Saturdays ago at Badagry Grammar School playground. It signaled the end of a week long festival that called attention to closer ties between Africa Diaspora and the motherland. Haitian revolutionary military genius Toussaint L’ouverture was the festival’s patron saint, as he was duly remembered for freeing Haiti in 1804 and so triggering freedom struggles from colonial domination amongst black peoples all over the world.
In deed, the Mr. Babatunde Olaide-Mesewaku-led Africa Renaissance Foundation (AREFO), organisers of the festival, was a rallying point for all Badagry people and their cultural expressions. Not only was the culture colourful, it was also magical, or even scientific in the African traditional sense. In a rare display, Zangbeto, a signal masquerade of Ogu people, was set on fire in the open playground and incarnated in another mask to continue dancing. Not a few were stunned by the sheer magical stunt enacted before them.
Zangbeto’s reincarnation was the height of the displays, but that after Sato royal drums had been beaten by as many as six drummers at once to thrill the mammoth crowd. Beating the Sato drums, man and wife, is a delight to watch, with its ritual dance and atonement that starts from a distance, as if beseeching the drums to yield to the drummers’ sticks during impact.
But first the quarters that make up greater Badagry had to pay obeisance before their His Majesty De Wheno Aholu Menu-Toyi I, the Akran of Badagry, who was represented by Jengen of Badagry Kingdom High Chief Onuosekan Gbewa I. Jegba startd the quarters’ procession, then to Whlakoh, Posuloh, Boekhoh, Asagoh, Ahovikoh, Awhanjigoh and Dale-Whedakoh. Others were Topo, Ganho, Yafin, Ganyigbo-Topa, Ajara, Ajido, Gbaji and Joforo quarters. They danced before their Akran in colourful costumes.
Apart from Zangbeto, other masquerades that added to the spectacle were Igunnuko masquerades with their red, white, brown and green tassels that towered into the sky. Others included Ofe, Paje Polobi, Koori, Ogun and Esu. One major feature of the festival was the role women and children played. They were a major feature of the festival in all the quarters; this, according to the master of ceremony Mr. Ovi Manuel, was to ensure continuity of the rich heritage of Badagry people into the future. From Zangbeto to Sato drummers, children were the main attraction, as they showed zeal and craftsmanship having learnt the ways of their forebears.
Inability of Olaide-Mesewaku to secure better sponsorship for the 16-year old festival apart from MTN did not dampen the excitement of Badagry people who heartily embraced a celebration that has come to give full expression to their culture that would have otherwise remained unacknowledged.
But it was a source of concern for Olaide-Mesewaku who lamented, “The festival has always been occasion for creativity and glamorous display of African tangible and intangible cultural and natural heritage. The basic objective of this festival is to expose the socio-economic potentials of Badagry and Lagos State to the international community and thus attract investors to Badagry, a tourism haven waiting to be tapped... This year’s festival was faced with a lot of challenges, especially with regards to funding. Organising a festival of this magnitude is always capital intensive.
“All the commercial banks operating in Badagry community failed woefully to respond to our letters of assistance asking them to place adverts for just N30,000 on the programme brochure and so failed in their corporate social responsibility to the community. Even at this stage we have already run into deficit”.
Nevertheless, it was the hope of Olaide-Mesewaku that support, both from government and corporate bodies, would improve next year so the festival becomes bigger and better to achieve its aim of linking Africans at home and those in the Diaspora.