Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday said that FESTAC’77 was a celebration of African diverse and rich cultural heritage and not a fetish festival as erroneously believed.
Obasanjo made the clarification during the opening of the commemoration of FESTAC’77 @ 40 at the University of Lagos.
He said that many Nigerians took the festival as a celebration beyond the physical but failed to realise that it was a celebration of Africa’s rich cultural diversities.
FESTAC ’77 @ 40 was organised by Centre for Black African Arts and Civilisation (CBAC).
Nigeria hosted the First World Blacks and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos in 1977.
Obasanjo described culture as the totality of the way of life of any group of people, adding that a people that lost its culture had lost its identity.
“Our culture enables us to remember our past which is history and that is why history is important in our schools; to forget history is to lose our memory, ” Obasanjo said.
He said that the commemoration of FESTAC ’77 would highlight the diverse contributions of blacks and Africans to universal arts and re-discover the ties which bind all blacks and African people together.
Obasanjo urged Africans to disregard every negative narrative about them by others, urging the people to always remember that humans emanated from Africa.
“We must not accept the narrative given to us by others, stories of helplessness, poverty and all.
“They are not true of us because this is where human beings emanated from to occupy other parts of the world.
“Africa is not a poor continent. We want the world to know that we want to be part of the decision makers in the world we live in. We can do it and we must do it.
“This event today has showcased the commonality of the people of Africa and we must unanimously promote the course of Africa,” Obasanjo said.
Dr Ferdinand Anikwe, the Director-General, CBAAC, the organiser of the event, appreciated the dignitaries and called on all Nigerians to celebrate the only cultural event that binds Africans together.
He said that the programme which ends on Saturday promised to be eventful as interesting and captivating programmes would be showcased.
The artist who carved the FESTAC’77 mask, Mr Joseph Alufa and legendary musician Victor Uwaifo, were awarded patrons of FESTAC.
There were exhibitions of various African fabrics, arts, beads and crafts among others.