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The Glitz, glamour of Esan cultural heritage



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• AEP to rekindle teaching of mother tongue


IT was a celebration of cultural icons and the rich cultural heritage of Esan people of Edo state. The uniqueness of the fashion display coupled with the gathering of “Who is Who” in Esanland defines the Association of Esan Professionals (AEP) when they converged on Igueben to mark its 11th Economic Empowerment Workshop.
Despite the sanitation day, as early as 9am, people had started streaming into the Idumeka Hall, located in the heart of the city. A couple of hours later, the large hall was filled to its brim. The sonorous music of the late legendary music icon, Chief Umobuarie Igberase sets the tone of several expectations.
The governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, captured the relevance of the workshop. He called on all Esan sons and daughters to embrace their culture and tradition and explicitly underscores the balkanization of traditional beliefs at the expense of Western ideology and culture which has caused a crack in our own ways of life.
Emphasising that “our culture and tradition is not in any way inferior to Western cultures,” Comrade Oshiomhole, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Egberanmwen Odubu, said that the workshop couldn’t have come at a better time especially now that “our culture and tradition are threatened and on the verge of extinction.” He, therefore, advised parents to teach their children Esan language saying that “embracing traditions and belief system does not make one less a Christian,” as many want to believe.
Esan language which dominated as a medium of expression during the workshop conveys the aesthetic qualities and the fundamental essence of local dialect. Odubu, while expressing his consternation for relegating the mother tongue, asked: “I am not sure you are able to speak your native dialect? Our children can’t even speak our native dialect.” On the bases of that, he added, “We must encourage and teach our children the language and make them imbibe our cultural values and norms that brought us (parents) to the levels we are today.
“Loving your tradition doesn’t make you less of a Christian and our traditions and beliefs are not fetish and inferior before Western beliefs. Before the advent of Christianity, we had our Commandments. Thou shall not steal and thou shall not commit adultery. Our people abide by it and anybody that does something to the contrary was publicly shamed or punished.
“Esan cultural values are very dynamic and rich. Apart from that, it has well-structured tradition. Children are taught how to greet their parents and their elders in the most unique way, “he reiterated.
Calling for extensive research and documentation on Esan culture to be carried out for posterity, High Chief Tom Ikimi, who was the Chairman of the occasion, added that such research should include its culture and values; languages; fashion, tourism, dances and music. Adumbrating that traditional rulers are the custodians of culture, he, pledged his genuine commitment to the development of Esan culture and tradition.
In a paper presented by Prof J.E Ahianba, Dean Faculty of Environmental Studies, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma on “The Interplay of Architecture and Culture Tourism Development of Esanland,” he married the interplay of culture and architecture and averred that architecture evolves from culture. “When nature and culture interact, we have architecture. Therefore, if you take culture away from architecture, it will die naturally. There is symbiotic relationship between both.” He emphasised that “any architecture that is not related to a people” should be rejected.
Ahianba observed that if we must promote genuine tourism and architecture in Nigeria, we must not ignore the narrative of “exclusionism” of culture because “architecture is rooted in culture.”
According to a research work he carried out, the area of tourism destinations in Africa, Nigeria occupies zero position. Therefore, he challenged relevant government to invest in tourism destinations, noting that any country that is serious today cannot afford to ignore tourism as it is the driver of the economy outside the circumference of oil.
Reacting, the Chairman, Culture and Tourism Committee of AEP, Dr. Ona Ekhomu said despite creating sufficient awareness during the two-day workshop, there is still much to be done to “hit the mark in terms of designing some tourism policy initiatives that governments at all levels can implement in order to boost tourism in Esanland.
“It is shocking that in the whole of Esanland, there is no one museum or such cultural places outside the Royal Palaces. That is not enough to drive tourism. We must look inwards in the area of tourism to move the economy forward. The era of oil boom is gone and will never come back. Culture should drive tourism and bring Edo state back in the map of global tourist attractions”, he concluded.
In order to document the essence of cultural values through elaborate format, Prof Matthew Omo-Ojugo, former Deputy Vice Chancellor, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma presented to the audience a  documentary exploring dance drama, the distinctiveness of traditional marriages, naming ceremonies, taboos, burials and other traditional dramaturgy with in-depth analysis of the conviviality of rulers dwellers. He also highlighted the organogram of traditional system looking at the pivotal role played by traditional institutions to install discipline and peace in their domain.
Welcoming the guests, the President of Association of Esan Professionals; Barrister Matthew Egbadon captured the whole essence of AEP to include developing a sense of oneness among Esan professionals across the country and in the Diaspora as well as pursuing the social, political and economic developments of Esanland.
He added that as part of the efforts to make Esan language assume international status just like other local language galvanised into commissioning a research team which visited the 32 kingdoms in Esanland, interacted with and interviewed traditional rulers and other knowledgeable custodians of cultural values and practices.
In that direction, he said, “We are going to work with the Ministry of Education to introduce Esan Language into the school curriculum. It was there in the past and we must re-awaken that consciousness and make the language taught in schools so that people can begin to learn the language again. Unless you are able to speak your language, you may not be able to appreciate what is going on.”
Day-one witnessed different dance groups from Esanland with the best three emerging as winners with prizes. Among them were the Ikhinabojie, Egbabonelimwin, Ijeleghe, Atilogun dances. Present were the traditional rulers in Esanland including the host Onojie of Igueben, His Royal Highness, Ehizogie Eiluojierio 1, Onogie of Urohi, HRH Aidongie 1; Onojie of Uromi, HRH Odalooghe Eidonojie 11; Onojie of Ewatto, HRH S.O Ikhumen; among many others.
Posthumous awards were presented to the sons of the late Dr Christopher Okojie, Founder of Zuma Memorial Hospital, Irrua and late legendary music icon, Chief Umobuarie Igberaese for his pioneering traditional music artistry.
A glamorous fashion parade showcasing well embroidered Esan clothes rounded off the two-day workshop with the theme: “Esan Cultural Values and Practises”.

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