Carnival Calabar: A Platform for Cultural Diplomacy- Says Chairman

The Chairman, Cross River State Carnival Commission, Gabe Onah, has said that the Carnival which happens every year in Calabar, Cross River State, is a platform for cultural diplomacy.

This is just as he noted, that the carnival product itself which is the road march, is marking it 14th year, while the Christmas festival which is now called Calabar festival is marking its 18th year, as it was birthed in the millennium year.

Onah who spoke to The Sight News in an interview in Abuja, noted that the Calabar Carnival is a vision that has been given to the commercial success of the State, adding that they have made huge benefits out of this, as the youths have been engaged meaningfully.

According to him, “A lot of our neighbors across the world don’t ever believe that Africans numbering more than 10,000 can be in one place at the same time celebrating their culture, celebrating their own; but here we are 14 years down the line.

“So for us, it is humbling that we are celebrating this cultural renaissance, bringing people together and sharing that which God has given to us which is our smiles,our warmth, dance,drama, colour and above all a platform that can change lives”.

He added that the role of the governments continuously remains that of providing the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, stating that when the private sector protects a product or a programme, it is bound to be sustainable, to last, and out live any government in power, saying also that this is what they have experienced in Cross River State.

Onah further disclosed that they are introducing a Public Private Partnership framework. “We believe that by 2020, we should have nearly 100% private sector funding. So far so good it is also a platform for the private sector to market their goods and services with a million live operators, with 50 million television viewers with DSTV beaming us to 54 countries of the world.

“We are saying that you can make a living from this sector, this is our oil and gas. We lost our oil well to our neighbors not too long ago but we said, ain’t no stopping us” he remarked.

While noting that the state government pledge to a dedicated theme, every year, with the theme of this year being “Africanism, he added that the theme is a guiding philosophy which the bands try to portray the story.

“The carnival is a theatre on the move but these stories are told through all the elements of theatre, plot, dance, drama itself, costumes, makeup and of course the final of them there have to be a synopsis, it guides the story.

“This year we are playing ‘Africanism’, which is what we see here. Africanism, we are telling ourselves that we must begin to take our rightful place in the scheme of things, enough to having us as a dumping ground, enough to having us as that continent that is dark, everything that is negative is black, enough for us to only know diamonds when they get to Europe, they took them here like muds it gets to Europe it becomes diamonds.

“Enough of seeing gold only in showcases, enough of seeing our wonderful arts and crafts taken from our shrines to showcases in Europe and America and we bring them back in Dollars, we set from pessimism to optimism. Only africans can tell their story from their own perspective.

“Imagine a lecture, what are the effects of climate change and migration to make Africans Africans?” he said.

Carnival Calabar 2016. Image Source/ DW Photography

On the challenges so far, he noted that there is need for 100% private sector buy-in in the sector.

“If we don’t drive domestic tourism as the first point of view to bringing our locals in modern destination, South Africa, Jamaica, the first people who tell these stories are the locals themselves, Nigerians have been good to us because we are moving to commercialisation we’ve been testing commercialisation in the last 12 years.

“People now come in as tourist to pay their bills, hotels have grown from 4,000 rooms to 24,000, job opportunities have grown from 2,000 to 22,000, direct employment in the subsector but that will be only made possible when the locals begin to come with their own money”, he ended.

The Carnival Calabar 2018, Africa’s biggest street party, with theme, “Africanism”, is slated to take place from December 26 to 29, 2018.

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