The open grounds on the campus of the University of St. Thomas along Summit Avenue in St. Paul were transformed into a scene of cultural extravaganza on Saturday, August 12. The event, dubbed IgboFest 2006, was one in which Igbo people from Nigeria resident in the U.S. and Canada entertained a large audience of guests with their rich heritage of African cultural activities.
The president of the Umunne Cultural Association of Minnesota, Nduka Omeoga, said his organization, which staged the event, was able for the first time in 13 years of IgboFest to give out scholarships for higher education to deserving students. He said this was a demonstration of their prime objective of enabling Igbo students to build successful careers and professions so that they may become useful members of the societies in which they live.
During the week-long festivities that started on August 6, a career day for students was organized this year to bring students in touch with their assigned mentors to help them perform well in school and stay focused in their careers of choice.
On Saturday, the Nigerian cola nut-breaking ceremony traditionally offered as a sign of welcoming guests was performed as a way of saying to all IgboFest guests, “You are welcome to our household and event. Please feel at home. We love you.”
Nigerian cuisine including fu-fu, rice, beans, mai-mai and other Nigerian exotic dishes were served by various vendors who made the event look like a holiday place for an outdoor African family meal on the St. Thomas campus. Children had their usual balloon-decorated playgrounds with plenty of delicacies for their enjoyment.
Performances from cultural groups from Canada with their Dege-dege dance, the Ogadinma dance from New Jersey, the Umunne Youth dance, and the Igbo Women League dance had the crowds of invited guests screaming with joy and throwing dollar bills to the colorfully clad dancers.
Hundreds of Nigerains participated in the event, very distinctive in their colorful traditional dresses with the women competing in exotic headgears that made the occasion look like one very large wedding ceremony.
President Omeoga said he was thrilled by the successful symposium on Culture and Democracy in a Revolving Globalized Village that attracted large audiences of intellectuals, students, lawyers and preachers who were able to bring across the importance of culture preservation in communities. The young generation was able to appreciate the importance of carrying forward the peoples’ culture as a way of preserving their self-identity.
The Umunne Cultural Association of Minnesota is an organization of Igbo-speaking people of Nigeria living in Minnesota, reflecting their affinity with one another and with the shared goal of promoting and preserving the rich Igbo culture.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with a population of 120 million, and Igbos, who hail from southeastern Nigeria, account for nearly one third of the total population. The other major tribes are Yorubas, Fulanis and Hausas. The Igbo people believe in enhancing the educational endeavors and civil wellbeing of all their members so that they may effectively serve the communities in which they live.
Summing up the achievements of 13 years of IgboFest celebrations in Minnesota, President Omeoga proudly said, “We are pleased to be able to bring to the rest of the world Nigeria’s deep-rooted cultural heritage. People do not have to travel to Nigeria to see what we are capable of offering. It is all here for our eyes and minds to digest.”
Speaking of future prospects, the Umunne president said, “I see a lot of expansion ahead of the IgboFest event attracting various African cultural groups and cementing them together, thus making our event bigger, better, and more entertaining.”