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 USA 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, Mr. Nduka Omeoga, said his organization that staged this event was able for the first time in thirteen 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 the Igbo students 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.
The Umunne Cultural Association of Minnesota is an organization of Igbo-speaking people of Nigeria living in the great state of Minnesota in the United States of America reflecting their affinity with one another with the primary 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 South Eastern Nigeria account for nearly one third of the total population. The other major tribes are Yorubas, Fulanis and Hausas. The Igbo people believe in building a spirit of enhancing educational endeavors and civil well being of all their members so that they may serve effectively the communities in which they live.
President Omeoga of the Umunne Cultural Association of Minnesota said he was thrilled by the successful symposium on Culture and Democracy in a Revolving Globalized Village which 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 traditional Nigerian kola-nut breaking ceremony offered as a sign of welcoming guests was performed as a way of saying to all 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 being served by various vendors who made the event look like a holiday place for an outdoor African family meal in the open grounds of the St Thomas University campus. Children had their usual balloon-laden playgrounds with plenty of delicacies for their appetite and enjoyment.
Summing up the achievements of 13 years of Igbofest celebrations in Minnesota, the President of the Umunne Association 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 about prospects of the future, the Umunne President said: “I see a lot of expansion ahead of the IgboFest event attracting various African cultural groups cementing them together thus making our event bigger, better and more entertaining.”
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 sent the crowds of invited guests screaming with joy and throwing dollar bills to the colorful-clad dancers.
Nigerians turned up in their hundreds for the event and they were very distinct by their colorful traditional dresses with their women competing on exotic head-gears that made the occasion look like one very large wedding ceremony.
Visit the Photo Gallery for more Igbofest images.