According to Mrs. Elenda Osima-Dokubo, the executive secretary of the Calabar Carnival Commission and Mrs. Clara C. Braide, another member, who is in charge of marketing – this year’s Cross River State Christmas Festival, has as its theme, “Sustaining Earth Treasures through Our Culture”. Mrs. Osima-Dokubo stated that the choice of the theme was to educate participants at the yearly feast that while they are celebrating Xmas, “there is need to sustain the earth treasures.”
She said that the effort of the government, over the years, has been to make Cross River State the hub of the country’s tourism, and this is gradually being achieved with the turn out of tourists at the yearly feast, “and the succeeding economic potentials, which many investors are taking advantage of.”
Osima-Dokubo urged investors to take advantage of the brand and identify with it because “it is going to be a 32-day non-stop feasting. The carnival is an event everybody looks forward to, and like last year, there will be a Children Carnival, which holds a day before the main carnival on December 26.
In her words, “we don’t have oil but tourism is our NNPC. There is already a boost in hospitality business, as more hotel rooms have been constructed and a lot of people are investing in this area because of the traffic to Calabar during the festival season.”
The 32-day feast is a showcase of talents, the performing arts and culture and an exciting rallying point not only for residents but also for indigenes living away from home.
Participants and dancers will be organised into bands that are required to display their skills, talents, costumes, masquerades and dance routines during the parade that promenades along a 12km route through the city of Calabar.
The Carnival Commission boss said government’s vision is to ensure that cultural values and contents form a major component of the experience. “Thus a band of cultural dance troupes drawn from across the state are participating for a total experience. The Calabar Carnival bands include Bayside, Freedom, Master Blaster, Passion 4 and Seagull. A unique feature and a further enrichment is the inclusion of the trado-cultural group in the Carnival Band.”
Three dry runs (rehearsals), which will have members of the five carnival bands rehearsing along the carnival route, will hold in October, November and December. While the one-day run for children’s carnival hold in December.
In the words of the Executive Secretary o the Calabar Carnival Commission, “men and women of repute from the performing arts, entertainment, academia and show business are also contacted as adjudicators to witness this blend of ideas and potpourri of Cross cultural parade.”
The Miss Calabar Carnival will be the face of the Calabar Carnival for the year 2008. The pageant winner will be the spokes person for the Carnival and the Surefoot Foundation Refuge for Unwanted teenage pregnancies and abandoned babies. It is open to Nigerians who are female, and aged 18 to 27. Last year’s winner was Chinenye Uwanaka. Already, the screening of participants will hold from this month to November.
Tracing the history of the Carnival Calabar, Mrs. Osima-Dokubo stated that it started in 2000 and was initially listed as one of the events to mark the Cross River State Christmas Festival. She said, “hitherto, there used to be a month-long holiday in the state during the festival, but this was stopped last year by the Governor Imoke administration, considering that there is a festival village, where a 24-hour non stop celebration, holds, which gives room for everybody to be part of it without a stop to government’s activities.”
The present Carnival Parade, as is today, is a direct result of progression of ideas and the gradual awareness that came with it. The parade consisted of truck floats which had band members on them gyrating through the city streets of Calabar. Mrs. Onari Duke, wife of the former governor decided to introduce costumed characters in the 2004 edition to give it depth and colour for variety and progression. This was highly successful especially the blend of these costumed characters and the landmark models on the float.
The Carnival also featured models of the major landmarks of Cross River State such as the famous export commodity – Cocoa pod, the low land Gorilla of the last rain forest of West Africa, the leopard of the Ekpe Cultural group, the Old Residency building which once served as seat of government for the entire colonial Nigeria and presently hosting the museum of slave history, the Mary Slessor Caravan and many more.
This experience was to gain momentum with ex- governor, Donald Duke, leading a 20-man team from the state to the Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago to play in the carnival of 2005 in the Safari Band. Their contributions were to be rewarded with this band coming tops as band of the year 2005. The effort of the Nigerian ambassador to the Island of Trinidad and Tobago, Cross River State-born Eddy Agbe must be recognised here, as his ground work formed the platform for the state’s participation in the Caribbean Carnival.
While saying that the years that followed saw band members now adopting the drumming and singing style of the African in the Diaspora that was consistent with our village square band play form, it should be noted that already that there is an ongoing collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Organisation for technical assistance, especially in the making of dresses and fabrics for the float.
Mrs.Osima-Dokubo noted that in acknowledgment of the ancestral heritage of the state, coupled with cultural similarities that exist between it and the Island of Trinidad & Tobago, “care has been taken to bring back lost details due to harsh conditions that left no room for artistic expressions and differences in climatic conditions as well as influence of foreign culture which probably deprived the African Diaspora from retaining costume content, songs, meanings and dance style.”
Some of the programmes listed for the feast include essay competition in secondary and tertiary institutions on the theme of Carnival Calabar in November; City walk against HIV/AIDS on December 1, Cultural parades from over 12 states and the resident communities in Cross River on December 26, thereafter, Children Carnival on a 6km route and Mbre Mbre, street party, ends the day’s activities from 7pm till dawn; the adult carnival road march holds on December 27 from 7.30am to midnight.