Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, Indigenous Artworks, Culture and Tourism in Anambra state says preparations are in top gear for the entire state to celebrate the rich cultural heritage inherent in palm wine as the French celebrate its champagne and red wine festival.
The mystical reproductive power of the local unadulterated palm wine as well as its magnificent presence at different occasions in Igbo land clearly portrays the spiritual attachment between the local wine and ancestral deities of Ndigbo. The spiritual importance and mystery of palm wine is made manifest in traditional marriage ceremonies, festivals and other events where the presence of the local palm wine is inevitable. It was for this reason that Barr. Sally Mbanefo, the state commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Indigenous Artworks, Culture and Tourism, said Anambra state plans a seven-day event where the palm wine would be celebrated as a symbol of peace, unity and conviviality amongst the Igbo nation.
She said that the culture of Ndigbo was to celebrate their food, language, masquerade, traditional dance, new yam festivals, ofala festivals, tourism sites as well as replace the wearing of tattoos with native uri. She added that the rich cultural heritage of the Igbo race was also inherent in their music, moonlight folk tales, traditional wrestling competitions, hunting, palm wine tapping, traditional marriage ceremonies ( igbankwu nwanyi), chieftaincy titles and a host of other cultural ancestral inheritance. The commissioner further explained that the richness of an undiluted native palm wine fresh from the Ngwo or Nkwu tree is reflected in the efficacy and reproductive power of palm wine such that no other drink in Igbo land can confidently contend with it not even the French champagne and red wine. For this reason, Mbanefo noted that the forthcoming maiden palm wine festival in Anambra state is the celebration of the culture of Ndigbo as people from all over the world would be invited to come and celebrate palm wine in Igbo land particular Anambra state stressing that Anambra has the best brand of palm wine in Nigeria.
Mbanefo maintained that the event would feature palm wine testing and rating to ascertain its potency and spiritual significance pointing out that the celebration would also be an opportunity to export Anambra palm wine as tourist material to the international community so that the world would have a feel of the richness of unadulterated local palm wine got from Anambra state, the ancestral home of the Igbo nation in Nigeria. She explained that as the French celebrate champagne and red wine, Anambra state will celebrate it because it is original to the Igbo people and that the commercial value of palm wine is unquantifiable.
According to her, cultural heritage such as palm wine should not be jettisoned for modern wine with artificial chemical contents detrimental and inimical to human health. Although she pointed out that the forthcoming palm wine festival was not only the event slated for the 2018 cultural fiesta, she said that the masquerade festival would also be part of the cultural exhibition. She said that the tourist sites across the state would equally be upgraded to international standards so that people can spend their leisure there-in as government intends to build recreation centres and conveniences at the tourist sites and other locations in the state for reasons of generating revenue, noting that the tourism sector is a gold mine that required priority attention. The commissioner however praised Governor Willie Obiano for being supportive to the ministry’s effort in revamping the culture and tourism sectors of the Anambra state economy stressing that the tourism sector is being expanded for commercial purposes.
Mbanefo therefore urged Ndigbo to be proud to speak their native mother tongues, showcase their artworks while appealing to those with financial muscles to sow a seed in the youths through sponsorship in indigenous artworks. She informed also that Governor Willie Obiano has graciously approved a seven-day event where the state would celebrate Anambra indigenes in diaspora, celebrate its local palm wine festival as well as launch a portal where Ndi-Anambra in diaspora can learn how to speak their native language, learn about Igbo folk songs as she emphasized that a nation without history cannot make a headway.
The commissioner noted that Anambra has the highest cultural heritages in arts and crafts stressing that the time has come for people to ask what they can do for their state and not what the state can do for them, noting that it is pertinent to return to the old glory that Anambra has which relates to pride in arts, craft and culture. She went further to say that Anambra state is blessed with incredible cultural and tourism assets as evident in Owerri-Ezukala tourism resort which will be exposed and launched as one of the 100 days projects where the state governor has approved for upgrading; mentioning that Ojukwu bunkers is another tourist attraction as well as many others and hotels across the state.
Mbanefo who observed that Anambra state has the lowest poverty rate in the country, maintained that the state ranks top for transparency in governance due to the amazing leadership style of Governor Willie Obiano whom she said was committed to the revitalization and transformation of the culture and tourism sector in Anambra state in conjunction with the traditional institutions especially as the state prepares for the epoch-making and ground-breaking palm wine festival that will take place in no distant time.