What started as an ordinary course practical a few years ago has become a popular event in the University of Lagos (UNILAG). The visionary of the festival and lecturer of the course, Dr. Onikaba Cornelius speaks on the need to study Afri-Carribean Theatre Laboratory, the connection between Caribbean countries and Africa and the need to maintain and celebrate the cultural resemblances between them.
My name is Onikaba Cornelius but many call me Cornel-Best. I am a lecturer in Creative Arts Department of the University of Lagos, a pioneer student of this department and the originator of Afri-Carribean festival in UNILAG.
How Did UNILAG Festival start?
I remember then when I was running my post graduate programme in the department that, our lecturer took ill and I and my colleague Dr. Otun Rasheed also a lecturer in the department were called upon to step in and assist. It was in that year, 2005 that we took the decision to explore more on the ideas our old master always tried to postulate in class in terms of African culture at the level of another course called African Traditional festival and also at the level of cooperation and multi-culturalism in the course called African and Caribbean Theatre Laboratory. The course is a laboratory which means that it is open to endless research and experiments which the festival is one of.
The first Afri-Carribean Festival started in 2002 and has formed part of the demands for passing the course which is one of the core-courses of 300l students of the department. Over the years the festival has waxed stronger and has become very popular, one of the biggest events that take place in the university. It was the high point during UNILAG’s 50th year celebration. The festival is also the model that Lagos state used to build their Lagos Carnival and we have since been working in collaboration with them. A click on goggle will show you so many pictures of past carnivals that have taken place in the school which tells you that, it is an internationally recognized event.
Tell us about UNILAG Festival?
UNILAG Carnival is a course in the department of creative arts called Afri-Caribbean. The course explores how creativity can be used to manufacture points of cultural promotion and identification. It carries out research on whether or not our brothers who were carried away during the slave trade still bear any form of resemblance with us that are here in Africa, if there are things we can do to unify them with us. In doing this, the festival tries to display the rich culture of the Afri-Carribean people particularly Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil and Jamaica which are the cultures we use for this course to show some level of cultural resemblance between us and them.it also displays a form of solidarity that can erase the doubt in heart of these people. It will interest you to know that some of these people bear grudge in their mind thinking that we sold them into slavery. During one of my presentation in Trinidad and Tobago, where I played a video of one of our festivals here for them, the students there began to cry when they saw our students here singing their national anthem and reciting their pledge.So, the carnival tries bringing a connection between us and them. To achieve this, there is a parade of costumes, dance and recitation of the national anthem and pledge of these countries. Basically, the festival is course but due to its popularity, it is now generally known as UNILAG Carnival.
What is the aim of the festival?
The aim of the course is to ignite the creative ability of our students to be channeled to building a positive image for Africa. Also that they use the energy to project that, Africa is not the beginning of civilization but was actually civilization contrary to what the Europeans made us believe. Basically, Afri-Carribean Festival brings out the African spirit in our students to paint a better image of our continent.